27 and a PhD

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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.

Traditions

Growing up I never really had many traditions, family traditions that is. Sure, we visited my grandmas, one divorced, one widowed. I saw my grandfather a few days after. Gifts were exchanged. My mom, my sister and I always went to church, either midnight mass or on Xmas day, sometimes both. My dad never went with us, he’s not a religious person.

Now that I’m all grown up, and live on my own, I find myself yearning to establish something, something other than going to church and visiting the family. Something that I feel proud of starting.

When hon and I purchased our very first Christmas tree together, we bought decorations, and I added a few of my own which my mom had sent on my first year in grad school. I remember being so thrilled about receiving that box. It had lights, a nativity set and and a little plastic angel which I always hang by the entrance of the apartment. It’s a bit kitschy, but I like it. I also started to get ornaments, handmade ornaments for the tree. We bought the little tree in Canada, and it’s now in NYC with me, thought it is currently in storage. That first year I bought two or three handmade decorations, a little nativity one I purchased at Ten Thousand Villages, and some stars I purchased at the place where hon got his incense from. They’re little wooden stars, golden little stars. I also got a vintage tree topper which I adore, and again, is hidden somewhere in one of our storage boxes.

Then last year I didn’t get an ornament. Last year I was pissed. I wasn’t home with my mom, sister, nephew and honey. Thankfully I had more than a few caring souls around, who sent cards (thanks tweeps!), gift cards (thanks M! and my in-laws) and even brought gifts to the lab (mmm, chocolate). Last year I felt very lonely. I didn’t venture into the city for days. I was in my own little foul mood. I didn’t get an ornament … but one of my users did.

My users are awesome (with one or two clear exceptions, people who break off parts of instruments and then act as if nothing had happened …. grrrr). I got tons of delicious chocolate, an ornament, thank you notes. All in the span of the 5-6 months I’d been at work at the time. My PhD boss used to call each of her students into her office and get something for them/us (usually something decorative, a vase, candles, wine glasses) along with candy and a gift card. I’d never had a boss/mentor do that. Nor have I had one since (though my postdoc boss paid on occasion for beer or wine).

But last year was different. Last year I felt pampered by the people I try to help. I want their experiments to work, as it reflects on both my place of work and my capacity to do my job in the best manner I can. It felt great to have people say thanks, give me and my supervisor a hug, invite us for lunch, or a cup of tea. It reaffirmed my belief that, although I was far away from my loved ones and buried in debt (I’m recovering from that but oh so very slowly), I still felt the love and care … all coming from people that had known me for months, in some cases weeks.

This year has been somewhat similar, though now I have more experience. I had someone pay for my lunch for letting them use a bit of bench space for a few hours over a couple of days. I had a PI send treats with their postdoc. I’ve been given hugs and thanks and emails with links to classics on youtube.

I’m thankful for the wonderful people I work with, the lives I impact with my humour or my ability to solve a problem or train. These perks mean more to me than anything material I can get. And I keep these memories in my heart.

This year, I did get another handmade ornament for our tree, honey. I’m looking forward to our future, and to have a little tree with ornaments from different times of our life, to share with our families.

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?

I’m thankful – 2012 edition

Last year I wrote this. Since lately my inspiration has been dwindling, I decided to revisit the things I was thankful for last year and add a new one or two for this one. Enjoy!

For so many things (in no particular order):

  1. I’m celebrating 5 months at work. For celebrating almost a year and a half here. I’ve learned so much, met so many incredible people and having the resources I do.
  2. For having a job in the field I was trained, and love. And for finally having benefits (hooray retirement, dental and vision!). Still true and very, very thankful.
  3. And learning my way with certain instruments and equipment at work. Last year I was terribly scared of some instrumentation. Thankfully, said instrumentation doesn’t scare me anymore. I know how to troubleshoot some common problems and I enjoy using said instruments. Yay!
  4. And I’m starting to feel somewhat useful. Still true, though sometimes I still struggle.
  5. For having hon with me, in the city,  more times than I imagined possible after the move. We haven’t seen each other as much as last year, but still, we’re going strong. And I am beyond happy about that 😀
  6. And his ability to find entertainment on the cheap (babe, you need to make your own website, entertainment on the cheap for poor grad students and staff scientists). Still true (we even managed to squeeze a trip to DC!).
  7. And his love and support, and kindness and sweet messages throughout the day … even when I’m dead tired, it’s a nice things to find little smileys or sweet notes on my phone. Very true and always welcomed.
  8. For my family and their continued support. For their health and love. Amen to this!
  9. For great co-workers who make me smile. I love them dearly and appreciate their help and patience.
  10. For the lack of gossip and criticism from co-workers. Still true and it’s such a relief.
  11. For getting more independent on some of the equipment, and hopefully getting the courage to ask the boss for a raise when the time comes. Didn’t have to ask for a raise, I earned that mother%ucker. Also, I now know how to work with most of the equipment I should master. Pheww.
  12. For being able to pay my bills, and have food on my table, even if I can’t afford to go home for Xmas. This whole money ordeal with the family has shown me that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made in order to get out of debt and (hopefully) stay out of debt. Doing better money-wise, but still in debt. The good thing is that I still get to have warm food on my table and that is awesome.
  13. For the yummy, cheap deli near work and for the good Chinese place down the street. I moved so I’m far away from them now. The good thing is that I finally found some decent Thai delivery place. Ahhhhh
  14. For having a roof over my head and public transportation. A new roof albeit, but still.
  15. And an insane amount of luck finding parking. True, and now better than before.
  16. For having fantastic Twitter and IRL friends. True, true, true and especially for the ones I’ve met in the flesh.
  17. For having two legs that work and carry my tired body at the end of the day. Amen
  18. For the many awesome people I’ve met while in this city, especially some really cool scientists … one of which I’ve admired for almost a decade. Still true!
  19. For being able to speak my mind at work, to my boss’s face and not feeling bad about it (and hoping that it won’t get me fired). For his honesty and not needing a crystal ball to read his mind. True, though at times he can be a jerk, but still, I need to crystal ball with this one.
  20. For having a crazy kitty that drives me insane … but it’s a most welcomed company when I get home from work. Now with even more kittehs at home.
  21. For networking opportunities and for being able to attend a few cheap (or free) local meetings this year. Still true and for being able to attend a small conference and meeting some cool people.
  22. For leaving my postdoc at the right time, and for everything I learned there. Still true, there isn’t a day that goes by that I forget to thank heavens for not being a postdoc anymore. Best decision ever.
  23. For having Canada be my second home and native land. I miss you and the nicest people on Earth (except the crazies driving around postdoc city, sheesh) …. and Thai Express. Still miss you Canada.
  24. For having 2 outlets to blog and share my stories, and especially, for all the warm and supportive comments, emails and tweets. For having an extra outlet come out of the blue this year and a few other opportunities.
  25. For looking out my window and seeing The City … I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe I get to live hereNot true anymore, but I’m still thankful for living in the City and having many cool things at my fingertips. 

Decisions, decisions

One of my resolutions for 2012 was to continue writing, at least once a week, to keep this blog going. Things went well, until they didn’t. It’s not that I don’t like to write. I do. Very much. Maybe because my computer crapped out at last week and that I’m definitely not writing 800 words using my phone, oh no … lately, I’ve found myself being lazy. I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to, and I’m definitely feeling like owe people something. The people that come to the blog looking for info on how to survive in grad school. Or how to deal with rough patches in their postdoc. Or simply to vent some of the frustration that comes with being a scientist. Whatever the cause, I feel like I’m failing as a communicator.

In reality, nothing major has been going on lately. I come to work, do my thing and go home. Wash and repeat. It’s not a boring existence. It’s just uneventful. And I hate being so quiet and “out of touch” I guess.

So, I’ve decided that come 2013, I probably won’t write every week, unless there’s any major development in my life, career, or both. I won’t write as often, but I will. I promise. I just want to feel less guilty about not writing as often, or with the passion I used to. I’ll keep on sharing new developments and such, but I won’t be writing as often (ie., 4-5 times a month).

Other than that, all is going well. I’m happy that this is a short week and that I get to rest a bit on Thursday. I still cough and sneeze on occasion from the cold I had a few weeks past. But thankfully I can finally walk and go up and down the stairs without losing my breath. I took my kitty to the vet and she’s had her shots and is doing fine. Next year she’ll need surgery for a minor problem.

I’m also interacting a lot with my roommates. They’re good people and fun and I’m getting out of my shell and talking more, opening more to see who they are and who I am. I’m very thankful that I haven’t had a crazy roommate (just yet).

Above all, I’m excited to go home and see my nephew and my mom and sister. And my favourite cousins and aunts and uncles. And of course, to go on dates with Mr 30 and a PhD. Oh, and did I mention that he just started teaching a master’s level class, at a university?? My honey is an adjunct faculty! He’s a professor!!! I’m so happy that one of his dreams is coming true little by little.

What’s new with you?

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?

Organization

Been meaning to write this post for.like.ever. But between the hurricane and catching up sleep and getting sick and *finally* feeling like a human I haven’t had a break. That and just as I enter the world of Apple (with my new phone), my computer decides to die, which means that I’ll have to cough up the money eventually to get a new computer, preferably something portable, maybe a laptop or an ultrabook. You see, Murphy’s law is a bitch, just as I’m enjoying my new toy I get my ass kicked in some other way. That and I have no idea where (or even IF) I’m voting tomorrow. Shit.

Because of all this and the constant chaos that’s around my life, I need organization. I need to de-clutter, rearrange and just get a hold my life. I’ve been wasting time and money left and right (more time than money, really). I can never find anything, at home or in the lab. Just yesterday I ventured out for the first time since the hurricane and bought a toothbrush, not realizing that I’d bought another one a week before. DFS.

I’m trying to create a plan, for both work and home. I’m trying to use up a bunch of things I’ve had hanging around, in half-full bottles, for the longest time. Shoes I don’t use and cause me pain are going out of the apt forever. New undies, old ones in the trash. Finally tackling the stacks of unread papers and booking time to care about long forgotten projects.

I guess I’m tired of half done things. I need to be organized, to have control over certain things, which I think in the end will have a positive impact on my life and happiness.

Apologies for the lengthy absence. At least no damage was done to my area and things seem to be well. I’m rooting for NY and NJ and the whole East Coast.