27 and a PhD

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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.

I should be home for the holidays

Compared to last year, money-wise I’m doing a tad better. Not great, but better. I’m paying a little less in rent (though I live in a place that not even Sandy could get to … thankfully). A few months back I paid off one of my credit cards, and now I’m continuing, though it’s hard. There are many temptations here in NYC and I’d like to rewards myself with nice things every now and then, but the future is much more important, something I try to remind myself as often as possible.

Honey had been paying close attention to the prices of tickets to go home and finally, after a bit of convincing he twisted my arm a bit to travel with the airline I *hate* the most in the world to (hopefully) get me home. I hate this airline (which starts with U and ends with nited) because they’re always screwing this up, but, they had the best price and it’s a direct flight. So I bit the bullet and said yes and now I’m going home in December, in time for the holidays. Last year I was bitching and moaning about staying in NYC and not seeing my family thanks to my father. But this year I still had some vacation days left and the hell with it, I’m going home. The director (dictator) of where I work won’t have my days, hell to the no. I’m taking each and every vacation day I have left and making the most of it. I do need to find a place to leave my kitty cat and square out some other details. But I am going home even if I have to fly myself to hell and back. I’m so relieved and happy. Christmastime is my favourite time of the year. People that haven’t seen me in forever shower me with love and alcohol. Hon and I go on dates. I get to play with my nephew and my mom and I spend some quality time together. I can’t wait to get home.

Most of my resolutions for 2012 have come true in one way or the other. I still have a few left to mark off. I promise to update this as we get closer to the end of 2012. I’ve also decided that 2013 is the year that will bring honey and I together once and for all. I don’t know how but mark my words, Mr 30 and a PhD and Miss 27 (plus 4) and a PhD will be together by this time next year. This is happening.

Science-wise, I have my busy days and my not-so-busy days too. Mostly I’m prepping instruments for people, doing some PM here and there and writing lots of documentation on how to use the different tools available in the lab. I also got a call from one of my previous PI’s. They’re in the market for some equipment and wanted my opinion on it. Maybe in the future they’ll collaborate with my lab. Maybe. It did feel nice to talk to them and talk, on a different level, about lab stuff and my opinion on it. It’s odd, but I felt useful, like the expert they said I’d become.

Also, I finally got an iPhone. Yes, I got the newest one. No, I can’t compare with the old ones, though I giggle when I see the smaller screen of the old ones (I know, I’m a snob .. but hey, it’s the nicest thing I’ve bought for myself this year). I’ve downloaded a couple of apps (including angry birds and the one for the PDB … it is fawesome! yes, fawsome … you know, f-ing awesome).

What’s new with you?

Let’s see

Where to begin? I don’t know. I didn’t realize it had been that long since I last posted. One of my new year’s resolutions had been to blog more often, and here I am, neglecting the blog for weeks. Sorry. I’ve been so busy, many changes, much work, lots of awesome people, and lots of tweeting.

Work is going well, I think. After my immediate boss left (I miss him terribly) we’ve been interviewing people. Two people have been offered positions, though one has a conflict of interest with a few projects (comes from a competing lab and would like to continue working on that line, which is in serious conflict with at least one of our projects). The other one is/was strange. I didn’t like this person, but the higher-ups loved this person. This person got an offer days after coming for the interview …. I was not impressed by the lab work (it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too great IMO) … and my suspicion is that some people in my place of work are interested in raising the profile of the lab by bringing people from fancy labs and with fancy pedigrees. We’ll see.

Things are getting back to normal, kinda. Hon and I moved out of Ontario and into new job city. Most of our things are in storage. Hon had to move back in with his parents, as I don’t make nearly enough to support us both and he’s still a student without a stipend. We’re back to being long distance, but, it’s possible he’ll be able to visit more often as money-wise, visiting new job city may be better.

I’ve been attending meetings, sending emails, and of course tweeting to many (new and old) contacts. I’ve been introducing myself to different people, from tweeps to PIs, to administrative personnel to staff at labs. I’ve never been too shy, at least when it comes to introducing myself and striking a conversation, so I’ve been taking advantage of my current position and I’ve been networking like crazy. I think networking was one of the thing that helped me get my position, so now that I’m here I need to (cliche coming, you’ve been warned) raise things to the next level, because as much as I like work, and the challenges it brings, things always come to an end, or I’ll want to move to different role elsewhere, and doing a good job and keeping my professional relationships in good shape is critical for the next step.My business cards are adorable. I’ve been getting compliments on them, but I still think the font is tiny. I only have 482 of them left, after that, I’ll make sure to have a bigger font. Sans serif, please.

My room is a mess. Kitty is staying with me, and this has been a bit hard. Since kitty was a baby she’s never slept in the same room as mamma, and she’s a bit too noisy for mamma’s taste. Sadly hon had too many things to take kitty with him (this time) a carryon, so she’s staying with mamma until mamma can figure out what to do with her. Mamma’s roommie may be allergic to kitties, no matter how cute they are. I also have many boxes of stuff from both hon and I, and most of my clothes are still in storage. I only have one tiny closet …. I’m hoping to take this opportunity to get rid of even more stuff than when I did in preparation for this move. I really don’t want to pay for storage for more than a few months, though chances are it will be that way until I can find a bigger place or a place of my own. We’ll see.

My car is here. If you follow my tweets you can read about how frustrating it is to find a parking spot in this city. Though I have to say, in the few weeks it’s been here I’ve managed to find parking without murdering anyone or setting the car on fire. Phewww

This has been a hell of a week. So for now, I’m signing off, I’m tired and I hope to get some rest and buy some (real, non-take out) food this weekend. Thanks for visiting and reading. I hope to go back to my somewhat regular blogging schedule soon. Ciao

I’m employed (Act 3)

My apologies for the length of time it’s taken me to sit down and conclude the story of how I got my non-traditional job. I’ve been so busy. But, here it is. Thank you all for your comments, tweets, and kind words of encouragment.

Part 1 is here and part two is here.

Hon was more than a bit irked by the people at new job city. He kept asking me (pretty much every day) if I’d gotten any emails or calls from them. He couldn’t believe my bad luck (or blessing); every single place that approached me for an interview decided on someone else, closed the search, or something. Something happened, and it caused all my offers, and near offers to come crashing down. I cried, and prayed to the powers-that-be to give me some sort of answer. I was so confused and lost. I doubted I’d ever be back in research after my postdoc appointment ended. I was desperate and frustrated. But I also tried to do my part to stay competent by attending career seminars (please, even if you’re not in a position like mine, always, always keep an eye for career seminars, they might give you a different perspective and enhance your current skills). I went to workshops on new updates to pieces of software I already knew (or thought I did), salary negotiation, post-academic careers, writing effectively (I hope it shows!!). And although my CV is now peppered with these workshops, seminars and certificates of completion, I wish I could have gone to more of them earlier in my career, especially during my PhD. My PhD institution has some really talented people putting things in order and bringing good speakers and resources to help students choose a career path and get there, both in and out of the tenure track. Even if I fought and got frustrated at our postdoc affairs office initially (they were just getting started), they did a fabulous job of coming along and bringing interesting speakers, people from different paths and careers, counsellors, etc., to showcase some of the options available. There’s a common theme here … most schools I know have some sort of office or resources to help students keep current in different school/life affairs. These people put an incredible amount of time in doing that … if you’re in doubt, or need help or want some counselling, do get in contact with them. Now! I’ll wait …… If not, try seeking out the alumni office from your previous institution or help get one started at your current place. I guarantee you there’s a TON of people out there just like you.

By the end of April another ad came out, this from a place close(ish) to my PhD school, with a great reputation and impressive structural bio facilities. I applied, got a call, and by mid-May I was waiting for them to get back with some sort of schedule. I was happy that there appeared to be a glimmer of hope somewhere. I churned out a ton of data, made my peace with the gossipy labmate and kept on going. My temporary plan was to stay in Canada while waiting to hear from the close-to-grad-school place, then head home and start a new application cycle if nothing worked out. It wasn’t all nice and fuzzy like it appears here, there was a lot of turmoil in my head and heart. I was agonizing.

I also considered going back to school (something which I haven’t given up on … at some point I may want to try to get a software or hardware certification, at the very least), but it was too late to apply and get my stuff in place at that point.

Close to the end of my postdoc appointment, on a day when I had more experiments planned than time to run them, I noticed a missed call with an area code I recognized as being from new job city. I’m a glass-half-empty kinda person, so my mind immediately started thinking about the negatives of it. The caller left a message. It was the ad guy. He said,  with a strong voice, that we needed to talk, that he had news and wanted to see how things were going with my search. I started some experiments and sat down to answer the call, my hands shaking in disbelief. I knew a decision had been made just by the tone of his voice, I just wasn’t sure it was in my favour. When ad guy answered his voice was very calmed and pleasant compared to the voicemail, and after giving me an update on what was going on with the search (along with an apology for the length of time it had taken) he asked, point blank, what I was doing and if I had a job. I answered, adding that I’d be jobless soon (in a matter of hours almost).

After talking about a couple of other things he said that there had been some changes in new job city, and that they had a junior level position open, which they thought I’d be a better fit (I was applying to a mid-to-senior staff position originally). After going through some of the details, and thinking about the possibilities (ie. from jobless and homeless to job in former discipline in cool new city), we both agreed that he’d go back and talk to the committee, come up with an offer and see whether I liked it. I was definitely interested. Now it was just a waiting game.

The cool thing was that, for the first time in a long time, someone asked me what I wanted, what would make me happy and would make me seriously consider the offer. The guy was/is very matter of fact, and he asked me what I’d like to see in paper and ink to bring me there ASAP. He wanted the offer to be so good that I couldn’t say no (except if I’d won the lottery, in which case, screw it, I’m getting my own lab to study my own thing, AFTER a LONG vacation). Ad guy asked what things I’d like to see spelled in the offer, benefits, access to what, etc. Before I answered I went and read a bit on negotiating (via the TT aggregator, which I think it’s a great tool for negotiating salaries, even for staff positions). One of the main points which people kept mentioning over and over was that, it is better (necessary I’d say) to have everything you want on paper, clearly stated and spelled-out so that later the employer won’t come down and try to say something different. If it’s in paper, there’s evidence to back your claims and prevent your employer from screwing you.

I wasn’t so thrilled with the original salary. I did some research and remembered what the salary was for a similar position in Rainbow Lake. I used that as a starting point, and though they never matched the full amount I would have loved, I did get an increase in my original offer which was enough for me to seriously consider it.

I got a small relocation allowance, permission to go back and get my cat, and other things later on, and a flexible starting date, so I could rest, take a break from science and recover  between the end of my postdoc and the beginning of my life as a staff member (though the family drama in the last couple of weeks has been biting me in the ass, ugh). I accepted the offer and moved to cool-city-with-tiny-apartments-and-insane-rent a few weeks ago. I’m learning to juggle more senior things and make tons of decisions which I’d never done before. It is exciting and thrilling, and scary. The position seems to fit my needs and wants for now. And it gives me the chance to evaluate my career under a new light and see if this is really what I want to do.

So with that dear readers and tweeps, my job search concludes (for now, anyways). I’m very happy to start in a position with room to grow, acquire new skills, and polish existing ones. Job city is closer to my mom, dad, sister and nephew, and it’s at an intermediate place where hon can travel more easily than when we were both in grad school. New job city has many challenges, and it’s forcing me to grow out of my shell, and become of a go-getter … but it’s hard. Once things have stabilized I’ll be taking care of a couple of health issues (not too serious, but important enough to improve my life in a significant manner). I already feel better career-wise at the new place, and I’ve only been there for a few short weeks. I’m giving myself a year to see if the new job and new job city are worth it, or whether it’s time to hang up the scientific gloves and switch paths. I’ll try to explore my options to grow professionally and personally outside of work.

I thank you, my readers and tweeps for your encouragement, kind words, thoughts, prayers and the meetings IRL to provide support. Besides my family (especially my mom and honey), you have been at the heart of this saga. It takes a village to raise a scientist, I’m sure of that. I’m extremely lucky to be friends and tweeps with you. You know who you are, but I’ll be sure to give you credit where it is due, no worries. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, onto that pesky apartment hunting thing I need to solve ASAP 😀

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!