27 and a PhD

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Boundaries and priorities

I’m feeling much better, compared to when I posted this. I went to my initial visit with a new PCP in new job city and it went well. In fact, I didn’t want the visit to end. The doctor is about my age, female and explained everything in detail and in a reassuring manner and tone which was super helpful. She asked about all meds I’ve taken and what I needed refills for and I’m happy to report that I’m back on my PMS med and, while still adjusting, I feel like it’s making a change. I know, it’s a bit too soon to celebrate and it could all be related to having my period (which usually sours my mood even more a few days before and once I get over the initial cramping, it’s all smooth riding). But I am glad I’m back on my med. I’m also seeing her in about a month to get my annual pap-smear and I just learned that school offers free mammograms to staff, so maybe I should take advantage of that … even though it’s not necessary at my age, I would still like to have some sort of baseline and just check that everything is normal.

Thinking back to how I felt on Thursday and Friday night, I felt so defeated. I’d spent Monday, Thursday and Friday working non stop trying to get some preliminary data for a project. One of my many supervisors (I have more than one, all with similar opinions on some things but most definitely different priorities) needed some data and I agreed to give it a shot. What I should have said and remembered based on my experience from NYC, was that this would really be very tough to work on, especially with only a month to really evaluate things. Little by little I became more aware of the mounting difficulties and finally on Friday, something broke in the lab, and that was definitely the end of trying to collect the data for said grant. My next supervisor in line is somewhat of a nazi. In the month or so I’ve been at work he’s already caused problems that have found their way into my ears and I’ve really come to know that this will be a very difficult person to work with (I already told hon I regretted coming back based on the bit of drama this person initiated). My other PI is very chill, though can be demanding. This person is also very hands off and seems to have respect and trust in my abilities. As long as they intervene I can keep doing my job just fine … but who knows how much this person can protect me and how long they can be that way without getting their asses in trouble.

Here’s the thing … in NYC my immediate supervisor absorbed a lot of the heat if my coworker or I got in trouble. But here I am all alone and I am in the same position as my supervisor, and the lab I’m working in is in worse shape than I thought. And there are things I don’t know how to do and I’m learning … but nazi PI wants them done yesterday. And that has caused a lot of trouble and stress I wasn’t ready for.

Now, my husband is kind of a genius, but sometimes can say things too bluntly and in his interest to preserve my sanity and well-being, he can get riled up. So he’s trying a new strategy of communicating his concern for me,  and it’s sort of working. On Friday night we were talking about how much of a frustrating day I’d had. Not only did I have to see my PCP and try to work on the prelim data, but I also had to work with nazi PI and make sure that some plant services people fixed something in the lab. In other words, I was being stretched to my limit .. and I was running low on patience, plus I was feeling a little (or a lot) out of it … I was out of my mood med and I didn’t know it, but my period was rearing its ugly head. It was the perfect storm. I spent exactly 12 hours at work trying to fix problems, either on the phone, in person … hell, I even emailed a coworker to place an order while my doctor was getting some paperwork done outside of the exam room!! In what world is that acceptable? Couple that to the fact that I’m supposed to have a 40-45 min break during the day (by law, if the uni found out I didn’t take  it I could get in trouble) … all while trying to remain sweet and competent.

By the end of the night I was shot. I was looking at my blog stats and saw that more people kept coming, that more people were following on Twitter … and that while both the blog and Twitter are great outlets, I just didn’t have time to sit down and write my story …. this, plus all the bullshit at work, plus the PMS combined to make me feel down, depressed … like I was out of hope. My incredible super husband came to rescue, reminding me that I had to set boundaries and rules, that it is OK to take time to enjoy these outlets, that I’m better and more relaxed when I take time to focus on myself and that if my PIs have my best interest at heart, they’ll understand that you can’t keep going 24-7. And that yes, I have a laundry list of things to do to keep the lab running … but it’s not a sustainable model to stay in the lab for 12 hours straight, most days of the same week, having worked for 13 days before that non-stop. The way he said it sounded different than other times. Other times he’d let his frustration out and I felt like he was picking a fight, rather than being supportive. He said that talking with his mom had given him the idea to approach things differently … and it did go differently and it did sink in.

In NY my lab stayed open from 9 to 6. Sometimes we’d stay late and I did stay overnight one time. But, it wasn’t the norm, and I didn’t go to the lab on weekends. There were clear boundaries for the times I was expected to work. Here, since the lab is getting off the ground, there’s a lot of stuff to do and make happen … lots of things I’m trying to figure out … all while keeping 3 bosses (and counting, I’m sure there are more to come) happy. This is tough and it gets frustrating, because I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done (I’ve been texting my supervisor in NY, telling him how much more I appreciate all he did for me and for the lab). But now that I’m starting, even if I can’t do everything the overlords want when they want it … to keep some sense of sanity and normalcy, I have to set ground rules as far how much time I can spend at work and what gets solved while I’m there. One of my new job resolutions is to let people know that they can expect to have me present from 9:30am to 6pm, 5 days a week. That I am more than happy to help, but they have to let me know, I have too many things on my plate to just dump everything and come to their rescue at the last minute. I will try my best not to work on weekends, while keeping my cell phone at hand, should someone encounter a problem. I realize that I’m the first line of defense when it comes to instrumentation breaking. I promise to get things done and crossed off my to do list as often as I can, and to ask for help. And also to confront nazi-PI, should things ever get as nasty as they seemed to get this week. If I am to make this place work and people be happy and productive, they need to know that I need to have some control and that there are ground rules … otherwise I’m just their pawn … and then the resentment and frustration takes the best of me.

I also plan to stick to going to the torture chamber (g-y-m), eat a bit better and listen to the hubs when he tries to help out. I’m feeling much better, despite of the coming challenges I’m facing this week. We shall see how things go. Thanks for staying put and for your encouragement.

Do you like your job?

That is the question my dearest husband asked me yesterday. He wanted to know what are my impressions after being at the new job a few weeks in. First, I want to tell you that this week I’ve effin’ earned my salary. The first few days I was dealing with a lot of admin stuff, but this week started me off with finally getting my hands on instrumentation and working on it and through my frustrations with it for the first time since I left NYC. And gosh darnit, it has been tough. As I get familiar with one of my toys again and show a new crop of grad students and postdocs how to work with said toy, I realize that what I’m doing is hard work and I hope I can make it work and keep people happy or at least keep the instruments working so they can get the science done. And that’s is one huge responsibility.

But that aside, being at the new job has been interesting. In my previous entry I mentioned how people at work seem overly nice and concerned about keeping me happy. And how that freaked me out. Truth be told, I’m happy they’re making an honest effort to keep me happy and to make sure that everything I need, from office supplies, to gadgets for my toys … that every need for the lab (and for me) is covered so I can do my job. During the new employee orientation I heard someone say that one of the mottos  of the organization is that they will give you the tools to get the mission accomplished, it is up to you to pony up the man/brain power. And I’ve seen that in full display during these last few weeks. This is something I definitely lacked as a postdoc, and in some instances missed in NY due to budget constraints (well, a stingy boss, truth be told).

With that said, I do miss NYC and my coworkers greatly. I’m still not over it and I don’t think I will for some time. In weeks like this one, where I get battling with an instrument and a specific piece of software I didn’t understand, I really, really missed them. I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of here, other than grad students and postdocs, and they have their own labs, projects and responsibilities. I’ve been told this week, on more than one occasion, that I’m putting too much pressure on myself. That I’m starting and that they don’t expect me to know everything, but that they know I’ll grow into my role in time. For now they’re happy to have someone full time and available when there are questions about how a particular piece of equipment. But I can’t help but feel the pressure, since I was in their shoes and in the lab I’m running a long time ago. I feel like it is expected of me to know they little details and the big picture that are needed to keep this core lab running.

Then, on the rare occasion I venture to Twitter, I see this and this. And it makes me think about my own career so far. My 6 years as a grad student, my two as a disgruntled postdoc, my almost two as a staff scientist, and now as lab manager.

During that disgruntled period of my life, many times I asked myself if I could see a career in the TT as my ultimate goal. My answer was always no. I’ve seen the sacrifice that many people make, from singletons, to people in committed, long term relationships, with and without progeny. I simply realized that if I felt overwhelmed, exhausted and pissed, without having kids, or writing R01 apps lefts and right, then the TT was definitely not for me. And I can say, with an honest heart that I don’t regret my decision. I still work my tail off, like this week, but I don’t depend on grant money to feed both my lab and the mouths of those that work with me. That is a responsibility I cannot see myself fulfilling. And I am more than OK with that. That isn’t to say that I do not admire PIs, I seriously do. The more I see the hurdles they have to jump through to keep a lab running, even when facing lack of money or publications, while maintaining a relationship with their families outside the lab, and attending recitals and soccer games, and dealing with admin bullshit and government cuts. My admiration for PIs knows no bounds.

And I can tell you that even as a staff scientist, I’ve pondered, like Isis has done, whether I see myself doing this for the rest of my life …. being a staff scientist, a lab manager, for the next 30 to forty years. That people, is a shit ton of time.

My own path into academic research wasn’t all straight all the time. Sure, I finished my undergrad and quickly started in a grad program. But during the years I was in grad school, I asked myself questions as to what I’d do in the future, once I stopped being a grad student. But I didn’t really face that beast until my very frustrating postdoc. And joining my previous job was an amazing eye opening experience that showed me that my love for the field of structural biology is real, that my PhD wasn’t a fluke (even when during weeks like this one I question whether I learned to do stuff right), and that I can help steer a lab in the right direction, with the right PIs above my head.

But still, I do on occasion wonder if I’ve made the right choice, and whether, should honey and I ever reproduce, my job career will be compatible with said choice. Even without kids, I wonder whether my job, with all its responsibilities, is compatible with hon and I hopping on a car or plane and going away for the weekend to explore a new city. I consider that an important part of our relationship, and something I want to continue to do. But as a lab manager, and as the first point of contact between the university and my PIs and the instrumentation and the service people I’m basically on-call 24-7, I’m kind of the emergency physician of my lab and should something go wrong while we’re away enjoying Charleston, or Lexington, or New Orleans, I can’t simply forget about my responsibilities as manager.

As it is I’m now carrying my phone with me everywhere I go. I answer emails while eating at Chipotle, text students and postdocs with answers about equipment, and have had to juggle meeting with three people in a time span of 5 minutes, all wanting something different from me. If this is a preview of what’s to come … then I’m in it for quite the ride of my life. And while I have the stamina right now and the drive to go from room to room, instrument panel to instrument panel and sit down and babysit students and instruments, there will be a time when I won’t be enough for it all. I saw it with my supervisor in NYC. The man could do 15 things at a time, yet he faced our boss who always had a complaint or issue, who had a particular vision on how to do things, but hardly any grasp on the difficulty to set them in motion. All while having a small kid and a baby and a wife to take care of. I saw the bags under his eyes and I tried making him laugh as often as I could … but even then, he wasn’t enough and it was/is hard on him. Am I just as strong and driven as he is? Do I care enough about my new lab and my fellow users to make sacrifices? And will my honey resent me, should I choose them over him on occasion? Is this a lifestyle I can thrive in and be successful for years to come?

I have no idea and I am scared. I know that the pipeline is leaky and I don’t believe in the work/life balance. To me that’s simply BS, something always gives (or has to), and most of the time it ends up being the family. And I don’t want to see that happen. I don’t want to be like one of my last mentors who would show up at home at midnight, then be back in the lab by 9am, not have dinner with their spouse, only to end up divorced.

These are all important questions to answer, I just don’t know how for now. I hope I can figure some of it out, and that when it comes to choosing work or family, I will find a happy medium …. if that is possible at all.

Fitness, the elephant in my room (or my belly)

I guess like most people everywhere, one of my new year’s resolutions is to lose the bulge, get fit and look awesome once and for all. But this year this has a special meaning. I’m getting married next year and I want to look (and feel) awesome on the special day. I want Mr 30 and a PhD to look at me and see the same girl he asked to be his girlfriend 7 years ago. I want my dress to fit (a dress I already bought and I’m not planning on altering it much, ie. letting out), I want to not have a belly that makes me look preggers ( I wore a dress for my interview back in December and one of my dear friends from back in the day commented that she was so happy I was pregnant … FML).

I hadn’t realized how fat I’ve gotten in the last 6 years until my friend made that comment, and I realized that no compression garment could hide the bulge. I’m tired of feeling tired, of the jiggly this and that, or wearing compression garments and of course, of the double chin.

I want to do something, but gosh darnit, it is so damn tough to get out of bed and to eat right. Ever since taking the job in NYC I’ve been fighting money problems, and part of making sure that there’s something in my stomach while the debts get paid is to get as much food for as little as possible. Fast food has become a staple of my diet (or lack of it) and although I don’t drink coffee, the daily shot of caffeine courtesy of my regular Coke or Pepsi is something I look forward to help combat the post-lunch slump.

I do get to walk quite a bit in NYC and I adore it. Now that I have my feet in better shape thanks to the custom orthotics my podiatrist made, walking is a lot easier. But that’s about it. I’m eating worse, and with this winter weather in full swing, I don’t like walking outside. I do my bit of walking to the bus in the morning and to work and from work to the subway station, but that’s the extent of my walking. Paying for a gym is out of the question, and living with multiple people who like to cook food I hate (yuck, seafood) makes it harder to eat at home.

I know. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

With my upcoming move in a month I’m looking forward to the new job and especially the benefits. As a student, and later a postdoc, I had access to pretty darn good gym facilities, a pool, and running/walking areas. There were also lots of chances for intramural this and that. I’m not such a huge team player, so I prefer to mind my own business and get on an elliptical, which helps my knees, and burn 300 calories.

I’m surprisingly looking forward to having access to a gym once again (especially one for employees, not crowded by valley girls in skimpy clothes), and heck! even paying for it so I can battle the bulge. I’m not getting younger, and should hon and I decide to conceive, I want to have a healthy weight before we have a baby (though as I’ve mentioned before, we would  be cool with adopting).

I don’t cook meat at home (though I’m open to the option of hon making burgers this summer at the grilling area near our future home). And watching The Biggest Loser the other day (I know, shallow of me, but hey, I get inspired by the show) I realized that I’m not a vegetarian so much as a carbotarian. While you’ll never see me doing the Atkins diet, it’s time I reign in my non-stop consumption of empty calories and carbs. I’m looking forward to making tons of veggie-filled soups, including my new fave lentil and my trusty hot and sour soup with tofu. I’m looking forward to making spring rolls at home once again and definitely eating lots of fruits and veggies. That has me excited. And I definitely want to create a schedule where I incorporate physical activity and strength training (who knew that wedding dresses are SO heavy!).

Let see how I stick to this. I’m currently at 195lbs, jumping all the way to 200lbs before my period. I’m tired of being a size 14 and the XXL tops, the granny undies and the 40D cups. I’m tired of the pain on my knees and perhaps losing the weight will help with my flat feet. I’m tired of being tired and I want to look beautiful on my wedding day and feel totally hot on my wedding night. I won’t turn my blog on a weight-management journal, but I do hope to chronicle my weight loss, perhaps posting a photo of when I finally fit on my wedding dress (because damn it, I’m fitting on that bitch!).

Let see how this goes. As soon as I get my hands on a measuring tape I’ll post my current digits along with those of my wedding dress. Here’s to being below 170lbs before Spring 2014 and fitting on my beautiful wedding dress!

Changes, so many changes

When I moved to NYC almost two years ago, I knew that my position wouldn’t be a forever-type thing. I wanted, I needed to have some security, to get out of the training loop. I wanted to have benefits, to have a job that involved doing science, training, sample prep, and of course, learning new skills to add to my repertoire.

I knew the position would only be a temporary fix to my situation at the time (frustrated with academia, hated my postdoc, etc). I also knew, or at least expected, that the separation from honey would be a temporary one, especially while he finished his PhD. He’d be looking for work, hopefully in NYC or nearby, and we’d reunite after a while.

Hon was struggling for a few months to try to find work. He lived with his parents in the meantime, as my salary could not sustain the two of us. We went back to the long distance thing, with him doing most of the traveling to NYC. We’ve had a fantastic time in this city. This city is amazing. I’ve met some super fantastic folks, I’ve made contacts that I never even dreamed would be possible. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, connected with emerging ones, in general, I’ve had a grand ole time.

I hadn’t been looking for work, or at least actively, since joining my current lab. Since I did such a short postdoc (in my opinion), only 1.9 years, I was afraid of doing a bunch of short stints at a couple of places, and creating the impression that I couldn’t hold on to something for a while, and improve my publication profile, network, present, etc.

Back in October I was contacted by a somewhat new hire at one of my previous places of training. I know this PI because they started in this place just as I was finishing. This PI’s postdoc lab is rather famous in my field, and has been very prolific in method-development. In addition, this lab has had a shit ton of trainees, some of which I’ve gotten to work with or meet since moving to NYC.

People at this previous place of training have been searching high and low for someone to be a manager of a lab in one of my disciplines of training. There have been some major changes (faculty-wise) and some of the people in power know of me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I flew in for an interview, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen these people since I left for my current job and I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in (if at all). Granted, I was trained at some point of my career there and people know the calibre of work I did. I was sure that all I’d get would be a free trip to say hello and goodbye and that’d be the end of it. I was oh-so wrong.

A few days ago I got semi-official confirmation that the position has been opened … for me. In essence I was asked to name everything I needed In order to leave NYC and join them. Yup. I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

I’m switching jobs once again. I’m going back and (hopefully) getting a do-over of some of the things I didn’t get to do, or did wrong. Hon will be relocating also, which means I get to have my cake and eat it too! Yeah, pinch me. I’m still trying to understand how the heck did this happen.

This new job has the potential for incredible amounts of growth. I’d be heading a lab I worked in, not as a PI, but as a bona fide manager. I’d be training people, creating protocols, collecting data, interacting with PI’s, postdocs and students of all levels. There would be no middle man like there is now. I’d basically become the female version of my current immediate supervisor, a person I adore beyond measure.

Yeah. I’m still freaking out. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the whole thing. I’ll be leaving NYC. That saddens me terribly. But what I earn now is not enough to live with hon, let alone cover the debt I have. I’d be getting access to the same level of benefits I currently have, along with more responsibility. I’d have access to a kick ass library, to decent sports teams, good food, and a whole new wave of talent.

I’m both excited and terrified. I’m excited about the possibility of working once again with people I know, but in a new aspect of my career. This is not a soft money position and I’m thrilled that the school/department/faculty kept me in mind when the whole change in faculty/department structure happened.

I also have some worries. I’d be the only woman in the lab, in a conservative environment where most of the faculty are white bearded dudes. And while I’ve been trained well in the science and in some admin stuff, I have no idea how to confront white bearded dudes, should they get out of line. I’m half their age at best … this shit is crazy.

I’ve certainly changed a bit from my old days there, so I don’t know how my “new” personality will mesh. I’m worried about that too. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to head the lab and move things along to show that the lab is self-sustaining and that we can bring more staff to help me. I’m worried about the pace of things, and about meeting the expectations. I don’t want to let anyone down. And of course, my imposter syndrome is acting up.

I’m happy about the change though (well, except the part about leaving NYC), about living with honey and being able to afford a place where we’re each others’ only roommate, of continuing our own little family, mamma, dadda and kitty. I’m happy to be able to drive places once again. I won’t miss living with total strangers (thankfully all of them have been sane!), the noises of the street, the crazy, stinky people during rush hour. NYC has been a tremendous adventure, but it’s my time to go.

We’ll see how things happen. But rest assured, I’ll keep writing about life in school, and life as a staff scientist, now loaded with moar responsibiliteez. Omai. I hope the new job, and the new me will still shed some light on the post-academic life. I hope y’all hang in there while I figure out my new roles, as a wife and lab manager.

Oh!? Did I mention that honey proposed and that we’ll be getting married in NYC before the move? Yeah …. totally. But that’s for another post, hehehe

Much love from my family to yours and a very merry 2013.

Almost home … and guns

I’m one week away from napping with my baby nephew (who is really a big boy … all of his 2.5 years of age, 😦 ). I can’t wait to be with my mom and crack jokes with my sister. To indulge in some liquor, to be surrounded by the family. I can’t wait to be with my honey, who has promised to take me on dates and indulge my sweet tooth with at a couple of new fro-yo places. I’m also gearing up to retort to the “loving” remarks that some family and friends are sure to make when they see my almost-200-pounds worth of a body. “No, I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat. Thanks for asking.” I’d lost a tiny bit of weight back in the summer, but between Whole Food brownies and my local Asian take out places (plus, holy mother, the McRib is back!), I’ve added more, and more to my boobies and mid-section. I guess I’ll make the dropping the weight one of my usual resolutions of the New Year. Barf. I’m tired, my period is starting and I’m not in a good mood. Can’t you tell!

Anyway. I’m generally pissed at life. Though almost all of my meaningful relationships are good, and I’ve gotten a few lovely holiday cards from a few of you (THANK YOU!), I have this general feeling of being pissed. It’s no one’s fault. I’m just in a general state of being pissed. Yes, I’m still on my meds. Yes, I’m getting along with the people I live with. (Sadly) no, none of them is honey. I’m just pissed.

I’m pissed at life, I’m pissed with fucking stupid, sick people who kill people, kids, little innocent kids, at the beginning of their day. I’m pissed that there’s no strict gun control in this fucking country and that fucking sick people have (almost) free and limitless access to all sorts of weapons that cut such precious lives short. I’m fucking sick of it. And don’t you dare bring the “God had a purpose for this.” Fuck that shit. A loving, caring God would not let something like this happen. But whatever, what the hell do I know. I’m just a fucking scientist without kids who knows shit about how parents feel.

Growing up I never had to worry about someone coming into my school and doing such harm. The worst thing I could be looking at would be an after school fight. Thankfully that never happened. Nor did I ever break an arm or leg playing. I was one lucky kid.

At home, it was a whole different story. My dad owned a gun and had access to it for most of the time I lived under my parents’ roof. We didn’t have the warmest relationship growing up, we still don’t. Many times, especially at night, we got into nasty arguments … some of them physical, in which I was punched and hit. I begged my mom to divorce him. The church she believes in told her to swallow up her pride and hang on … the reward would come in the next life. She never called the police … neither did I. We’d both swallowed the Kool-Aid. In addition, my dad had the gun. And now  I can think back to some of those times, when as I teenager I would go to bed after a fight, or after a physical confrontation, and try to fall asleep. I would wonder whether my dad was mad enough to pick up the gun and empty the bullets on my face, or worst, on my sister’s. Even to this day, we’re scared of the 357 Magnum. He said he handed it over to the authorities when the cost of owning it and having a carrying permit became too much to bear after losing his job. When he lost his job my sister called me crying, saying that she thought it would be too much for him to be jobless and with a mortgage and several loans and that she was afraid he’d turn the gun on himself and commit suicide.

He didn’t. He hasn’t. But my dad had (has a temper) and he has OCD, and several other issues. I think he was sane enough to recognize that shooting at me or my sister would be a bad thing. That said, growing up I didn’t know that. He seemed insane, possessed, when we had our fights. And I wonder now … did his right to carry a gun, was more important than his two girls feeling safe and loved and without the anxiety of wondering the what ifs/could haves, etc. THIS is what it boils down to, for me, that what sort of peace of mind can a piece of metal and wood bring you and your family, when you have anger and anxiety issues, when people annoy you, when even your family annoys you and test your patience constantly, when you obviously have deep psychological issues that need therapy and attention, and you constantly refuse because you believe science is voodoo, yet you have ready access to a WEAPON that HURTS, that KILLS, that does deep damage, both physical and psychological. To this day I can recall the worry, the anxiety. As I write this I feel a deep pressure and discomfort in my chest.

For fuck’s sake … really, we need to do something to prevent people that “seem” otherwise normal from getting their hands on ASSAULT rifles. The fuck? Who need a FUCKING ASSAULT rifle in suburbia? WHO THE FUCK NEEDS THAT. We need tighter controls on the kinds of weapons that are readily available out there. There has to be a way to prevent future Sandy Hooks, and Columbines, and Auroras. The last few weeks before I finished high school were filled with anxiety and worry that someone would come and open fire in my school. Columbine happened weeks before I graduated. On the subway I worry that someone will open fire. When I lived in the south I worried that some God-fearing, gun-loving, person would open fire on me because I am Hispanic.

Seriously, what kind of fucked up country are we living in?

I can’t begin to imagine how much therapy and counseling the survivors and families of Sandy Hook, how many YEARS, they’ll have to go through to feel some sense of peace and relief … if that’s even possible. I was 17 when Columbine happened, and it frightened me greatly. I can’t wrap my mind around the thought of how every single child and parents who’s seen this tragedy unfold in the last few days, how they can begin to cope with the new reality. This should not have happened. This can’t keep happening.

Your “gun rights” are not more important than my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

PS. If this sounds like I was rambling, maybe I was. I’m too shaken, too pissed, too upset to make all these things into a succinct entry. I just wonder what’s going to happen when my nephew and his friends grow up … if this is the kind of event he will grow up to live with. Is this really the new normal? What has happened to all of us?

Kids

No, hon and I are not pregnant.

For a while I’ve been thinking about this post and what I want to say. This is by no means an absolute final decision, but it has been a process and I feel like writing it down and sharing it (and having it here, for the future).

I grew up in a very roman catholic household. My mom is a very devoted person, and I admire her for that. Her faith is deep and her commitment is sincere. She’s the best mom one could wish for, always sweet and cheery when we talk, especially cheery when we talk about my nephew, her first grandson.

Years ago, while I was still in grad school, my mom and I were having a conversation about kids, and I can’t remember what exactly brought up the discussion, but she ended up sharing how unhappy she’s been in her marriage to my dad and how, had she known how her life turned out to be, she would have worked all her life, retire early and travel all over the world. I asked her if she regretted having kids, to which she said she loved my sister and I more than her own life, yet, if she could do things differently, she would stay single and just travel.

I didn’t feel sad when my mom admitted this, instead, I took it as food for thought and started thinking about whether I wanted to have kids myself. I love to travel (even when I have to resort to using flying deathtraps to move from one place to the next), I love focusing on me and on my honey, spending time with my family, and taking off when I want, and not have a care in the world (except that I need to leave a clean litterbox and full food and water dispensers for kitty).

For a long time honey has been mentioning how much people in general annoy him … or really, interacting with them. He doesn’t like making calls (I always ordered take out for us and he was more than happy to pick food up, an arrangement I totally love), talking to strangers, people encroaching in his space (one time he had this woman in a bus touch his hair just ’cause … WTF?). I on the other hand like to interact with people, I’m very sociable, but sometimes I can be shy (yeah, I know, hard to believe, eh?) I prefer to be a hermit and stay indoors with him (when he’s visiting or when we lived together).

One thing where we’re both of the similar school of thought is that we find some kids annoying (him more than me, but yes, I do find some kids annoying, the boisterous ones, screaming children at stores, kids who are older yet refuse to cover when coughing or sneezing (adults too)). This from a person who liked to babysit 4 kids at once!

We’ve talked about kids, Mr. Honey and I, and we’re sort of leaning towards adopting, should we ever have some need for having offspring. It’s an idea we’re totally happy with. I’ve always been crazy scared of giving birth, both naturally and by c-section. I’m afraid of epidurals and the same with episiotomies. I’m scared of what a kid will to do my body and hormones (as it is they’re always in some crazy state). I have severe PMS, which makes me worry about not being able to take my medicine for a long time, and even more scared of PPD. I’m afraid of a kid encroaching in our space, and what genetic defects he/she may have because of my age. So many fears and worries.

I grew up with everyone and their cousin telling me that I should be a mom, that besides a decent job and a healthy marriage, I should have a kid, or better yet, two or three. But at the same time I saw their marriages crumbling, their lack of care for the kids, and in some cases, resentment. And early on I figured that just because someone was biologically equipped to be a parent, that didn’t necessarily translate into being a good parent. On one side my church was telling me that I should be like Mother Mary, on the other, I didn’t feel a nagging sensation to not be like her.

Though my mind is not completely made up, I’m leaning towards postponing motherhood/parenthood until later, especially given our interest in adopting and being on the same page. At the same time I struggle explaining and defending my position to (possibly) avoid biological children to family and friends (though hon’s mom seems to be on board, as long we we do it sooner rather than later so she gets to enjoy a granddaughter (we’re all on board with this) now and not 20 years from now.

What’s even weirder is that I’m totally on board with surrogacy. How weird is it that I’d be OK carrying someone else’s child and not my own?

So, for now, no kids for us, thank you. But if we do it, it will most likely involve adopting. After all, with so many children suffering abuse and neglect we feel like giving that child a happy home, on our own terms, and age. What are your thoughts?

On not being a student

Even though I’ve been away from school for over 2 years now (it feels like it’s been longer, somehow), I sometimes catch myself thinking and doing things as if I was still in school. Even as a postdoc I did things like a student would do. It’s starting to bother me, especially now that I have a “real” job.

I’ve (mostly) always followed the rules. If a set of rules at school said that I was not supposed to touch something, I wouldn’t do it, for fear of enraging the principal or teachers, but especially because I didn’t want to have my mom and dad on top of me lecturing me about not doing stuff. Or when I was younger, avoiding my dad’s wrath and the ensuing physical punishment. Hence why I’ve never been arrested. But, I have many issues.

Anyways, that behaviour has kept me out of trouble for the most part and has kept me from ruining pieces of equipment or setting the lab on fire (because I’ve forgotten most of my chemistry). When I was in school, I would ask for permission to do everything. That also went on as an undergrad, a grad student, and later, a postdoc. I would ask for permission from the lab tech (and drive her crazy), from the boss (boss, can I run the fancy pants, uber-expensive, piece of awesome science equipment? for the third time woman, YES). I read the student (and grad student) handbook a gazillion times. I read the thesis instructions (for writing and submission) a million others, and I complied with everything, making the thesis-reviewing lady happy. I have a very boring life, always following the rules. I honestly fear upsetting people, and becoming “that” person dreaded by all the office staff.

Now that I’m starting to finally feel like a grown up, I still keep asking for permission, and in the process, drive some of the labmates, and office people a bit nuts. Take for instance this situation: when I was in grad school I’d never even dream of touching the school letterhead fancy paper or envelopes, even though they were there for all to see and take. I’d ask the secretaries and they gladly gave me some sheets and envelopes. Now, at work, I walk into the office and sheepishly ask the secretaries if I can take the fancy envelopes and pens, and they give me this look of “girl, get your act together, you’re a coworker, get them yourself, don’t bother me with such nonsense!”

Again, I want to avoid being trouble and upsetting people, but it seems that my student-like attitude is hurting people’s perception of me, and their willingness to help, more than helping.

I ask you, have you ever felt like this? Were you pretty independent and didn’t have a care about bothering office personnel or coworkers asking permission or did you find some sort of balance between asking and simply doing?