27 and a PhD

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Leaving

It is with a heavy heart that I leave my first post-academic job in search of something new. Many feelings are in my head and my heart now. Did I make the right decision? Will my family survive yet another move? How will honey fare in new job city? Will I be able to deal (or avoid) all the knucklehead republicans I will find in this city? Will I deliver they way people envision I will?

I feel small, inadequate … like it’s Imposter Syndrome x100. The responsibility of a whole lab rests on my shoulders (no, I’m not becoming a PI). I have to make sure my instruments run, I have to train people, analyze data, help calm nerves of both students and postdocs … this, 4 years after I was last a grad student, and 2 after I left my postdoc to work in New York.

My heart feels heavy because I’m leaving NYC, the city of dreams. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I adore my co-workers, they’re seriously the best scientists I’ve worked with in some time. They’re patient and funny and I feel like I’m letting them down by taking another position.

In these last couple of days the most common words coming out of people’s mouths are: are you excited? how does it feel to be a manager? how does it feel to leave NYC?

While I am relieved that I don’t have to worry about alternate side parking again, or that I can kiss goodbye to overcrowded buses and trains, everything else about the city, from the good food to the great science, from the noises that make NYC well, NYC, to the ease of finding everything, at all times of the day, and everything you get to do here … all of it I will miss. I guess besides the worry about being able to produce and delivery, I am most afraid of adapting to a city I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m afraid I won’t mesh and that I’ll be bitchin’ about how great things were in NYC (even if I occasionally disagreed with my boss).

I’m afraid of change and I am afraid of me. Of being so scared out of my wits that I won’t move, won’t decide and will let a whole lab and a whole lot of users crash down and fall. I am not excited … I am terrified. The possibility of change and more money cannot shake the terror I have of looking like a complete idiot, and of making the profs that vouched for me, afraid and sad that they chose me and that they offered the job to me, instead of someone more experienced. My smile and excitement about science cannot, or are not, enough to keep a lab running. And I am once again afraid of not being competent enough.

When will the imposter leave my life for good??

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Guest Blogger – Mr 30 and a PhD shares his POV of our engagement

It fills me with great joy to have my loving honey tell his side of the story (and the back story which I always find even more irresistible than the engagement!) of our engagement. I thank you my love for agreeing to write this and have everyone read it, and I’m excited to have you as my partner and life-long companion. Te amo ❤

Honey’s side of the story:

For seven years we endured the dreaded routine questions: “So, when are you guys finally getting married?” and “When are you going to have kids?” There was always that emphasis on “finally”, as if life has no meaning without the piece of paper from the church or the state or without any offspring. Many times I told the Doc that we should just live together forever without getting married just to spite people. She would agree with me openly, but I always suspected that, privately, she did not like that idea.

The truth of the matter is that I never really planned on going through with my “fuck-the-people” idea. I mean, yes, I certainly wanted to spite people, but not at our own expense. The Doc and I had had conversations about our future and our relationship and we always knew that marriage was in our horizon. However, we were not going to follow other people’s timetables. We would do it when we thought it appropriate.

I started thinking seriously about marriage when I finished writing my dissertation. The Doc and I have had to put our life together on hold so many times because of graduate school and work. If you’ve been following the Doc’s blog, you know by now how many times we’ve had to do the long-distance routine. But, at last, I had no other responsibilities, no other obligations. There were no dissertations, or postdocs, or bosses to keep us apart anymore. We could finally plan to move to the same place, permanently, and think about our little family unit (the Doc, the Kitteh and meh) in the long term. In March or April of 2012, then, I began contemplating the possibility of submitting an official proposal of matrimony for the Doc’s peer-review.

Before moving on to the story of the actual proposal (which is probably more like a “behind-the-scenes”), I would like to clarify something the Doc wrote in her account. She wrote, and I quote: “but he also said that although we’re in a relationship of equals, he still wanted to do the proposal the ‘right way’”. No, I NEVER said that (note from the Doc: oh yes he did, and I have the DMs to prove it). I never explicitly or implicitly expressed my approval for traditional gender roles that mandate that the man has to propose marriage. Never. I would’ve reviewed favourably any marriage application she submitted my way. However, as progressive as the Doc is, she does come from a rather conservative background. She has certain conservative hangups that I try to respect because we all have some of those. After all, we’re born and bred into these puritanical societies and though we try to evolve and swim against the current, certain things just stick with us. So what I said was that I would respect this particular expectation of hers and I would be the one who proposed. Okay, now I feel better.

When the Doc and I first started going out together, I told her that there were two things I didn’t give as gifts: clothing or jewelery. There were two main reasons behind this decision: 1) I have no money to buy jewelery and 2) clothing and jewelry are very personal things that put pressure on the person who receives them. I don’t mean pressure as in commitment, but as in “when-are-you-going-to-wear-that-beautiful-fake-leather-jacket-with-the-oversized-clowns-and-the-matching-neon-aluminum-earrings-I-bought-you” kind of pressure. I’ve wavered a little bit on this throughout our seven year relationship. Every now and then I get her a pair of earrings from a trip or a shirt from a store she really loves. But they’re usually small items that I’m positive she’ll like and on the off-chance she doesn’t, I didn’t spend my life savings on it. Nonetheless, this time was different. I had to get her something she would like. I would feel terrible if she forced herself to put on an engagement ring she hated just because it was special to me. There was no other way around it: she had to be involved in the process.

I would have preferred to be able to hit a home run on my own. I would love to tell you that I absolutely picked the perfect engagement ring without any word from the Doc at all: I surprised her, she fainted and when she woke up she screamed: “HE WENT TO JARED!” But, no, alas, that’s not how it happened (and for the record, even with an unlimited budget I would have never gone to Jared). I had started to save some websites she had sent me with rings she liked (she did this sometimes out of the blue – *hint hint*). But instead of saving these websites on a social bookmarking site like Delicious or Evernote, I relied on the lazy Firefox Bookmarks. This was a fatal mistake. My computer died in August and took with it all my bookmarks. I was back to square one. I didn’t have any of the rings she liked and I wasn’t sure I could recognize them. So I had to nudge her to send me more. After 7 years of never getting her any real jewelery, I could think of no way to do this without arousing her suspicions. So, instead of fighting it and trying to surprise her, I went the opposite way: drown her in so many rings, she wouldn’t have any idea which one she was getting. I started asking her for rings, I sent her rings, I sent her catalogs, I sent her stores from ETSY; I just had an avalanche of rings everywhere.

Of course, she got suspicious. She would ask why the sudden interest and I lied saying that since I finally had a little bit of money (I started teaching my first master’s course in the fall), I wanted to get her a nice present. It’s not a great excuse, I know. But you can’t really fool the Doc. She watches crime shows 24/7. She is incredibly observant. She’s almost psychic! The ONLY way to fool her is to not say a single word. The best gifts I’ve given her have been like that: total silence up until the moment where I deliver. That wasn’t an option this time.

So after sifting through hundreds of rings, I finally found one that complied with all of our criteria (both hers and mine): it was a beautiful hand-crafted ring with no conflict stones, no gaudy jewels and would not force either of us into debt. Once I made up my mind, I tried to buy the ring as soon as possible. Alas, it was a little bit more complicated than that. As soon as I clicked “check out” on the website, I was told by a very polite announcement that the seller did not ship to my “backwater piece of shit country” (I may be paraphrasing a little bit). So, even though I was a bit indignant at the fact that the seller did not ship to my country, I still wanted that particular ring. I knew the Doc would love it. I emailed the seller and explained my predicament. The seller turned out to be a very nice woman who was open to changing her shipping options. This, of course, made me feel better about supporting a business that did not want to ship to my country in the first place. She was very helpful and polite. Finally, I had the ring.

But then there was another problem. Where to do this? I wanted a place that was private but not deserted. I live in a very dangerous country and I did not want to become a headline on the local newspaper. I knew I didn’t want to do it in a restaurant, because restaurants are crowded and noisy and cliched. So, I thought about many different places, but even though I had a few finalists, none of them seemed to really grab me. One day, out of the blue, I started thinking about the most breathtaking views in my town. I live in a coastal town, so there are bound to be some pretty sights. But I could not think of one that met my criteria. However, in a moment of divine inspiration, I remembered this beautiful little chapel on top of a mountain that overlooks the entire coastal area. Of course! How could I forget! This is the best view here.

I was a little skeptical about proposing in church ground because the Doc and I have our reservations about our religion at the moment. Nonetheless, I owed it to both of us to go and at least check it out and see if the place was, in fact, a good spot for a marriage proposal. I decided to go there at around 5 pm a few days before the Doc was set to arrive. When I got there, I immediately knew this would be the spot. I don’t mind telling you, I got very emotional at that point. I didn’t cry, but a sense of peace and happiness came over me. I knew I had found the place. (BTW, I forgot to mention that when I received the ring in the mail and saw it for the first time, I did cry. I was overjoyed, because I knew she would love it).

The next step was figuring out how to propose. I wanted to do something that was representative of me and, at the same time, allowed me to convey to the Doc everything I wanted to tell her. So I decided to make her a video card. I had done this early on in our relationship and never again. But I thought it was appropriate this time around because 1) I’m a media professor, and 2) there were many things I wanted to say and I wanted to make sure I got to say them. I wrote and created a video called: “7 years, 7 reasons” and in it I detailed the 7 top reasons for us to get married (although I never once mentioned the word ‘marriage’ in the video because I wanted to ask her that myself). After creating the video, I put it on my Nook to show it to her while we were there in the most beautiful place in our neck of the woods.

There were some other details that needed planning, but they’re not really interesting and I’ve dragged on long enough so I will just mention them. I tried to plan a very nice evening that would follow the proposal, but everything I could think of was almost impossible to do in this part of the country. So, I had to make do with what we have.

I had told the Doc to set December the 26th aside because I wanted us to go on a date. It had been two months since we last saw each other, so I wanted to take her out for a proper date; a night just for the two of us. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t choose the 26th because of any particular significance. The Doc arrived here on the 25 and I wanted to give her a little space before taking her out, but I also wanted to give her the beautiful ring as quickly as possible. I was dying to see her reaction.

When the 26th finally came, I prayed to the gods to hold off on the rain. I live in a very, very rainy place and it always comes down in the worst possible moments. The gods heard me (for the most part). When I went to pick her up at her house, the clouds were dark and they had begun to cry a little bit. I was worried that the rain would mess up our moment, but my mother had told me: “Don’t worry. It will be very special regardless. All you need is the Doc, you and the words. Everything else is a bonus”. I tried to not worry about it, but I am always a panicky mess.

When we got there, the droplets of water were the least of our concerns. One of the nuns in charge of the chapel told us that they were closing the gate. I was flabbergasted. I had done a dry run at around the same time and I had seen no one trying to close the gate. It wasn’t even an actual closing time. It wasn’t 5:30 or 6:00, it was 5:42 or some such nonsense. So I put my best puppy eyes and told her that we wanted to visit the chapel briefly, that the Doc had flown in from another country and she was counting on it. And the nun took pity on me and told me that she would close up and to just tell her when we were done so she could open the gate. It turned out to be even better, because we were the only ones in the mount. We sat by a bench behind the little chapel that overlooked all the trees, the sky, the coastline and everything else that God had given us that day. I showed her the video while I held her close and while the sky spit at us a little bit. When the video finished, I tried to speak. The tears began streaming down my face, and my voice began trembling. I never thought this moment would overwhelm me so much. But there I was, staring at my partner for the last seven years and giving her a pretty, small box that had a ring we both picked out (even if she didn’t know which one she was getting). Through my tears, I asked her if she wanted to form a family with me, a question I now feel wasn’t appropriate because she is already family. But, nonetheless, she understood. Like so many times before, she understood.

After she put on the ring and kissed me, we went off to start the rest of our date; to commemorate the night we told each other “You’re the only one I want.”

So my lovelies, there you have it … the story of hon’s marriage proposal (with some juicy behind the scenes details on how it all went down). I thank Mr. Honey for agreeing to share his side of the story. We’ll keep you posted on the wedding preparations and hopefully a picture or two (not showing faces of course) will be shared when the moment comes.

Ask 27 and a PhD

My second Twitter anniversary, and third bloggiversary are fast approaching (both in May). I’ve been thinking that since some of you crazy people out there are either new to my blog or my Twitter stream, maybe, just maybe, you’re interested in learning more about me, my career choices, or quirks (what are y’all thinking??). So, for the next week I’ll be checking my comments and tweets for any questions you have. I know, who do I think I am, right? No, I’m just genuinely interested in connecting with y’all, so feel free to @ me or email me, or leave a message and I’ll be glad to answer, as long as I don’t reveal too many details about my life (personal or professional) which could put my job, or that of those around me, in jeopardy.