After a Year


How’s it going over there on the other side of the Internet? What’s happening?

It looks like the last time I posted here was February 2018. Wow and oops. Reading that last post over again just now was super interesting for me, as a lot of things have changed since then. Back in February 2018, I was in the process of leaving Horrible Clinical Job for New Clinical Job, and also applying for tenure-track faculty (i.e. research) positions. In case you’re curious, what happened in the interim was…

  • I started New Clinical Job, which turned out to be stressful but relatively okay-ish. It was definitely better than Horrible Clinical Job. Since New Clinical Job was officially a temporary position, I only worked there through June 2018.
  • I did get two faculty job offers, but I ended up not accepting either of them. One of them was absolutely out of the question, as I had strongly disliked the department during my campus visit. I did consider the other one, but in the end I decided the location was too rural to be workable (my research involves recruiting subjects from specific medical populations, so it’s best if I’m in or near a large city with a lot of hospitals).
  • In July and August I worked per diem for a previous clinical employer, which was unchallenging but relatively pleasant and low-stress.
  • In September I stopped working clinically and started a postdoc fellowship (i.e., a research job) here in Boston!

If you’re not familiar with academia, being a postdoc basically means I’m doing mentored research for 1-2 years to learn new skills and build up my CV so I can apply for faculty positions again. The idea of a postdoc is that it’s temporary and should serve as a springboard to something bigger. There are a bunch of different varieties of postdocs, but my particular postdoc is structured and funded in such a way that I’m allowed to work on basically whatever projects I choose, as long as I’m making progress. Which is pretty nice.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, in 2018 I moved to a new apartment that I LOVE for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is WARM. Before moving to my current apartment, I lived in part of a super drafty, 120-year-old house with storm windows that didn’t fit properly into the window frames, plus my bedroom did not have any heat. I lived there for over five years, from 2012-2018, and I swear it got colder and more miserable every year. It’s amazing how bearable winter is for me now that I’m living in an apartment with adequate heat. So I’m feeling really grateful for that. This apartment building also has a really nice and helpful super, as well as clean laundry facilities in the basement (!).

My perspective has changed a lot since I started this blog in 2015. To sum it up, I no longer feel that my student debt is that big of a deal. I mean, it is a big deal in a certain sense because it’s a lot of money and I have to pay it off. But I no longer feel like it’s an emergency that has to define my existence. I also no longer feel like it’s worth it to hugely compromise my quality of life (e.g. by sleeping in a freezing cold room and working at jobs that I hate) just for the sake of paying it off a tad faster.

I’m now also able to recognize that in my decision to pursue clinical work as a means to make more money faster, I made a couple of major miscalculations.  As someone with both a PhD and a clinical license, I basically had two options upon graduation:

A. Really pursue research, which, if I were to do it right, would involve spending a couple years right after my PhD program doing a postdoc. And postdocs are notoriously low-paying.

B. Abandon research for clinical work, which pays maybe $5K-$30K more per year than a postdoc (depending on where you are working and how many extra part-time jobs you want to take on).

A couple of years ago, this felt like a no-brainer: clearly B was the right choice, because more money = better.

But that was really faulty logic. For one thing, clinical work was a poor fit for me, to the point that I dreaded going to work most days (and I figured this out pretty early on). And for another, assuming you’re a good researcher, a low-paying postdoc can serve as a stepping stone to a career in academia. And in my field, a career in academia will likely be higher-paying than a clinical career in the long run. (Important side note: my field is pretty unusual in that there are a lot of jobs available in academia. It would be a different story if I had a PhD in, say, biology or philosophy.)

So to sum up, my budget is tight this year, but my quality of life has vastly improved. I love my living space, I love my uber-flexible schedule (#postdoclife), and I love the work I’m doing.

What will I write about from this point forward? Who knows! Luckily I chose a truly vague blog name back in the day, so as long as I continue to not own a yacht, I can write about whatever I want. 🙂

Here are a few things I’m into these days, with links, because personally I love links:

Have you watched Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix? It’s a four-episode docuseries on principles of cooking, hosted by the amazing Samin Nosrat, and it’s pretty great (though probably not the right choice for vegetarians/vegans). The Acid episode has definitely changed the way I think about cooking: I’ve been making this lately with lots of lime.

One of my goals in 2019 is to learn/improve at a few different types of dance. My main form of exercise for the past 9 years or so has been yoga, which I still like a lot and plan to continue, but I really want to branch out. I’m starting with ballet, which is not actually new for me, but I haven’t done it in a while so it feels new. As a side note, I’ve seen two really good ballet documentaries recently: Restless Creature (Netflix), which is about Wendy Whelan’s retirement from the NYC Ballet, and Ballet Now (Hulu), which follows Tiler Peck as she produces and performs in a really amazing series of dances involving not only ballet but also tap, hip hop, and clowning.

I have developed a slight obsession with reading the archives of the advice column site Ask A Manager, despite the fact that I have zero experience working at typical white collar office jobs (which is mostly what people write in about). I think it’s because ultimately the topics discussed are human behavior and communication, not office jobs per se. In any case, it’s one of my favorite Internet things, and I highly recommend it.

That’s all for today. I’ll plan to write again sometime soon.

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