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Poor for yet another year

My postdoc experience, even if indirectly, keeps screwing me up. Today I finally got my taxes sorted out. While Canada has tax experts for the USians that live there, I can’t say the same for having Canada Revenue experts over on this side of the great lakes. It took me forever to find someone, and I ended up going with one of the giant tax companies, but whatever, they’re done. And surprise, surprise, I need to pay. A shit ton of of money if I may add.

Since my stipend (and those of many postdocs in Canada, as far as I can tell) are considered training grants, taxes aren’t taken out, and we must set aside a certain amount of money, because otherwise during tax season we’ll get an ugly surprise. The first year I was in Canada, I owed a bit over 1K in taxes, after working there since the end of the summer. Last year was a bit more, ie. almost 6K. I’d saved ~5200$, so it only took me one more month to reach the 6K, and while the IRS requires you to report worldwide income, since I’d paid that much in taxes in Canada, I wasn’t taxed twice. I had access to health care no matter where I was in the province, the same as every citizen. My postdoc stipend was ~37K, and I worked the whole year (hence I could get the full standard deduction of 8 (or it is 10, I think it’s 10) thousand CADs).

But last year was special. See, I was working in Canada until the end of my contract, then was on a visitor’s visa for ~1 month, while sorting out the move to NY. I’d never lived in a state with city AND state taxes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I filled my W4 I was all confused (I had also never worked in my adult life, other than as a grad student, so the department took care of all those forms and such) but I put whatever # in the box that tells HR to take as much as they can for my fed taxes, and hope they’d do the right stuff for state and city, as I was totes clueless.

Well that, and the fact that I only worked in Canada part of the year came down to bite me really hard. My ass hurts, and my pockets even more. Turns out that I couldn’t claim the full standard deduction in Canada, so now, I have to pay 2K … which I don’t have. Also, someone in HR messed up, and nothing was taken out of my paycheck for the city taxes. This means I need to pay for that too.

The only good thing (well, 2) is that I do get a refund, which will go, every single last cent, to Canada Revenue. I should have asked my accountant last year in Canada how this worked, so that I could have started working in the US sooner, and saved up for that. And since I’ve been penniless for a while, thanks to my father’s stupid money decisions that have half of my family’s credit in the can (including mine), I’m funneling my money to make sure that some debts are paid on time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get to eat yummy food, and purchase undies, and the basics when I need them. And I’m glad that I’m contributing to the services provided in ON for very deserving citizens. But this much money is going to make a hole and it’s going to take time for me to recover. That, and I won’t get to enjoy (of funnel money into critical debt) while paying those taxes. I did get a “credit” when filling out the 1040, and that’s why I get a bit of money back … but it’s truly depressing to see that no matter what you do, you’re still in the hole, and it seems every time you try to climb up, and think you’re making strides, you’re punched back by something and thrown deeper into said hole.

I just can’t catch a fucking break.

PS. Did I mention that I had saved a bit of money (a crappy attempt of an emergency fund, which would fund my trip to hon’s defense and contribute to a graduation gift). That? Totally depleted now. Also, what the hell am I going to tell my sister when I need to explain why I’m missing yet another one of my nephew’s birthdays? Yup, I’m doomed to be poor.

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No need for pity/ I’m thankful

This is a rather personal account. You don’t need to read if you don’t want to. And I’m not looking for pity. This is just one of the many challenges I’ve been facing lately. It goes to show that everyone, even scientists, have problems, the same problems that “regular people” have. We have needs, and we have problems, like the rest of the world does. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.

Even thought it’s not Christmas day yet, I still made a few calls this morning to hon and my family. I realize they may be busy later today and tomorrow, so I wanted to talk to them before the celebrations begin.

While talking to honey, he mentioned that he’s really sad I have to say in the City (me too, but I really couldn’t go home). He asked me to please, please, please, get out and do something fun. Go to the City, see places, maybe call up a friend, just do something and get out of the apartment. I told him that while I would totes to that any day he’s here, I really didn’t feel like going out (including, tourists, long lines, waiting for a long time for a subway or bus ride, sick people, annoying people … heck, people, I know, I can never be a secular humanist).I mentioned that I really do not dread staying in, I enjoy it, as I spend usually 10-12 hours away, most days of the week, and that whenever I get a chance I stay in, and veg-out. Once he saw that I’m not terribly frustrated by staying in, he felt a bit better (though he would still like me to do something fun).

The reason I’m staying in the City is money. I have very little of it after taking care of family debts. I got a nasty email from a family member a week before I was scheduled to move to the City (yeepee, I spent my last week in Canada weeping like a moron and wondering how the hell to get out of this one). My dad had asked this person and I to co-sign a loan for him (you know where this is going, it is not pretty). My dad had been faithfully paying this debt, until he lost his job, twice. Instead of calling me and saying that he’d be short on cash for a while, he thought he could get out without telling anyone. He convinced the bank (credit union, really) not to call me, that he’d figure something out. What I got instead was the angriest you could ever imagine email from said family member who said he was getting harassing calls and that I needed to pay for things now, or else (I was jobless at the time, in a foreign country, and I couldn’t collect unemployment).

The emails and the drama that followed wrecked havoc on my life, my peace, and my credit score (the least important of the 3). The credit union did manage to get a hold of said family member, who instantly blamed me for all his bad luck in not getting a loan to send his youngest child to college (his credit score is well over 710, while mine is 540). Said family member has been harassing my mom and my dad relentlessly. Said family member happens to live in the City, and also had enough time and anger to call my mom’s side of the family and tell them that I dislike paying credit agencies and that I’m an irresponsible asshole (among many other lovely things).

The reason I can’t go home is because I’ve been trying to dump as much money as I can to bring said loan up to date. My parents are at risk their house, and half of the family hates me (not that I was their favourite anyways, somehow they seem to hate me and my sister, even though we’ve been among the best sheep in the family). The money I was hoping to dump on the debts I made for myself is now being carefully divided to make sure everything gets paid, even if it’s only the minimum. The City is expensive and since the move-out from Canada, I’ve added even more things to my life that need to be paid (I need to sell my car, yet I can’t even afford to pay to transfer the title, let alone get my City driver’s licence, or pay for the basic repairs needed to at least put it in the market). New clothes or shoes are obviously out of the question. Getting married or having a kid won’t happen for (at the very least) 5 years.

I can’t go home because I can’t afford not to get paid, and I haven’t accumulated enough time to justify being away from work for 7 days. And I haven’t had a break since this time last year.

I know it’s a sad story, but I’m not alone in this. It could be worse, I could be unemployed. I could be missing a part of my body that wouldn’t allow me to do what I do, or I could be chronically ill. Thankfully the only things I’m allergic to are pain-killers.

Instead, I have many things to be thankful for (probably more than I have reasons to be bitter). I have a job and feel better about it than I did about my previous position as a postdoc. I’ve made friends at work; we all seem to genuinely like each other. I met a PI that I’ve admired for 10 years, and after dropping a seriously hilarious and nerdy line, he seems think that I’m somewhat sane. I have clothes, a roof above my head and warm food on my table, every day. I haven’t had to go without food a single day since I moved. Even thought it’s the minimum payment, I’m on time on all my debts, old and inherited. I got gifts and cards this year, even though my family is far away. I have legs that work, health insurance, a warm bed, a coat. My basic needs are covered.

I’ve been bitter for a while, and I hate the money situation like you have no idea. I’ll be looking for a (hopefully part-time) second job next year, so maybe I can visit the family and dump some more money on the debts. It’s tough, but somehow I hope to make it.

Don’t feel sorry for me, don’t pity me because I bitch and moan about not going home. I could be a lot worse, and I have many things to say thanks for.

End of the year meme – 2011 edition

I wrote this back in 2009, when I first did the end of the year meme. Let’s see how 2011 went.

An end of the year analysis… in meme form.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Cried if front of my immediate boss and got my “first real job.”

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’ll have to look at my list, but I do think I accomplished certain things.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A couple of nice tweeps. Don’t think anyone in my immediate family gave birth.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

A good family friend died.

5. What countries did you visit?

The US. I mean, I moved back.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2001?

Mmmm, less debt, less weight and more peace family wise. A happier attitude towards life. An insane amount of expertise and independence on some of the instruments at work which are still biting me in the ass. I know I will master them as time goes by, and the software bugs will stop messing with my mind. It’s just a lot of equipment for very few people and lots of samples and projects.  Also, a raise after I master said instruments.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory?

June 21st, 2011. The last night I slept in the same bed, in Canada, with my hon. We headed to the airport later as hon was on his way to a well deserved break, and I was on my way to new job city. Also, a certain day in February when hon took me to a nice dinner in postdoc city, followed by a night at the opera. And, turning 30 in new job city and celebrating it with a friend and her friends, who totally welcomed a stranger and made her feel good about her day (I had no family or hon present as I had just started at my new position, hon was on vacation and my family couldn’t travel).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Not giving up on the job search, even though it was brutal. Finding a job that I like, in a discipline I love and meeting some high-profile people in the field.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not telling a batshit crazy ass family member to shove it. And not confronting my dad re: stupid money decisions which have half of the family not speaking to the other half.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Probably a couple of colds and my always annoying and painful periods. And the feet pain getting worse. I gave in and finally saw a podiatrist. I’m getting orthotics in a few weeks. Also, a nasty heat-induced allergy. Spent a week on Zyrtec and lots of anti-itch lotion. And long sleeves in the summer.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A smartphone that has saved my life (kind of) a couple of times. How come I didn’t have one sooner?

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Hon’s of course, for being always supportive and understanding, and celebrating every little victory, especially during the grueling job search. Also my mom’s … between she and hon, I got some of the most needed advice ever.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

My mom’s brother and my dad’s. Thanks for screwing with my life and credit score.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Moving …. and moving related expenses, and getting settled. And food.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

New job, meeting some scientists that I’ve admired for a long time, meeting tweeps IRL and experiencing The City with hon, on the cheap. That boy is awesome, can’t you tell?

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2011?

Any song from the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack, and a couple of songs from Calle 13.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

1. Happier or sadder? Happier.
2. Thinner or fatter? Hon says that I look thinner, possibly because I get to walk a bit more around The City.
3. Richer or poorer? Poorer. I’m still way in hell in red numbers, particularly due to stupid money decisions by the two people I mentioned above. I also had to take a small loan at work to cover some moving expenses. That should be paid soon, I think. So, maybe I’ll be able to save enough to go home at a later time.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Exploring The City, reading, blogging, and saying yes to more invitations to socialize.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Spend, complain, worry and cry.

20. How will you be spending/did you spend Christmas?

In The City. Like I said, I’m way down in red numbers, and I only have a couple of days accumulated for vacation, so I’ll be working before and after Xmas, and definitely after new year’s …. I haven’t had a break in a long time. I’m starting to feel it. Between not having money and time, I’m forced to spend Xmas in a city a lot of people can only dream of spending their holidays at.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

Hon, mom and vendors.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011?

More and more with the same adorable guy. And my nephew. He’s cute.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?

None; though it would have been interesting to have one or two with the BF, hehe.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?

Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Fifth Estate, a couple of crime shows.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Yeah, my mom’s insane brother. Also, rude people in The City.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?

I’m a wee tired to remember some of the stuff I’ve read. But I’m on Goodreads, feel free to check out what I’ve read.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Mindy Gledhill and a couple of new songs by some of my favourite artists.

28. What did you want and get?

A new job, with benefits, a cute apartment and my music.

29. What did you want and not get?

More money, less debt and continue living with hon.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?

Haven’t been to the movies in a while, but probably the Dragon Trilogy, though I know it’s older than this year.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Went to a friend’s house who welcomed me with arms wide open, made a wonderful drink with her mad skillz and had cupcakes to celebrate the day and my birthday (it’s a holiday). I turned the big 3-0.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Living with honey, negotiating my salary for a bit longer, and less money problems.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Frumpy scientist, with the occasional sprinkle of something new and decent when outside of the lab.

34. What kept you sane?
The BF and my mom. And super nice coworkers.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I can’t think of anyone right now.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Marriage equality, budget issues, OWS … among many others.

37. Who did you miss?

Hon, my mom and my nephew.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Former immediate boss. Wonderful person, wonderful coworker, super chill. Too bad he quit.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Don’t take certain members of my family too seriously. Keep on going even when life throws you big piles of shit. 2011, you’ve been a bitch.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Maybe later, it’s late and I’m a bit too tired to think.

Life …. lately

Oh my dear blog, why have I abandoned you? It’s been crazy busy. Right now hon and I are watching some boxing, enjoying each other’s company, after spending a day in the city. I’m enjoying this thing of having federal holidays off, which feels weird. It hadn’t been like that since undergrad.

I got my reimbursement from the moving expenses along other things, and one of my debts is almost wiped out (phew). But I’m still not out of the woods re:family/money issues. In fact, I won’t be for a long, long time.

I got into a mini screaming match with my boss, something I wouldn’t even imagine doing a few months ago when I was a postdoc. I’ve become a bit cynical at work, mainly because I’ve noticed some unfair treatment from some high up people towards some coworkers. I didn’t agree with two decisions my boss made, and I spoke my mind …. without a filter. I guess it’s contagious, because the boss is like that, filter-less. At least I know the boss appears not to hide his feelings, and if he’s pissed or frustrated, he’s likely to say something (no more guessing games, as with the postdoc PI).

I bought an mp3 player. My old one, which has a really great storage capacity but lousy battery life, was due for a change. I found a decently priced, well-reviewed one. And decided to take the plunge. Listening to music during the morning commute is one of my favourite things. I look forward to getting on the subway in the morning, and at night, and listening to my fave tunes.

I think I’ll bite the bullet and get a semi-expensive (read, over 30$) purse for work. Mine, which is a lovely canvas one I bought during my last vacation, is on its last legs. Luckily, I have some points which are redeemable for gift card to one of my favourite online retailers, so I’m thinking of getting said handbag. I’m excited about it.

And talking about money … crap, Xmas trips are insanely expensive. Since I don’t have any miles I can use, and I refuse to pay 3x more than normal to go home, I’m thinking of taking a small break early next year, instead of this year. I will sure miss them … but I can’t justify spending more than 500$ on a trip home (I know, I just talked about getting a purse and an mp3 player … both purchases will equal less than 100$, one of them technically “free” due to a rewards plan) for less than 10 days. That’s insane.

Kitty is driving me insane. I can’t handle her … I’m glad I’m childless … because I would make a horrible mother. ‘Nuff said.

Work is going well, I think. I’m becoming somewhat proficient on some pieces of equipment, some of which I’d never used. Things are becoming more logical, less cumbersome. It is still a challenge. Summer and fall have been crazy, and we’re near the end of a class, which has been taking a ginormous amount of time.

Work has allowed me to meet with people I’ve admired for many years. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, geeked out with them and even emailed, in some cases! That’s one of the parts I’m really enjoying about work. I have to give lab meeting in a few weeks. That, I’m definitely not looking forward to.

The lack of consistent tweets and entries has been a result of really busy days at work. At the end of the day I am so tired (hon went to visit me at work a few days ago and saw this first-hand, to which he kindly added that I truly don’t get paid nearly enough for all I do) that I don’t have the stamina, or mental power to interact.

I’m getting ready to spend a pretty penny for the lab, as we have some leftover supplies money to spend. So I’m getting the thrill of shopping, and finding deals, even if it’s for stuff I won’t get to keep and have to share, ha! I kind of enjoy the purchasing part … but only when I have enough time to sit down and do it right.

Sorry for the lack of science, or lab-related entries. I hope the new year will help me in pacing my writing and ideas so I can go back to some of my usual stuff. Even with all the bad things that have happened, and the meh salary, I’m kinda happy at work. I think I’m beginning to enjoy work … and even love science once again.

And a small reminder that, I’ve been guest blogging for a wonderful Canadian company, 1DegreeBio. They have some cool resources for all your antibody purchasing needs. Go check ’em out. And check my entries here!

Changes at work

Things are changing faster than I’d like. Recently I learned about two group members who are leaving. Both departures break my heart, one because I think it was somewhat unwarranted and unfair, the other because this person has been one of my advocates and has provided insight and encouragement since I started at work. I honestly can’t think of a better person for the job and I’m wondering who’s going to “replace” this person. Ugh, I hate the word replace, specifically attached to work things (unless it’s for a huge piece of equipment that no longer works). I hope to God the search is exhaustive and we get to meet pretty good candidates, but I’m afraid of the future. I just started working at this place, and it seems like the foundation is shaking. Maybe I’m blowing it all out of proportion, but still, these are pretty big changes.

I was recruited, or “appointed” to cover some of this person’s tasks. My place of work is gearing up for the start of the semester, and with it we’ll sure have tons of visitors and new projects coming our way. Summer has been slow, and I’ve been basically reading and learning bits and pieces of how to use some equipment. The real questions now are whether I know how to truly use and troubleshoot the equipment, and whether I can teach new people to use said equipment. I may also be acting as an instructor at some point, which will greatly reduce my time to work in the wet lab. We’ll see.

Two moves are happening. I found a more permanent place near the city, but it’s with a roommate. Since I’m trying to help out my mom due to the irresponsible decisions my dad made with money, I don’t have enough cash to afford a place on my own. I hope the new roommate and I get along. Hon is trying to come and visit, but tickets are way expensive.

Related to the second move. Hon’s grad funding ran out this summer. Ontario offers graduate assistantships guaranteed for 4 years. Hon has been at school for that long, plus this semester. He’s really short on cash, and since he doesn’t work in a lab, and can pretty much write his thesis anywhere, he’s moving back in with his family and finishing the thesis from there. Before the end of the month the all our things should be in the city … we’re going to need to store some of them, because my new place comes furnished. So, other than my clothes and shoes and a few little things, everything will go in storage until I can either afford a place of my own, or send those things to my parents’ house, or dispose of them. I think my dream of downsizing is going to become a reality. We’ll see at what cost. Because of the stupid job market hon has very little hope of finding a job in this city.

My car was broken into by a low life junkie. He took hon’s CDs, and stole our GPS. The local city police in Ontario take reports via the web … they didn’t even bother showing up to interview witnesses. We have no hopes of recovering our stuff. The stupid asshole is in jail. I sincerely hope he rots in there. Even though I’m in the States, and this happened in Canada, many miles away from me, I still look behind my shoulder everywhere I walk. I’m afraid of people. I trust no one.

Scientists have regular lives too.

What’s happening?

Phewww, it’s been quite sometime since I last updated this blog. Fear not, I haven’t gone away or started a new blog. It’s incredible how busy life is now that I’m back to my original field of research. It’s been crazy but good. I’ve had to adapt to a couple of new things, like having users and collaborators email or call and ask for certain services and things. I work in this big core lab that serves a ton of people, but luckily we’re in the middle of summer, so it’s been a good time to start and get used to fulfilling many roles and tasks. I’ve been purchasing things for the group I work with, from supplies to tools, everything except furniture and big ticket times. On my first day I got to use one of the machines I used  when I was in grad school. I felt both thankful and fearful of breaking it, as I hadn’t used it in almost 3 years.

I’ve gotten my little desk/office space, an extension with voice mail, an email account and accounts on different types of equipment, computers and servers. I’ve been taking notes like a freshmen biology student and getting out of my comfort zone, chasing people, users and services.

I’ve had to adapt to having staff meetings (which are longer than lab meetings).

So far I like it. I have a 401K, dental, health and prescription coverage. Weekends are off limits, but it may change when the semester starts. I’ve met some of the idols in my field which are currently working in the city. And the city is … well … the City.

I’m adapting well to new and different means of transportation … but I do miss driving, especially since I lived so very close to work in Canada. I’ve got a smarphone (yay), so I can try to stay connected. But with the sheer volume of work it’s sometimes impossible. I live close to work, so I walk here every day, but it’s a temporary arrangement, while I find a more permanent place. I may have lost a pound or two, and sometimes my feet hurt a bit less than when I was in Canada. The food here is amazing … it is true, especially Chinese-take out, nom nom nom. I’ve met quite a few wonderful tweeps and there are regularly scheduled tweetups where I hope to make some new contacts and friends. I’ve been trying to get out, go to little festivals and small events … kinda like getting out of my shell. For some people this would be hard to imagine, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become shy and introverted.

Even with the sheer volume of people in this city I’ve managed to see 3 people I know from 3 completely separate times of my life. There’s a grade-school friend I saw one night. Then there was a former student from my PhD department, who’s on his way to become a prof. And finally, one of my college professors. It’s both exciting and different to describe to them what it is that I’m doing now that I’m no longer a postdoc. It’s also interesting not to be a postdoc anymore.

I think good things are brewing, and I’m approaching everything with both caution and optimism. One especially wonderful thing is that honey’s been visiting for the last few days. He’s visited work, the apartment, he’s done my morning and afternoon routes to it. We’ve visited museums and stores and we’re starting to enjoy some of the food in the city (hon’s had an upset stomach since before he got here). Thankfully we have a couple of more days together … but then he has to head back, and that sucks. I miss him SO much. He’s not only my best friend and confidant, but he’s also the one who helps me get out of my shell, meet people, discover new places. It’s hard to be long-distance again, especially when one of us gets sick, or something stressful happens. We’re each others’ rock and support, and it sucks to be separated by so many miles.

I’m still having issues with my family. Without going into too many details, my dad got into some financial trouble that’s dragging some family members down, including me. I’ve been trying to help in any way I can, but sadly, I haven’t been too successful. My dad is also in denial, and his only choice (bankruptcy) is something he’s still is not in the right mindset to do. We’ll see. Things would be a lot easier if this situation, and the pain, anger and problems it brings along, was sorted out … life is never easy, and it sucks to get trapped in the middle of all this.

OK, gotta run, there are experiments and issues waiting to be addressed. I hope to write some more soon!

What’s up?

I know, I know. One of my NY’s resolutions was to write more often. Looking back at my archives I realize that I usually post once a week, and during rough times or when I was doing a gazillion things, it may be once every two weeks. This semester is no exception. By the time undergrads are heading home I’ll be out of work. I’m struggling with the decision(s) of staying in science and doing another postdoc closer to what I know, or attempting to go back home, and hope I can get a job there. But this is no easy feat. I’ve  been looking and looking and looking. I’ve contacted profs, got on mailing lists about job posts, written to department heads. Nothing. I did have an interview while I was visiting the family. The prof was impressed by my previous work and didn’t even bother asking why I wanted to leave my current job. He’s looking for someone with a background in biology to help with a project that’s combining engineering and biomed research (he’s an engineer with some kick ass results in treatments for cancer). The thing is, this type of project is cool, but again, not around my alley. It would pay well, have awesome benefits, and it would be stupidly close to my folks. But based on how bad I’ve felt during this postdoc, this constant worry about not being competent enough (despite my previous boss’s assertion that once you have a PhD you can learn and teach yourself anything), away from what I know and love, I’m not sure I have enough emotional strength to try it. What is I fail like I am now, and I am out of options? I’m also attempting to get in touch with the head of my UG department and see, if by any chance, there’s an opening or a way to get in even if it’s just teaching.

On the other hand I’ve signed up for a few workshops throughout the semester to keep me busy and current with some of the programs I know but haven’t used in a while; continuing-ed or professional development if you will. I figured that since the cover is almost 0,  and things run until a week before my contract expires, I’d better make the best use of what’s available. I’ve attended one of these already and it was rather refreshing. I think that, as much as keeping up with literature, blogging, tweeting, etc, the best thing a scientist, of heck, a professional for that matter should do, is to every now and then refresh his or her mind and step away from all the sciency stuff and go back to the basics. I went to a communications in science workshop and it was very cool. I brushed up on changes in grammar and sentence construction (last time I took a language class was in the winter of 2000), and on how to do better while writing, especially abstracts and sections of a manuscript. Next in line is one on the new Office and then one about project management. I figure that it never hurts to be current on these things, and as much as I like the new software and know how to do with the new one what I mastered with the old software, I may as well see if there are any tips, tricks or shortcuts, or heck, options I haven’t explored. Since I can’t enroll in an UG or MS program at this stage of my life here, I’d better make use of whatever is available.

The last “surprise” is that I may be a guest lecturer in a structural biology course offered to grad students (MS and PhD) in my department. I got in touch with one of the profs here and told him about my former area of expertise. I told him a few things and tricks I knew and turns out he liked the idea (and taking off that burden off of his shoulder for 1 week). I got the syllabus a few days ago and I’ll be doing a lecture in a couple of weeks. You have no idea how exciting this all is. I am attending the class as well and have learned about some techniques or combinations of techniques I’d never seen before.

All these things and more are (hopefully) in store for this semester. I’m very excited, but also cautious because I don’t want to jinx it; hence my silence for the last couple of weeks (and why very few people in my lab know about it). I’m also learning a couple of programs on my own and using a very tiny amount of the stuff I did in grad school to apply to my current project. I’m not sure I’ll finish something meaningful on my project. What I have are scattered pieces which will, in all likelihood, not be included in a paper. So, to compensate, I’m trying to beef up other parts of my life (and resume) and keeping my eyes open for any chances I see in the horizon, regardless of whether they include science.

A few days ago I had a sort of epiphany. Hon had mentioned, in a very heated discussion we had a few months ago, that it seemed as though I was idealizing my experience in grad school and that it all had a beautiful glow and I had no memory of the nights I was too stressed to sleep. Or when I had to answer to the drunken ramblings of an overbearing postdoc from another lab complaining about our use of a shared facility. Or when I logged on from whatever part of the world I was in to schedule jobs, or answer to emails from our IT people regarding a chunk of cancelled stuff. Hon said that is wasn’t all peaches and cream and that I had my bad days. To which I reminded him that I loved my area of research. I loved collecting  the data and showing the stuff at meetings and being proud of my work. Now, well, not so much. But that attitude has definitely had its impact on my current position. All this brought to mind that I’ve done what I loved and truly interested me for 6 years. I studied biology because I liked it. Sure, I wanted a career with a respectable pay, but I liked it. I loved learning how my body worked, how and where things originated, what types of reactions and changes happened all over the place so I could taste, smell, see. And when I did my PhD I did in something that caught my attention as an undergrad. I wanted to do it from the first day of grad school, and I didn’t even know that my former boss had a lab working on the exact two things that I had my eyes set on.  It was bliss. In the purely scholar way of thinking about academia and education, I have done what I love. It is done and over with. I can’t repeat my grad school years.

I hear postdocs and sometimes profs say how much they hated their masters or PhD work and how glad they are they switched fields. I am so happy I did my undergrad in biology and my PhD in one of the many branches of structural biology. But, from a purely capitalist point of view, I feel like an artist who has chosen passion over what really puts money on the table, regardless of how boring or dead-end it is. All these things have led me to the point of being open about moving away from science and consider other areas where I can combine some of the transferable skills I learned and have a better pay and benefits. I am trying to find something related to what I did and loved, but if it doesn’t happen, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel, admits it’s enough, that I’ve fought the good fight and move on. Maybe I can do a master’s in something else that allows me to reach that level of peace, in which I can help get my family out of the hole my dad dragged them all in due to bad financial decisions, help pay off my debts, start a retirement account, take care of my aching feet, be close to all of my family, and help pay for the rest of my dreams. It may or may not be this way, but if I have to kiss science goodbye for help achieve that, then maybe that’s the way to go, and that’s OK. So dear reader, in the next few months I hope we find out whether I can stay in science or not. I hope you don’t think I’m betraying my (possibly former) field or my love and interest for science. I have truly loved what I’ve done. I’m proud of my publications, my covers, the citations and the excited looks I get when I explain what I used to do. I look at it fondly. But maybe, this is it for me. I hope I can live (happily) with that decision, if/when it comes to it. Care to stay tuned?