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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.

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?

The kindness of total strangers

Strangers have shaped my view of new job city ... a bit of a guiding light

It’s been a week since I moved to new job city. I can hardly believe it. Two Saturdays ago I was still in Canada, still with honey, planning to go to a small fringe festival. I still had his sweet smell, smile, touch, next to me, at my fingertips. I had kitty, a real big bed, cable and our recliner. I was still pinching myself every time I thought of moving to new job city. But I was/am scared of the enormity of the city, and how I would cope with that.

Since then I’ve moved, started work, lived in 2 places in 10 days. It hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I’ve fully processed things yet. During the week I go to work, talk to my labmates, run experiments, do some administrative/managerial/technical things, at the end of the day I feel tired, but accomplished. During the weekends I go to look at apartments, or stay in and watch TV. I know, boring. Those of you who know new job city know that this sucks on my part. I’m a wee scared of the city, of venturing out alone, of accidentally bumping on nasty EX-family member or something. I have an unlimited transit pass, and unlimited resources food and entertainment-wise. But instead I stay in.

One thing that has made the move a LOT easier … well, two things … scratch that, 3 are Google Maps, Skype and the random acts of kindness of total strangers. Oh, and a fourth one, YOU my tweeps. I’ve been lucky enough to have internet access in the 2 places I’ve stayed. I get to talk to honey from his vacation spot every day, even if it’s for a few short minutes. That is one of my lifelines. I’d love for him to text me at all sorts of hours of the day, like before … but I’ll take Skype for now, that is sufficient to keep my heart content.

Google Maps, and the street view feature have been a lifesaver. They’ve helped me orient in this new place. Every time I go somewhere new (which is everywhere, except for work) I check it out. I’ve made it to all the spots I’ve needed to, on my own … which is kind of a miracle, seeing as honey is really gifted in figuring out maps and routes and his sense of direction is better than mine. I also see reviews of the places I go to, check  the surroundings, and of course, the public transport options, routes and ways to access them. It’s been a God-send.

The third: random acts of kindness. Well they’ve been amazing, and have made the whole moving thing a lot easier …. or at least less stressful. The very first day I got to new job city I had people opening the door, helping me out with my massive luggage, showing a nice side of this city that I’d never experienced. The people at the front desk/reception of where I stayed the first few days greeted me with a smile. The breakfast guys near my first temporary place always knew what I wanted and prepared it with gusto. When I got to my place of work, people warmed up to me quickly. My taxi driver yesterday, even though he was clueless of where he was going (I was just as clueless but somehow we teamed up and managed to get me to my second temp place), was gracious, attentive and extremely helpful. People at the deli where I get lunch, the public transport ticket place(s) … amazing and helpful. I’d always found them rude when I came as a tourist … but something’s happened … or maybe it’s the universe giving me a break and making my life a little easier during this whole period. It was the guy holding the door for me yesterday, a total stranger, asking me if I needed help with my bags yet again, the guy who makes space for me on the bus to sit and take a break on my way home. The guy who gives me a free cookie, just because I smiled, said thank you and devoured the food he’d just prepared.

Finally, but no less meaningful, my tweeps. Ever since I started getting in touch with people working/studying at new job city, asking them tips and bits, I’ve never gotten a rude response, or a you’ll figure it out kinda answer. I’ve gotten email after email, forwarding me info on places to stay, places to avoid, places to eat, etc. Aside from my true family (hon included), my Twitter friends and acquaintances have been instrumental in this whole thing. Our convos by DM, or gchat, making lunch, dinner or drink dates arrangements. I cannot believe it. When some “family” members failed, you guys were/are there to pick up the pieces and help me stay on track.

Thank you, thank you all. I’m very humbled by your kindness. I hope I can somehow repay you, or at the very least, pay it forward. You’ve made the move and adapting to a new environment less stressful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Peoplez of the Internetz and the Twitterz, I need your halp

Based on that title you can tell I look at way too many LOLcats at all times of the day. But what I am about to ask is serious, no, seriously, it is serious. It’s about my future, about my way to stay in academia (somewhat) while not being a postdoc or a prof.


Halp a fellow LOLperson

You know of my struggles to feel competent, to look for a job, to stay or leave academic science, etc. An opportunity has presented itself… and in about two weeks I’ll be interviewing at a cutting-edge core lab where good, solid science is done. It is also in a very desirable area of the US (I’m probably going back; I’ve tried applying to jobs in Canada but the market is slow and it seems to be twice as hard to find the kind of job I want here in Canada). The group is ginormous and serves a good chuck of institutions and departments. I’m very excited, but since this isn’t technically an academic job, I have no idea how to prepare for it. They will ask questions about my former field and my expertise and experience and pretty much all the projects that ever came in contact with my hands. They will also ask me about my postdoc project and my current results (which aren’t publication material yet, but exciting stuff is happening on my end too). I’m guessing that I should prepare as if this was a “normal” job interview, but of course it’s in science, so I have some elements of academic-type stuff present. This is for an associate something something staff position, like a cross between a lab tech and a postdoc, with better benefits. So, my question is … do you have any tips you can share if you’ve ever interviewed for a staff (non-faculty) position? I’ve checked Dr. Becca’s super awesome TT aggregator (go check it out, it’s fantastic!) and some of the stuff I know because it was very similar to stuff I experienced while interviewing for grad school and the postdoc. But, I have no clue as to what to expect in terms of the type of interview (though I’ve been told I will meet with a couple of staff and faculty members to learn more about their projects and the kind of person they’re looking for), questions, what to ask them, etc. Is it still fair or expected to ask for an interview itinerary in advance? Is it frowned upon? What things do committees of PIs and staff people look for in a colleague? What are your dos and don’ts? Any particular advice on handling why I’m returning to the field and how come I was successful in my former field but haven’t had the same luck in the current one? I think I know some of the answers, but it’s been a while since I’ve interviewed for something other than an internship or school/study position. I will give a 60min talk and I will meet with other faculty and staff members of pretty nice institution. But I’m wondering how I should prepare, as far as fair and necessary questions, what if I’m asked to give a ballpark figure for my salary (I have checked glassdoor.com and have clues, but it’s usually for a senior scientist position, not a junior-like person such as me). What sorts of questions should I expect? It would be super helpful if some of my TT tweeps could pitch in some ideas and tips, as they have probably interviewed peeps in my position before.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated! I hope that if this job search/interview season goes well I can write-up a similar aggregator as Dr. Becca’s for non-faculty, staff peeps.