trilemma

So like I just mentioned, I recently, tentatively accepted a job offer at New York Medical College just outside of NYC, in Westchester County. I am still feeling some trepidation about how expensive it will be to live out there relative to what a postdoc is paid (at least initially, I will be working to get a 25-33% boost in pay in the first few months I’m there) because it’s kind of ridiculous what postdocs are paid but that’s reality and I have to deal with it.

Just yesterday, I’ve been an a back-and-forth with yet another out-of-the-blue prospective employer, this time out of UMASS. Granted, Worcester is still pretty expensive, but at least I wouldn’t have to drive an hour to 80min to get to work each day if I want to live in something bigger than a refrigerator box. The NYMC lab is a little more aligned with my research interests, and I have the opportunity to point myself even further in a direction I’d like to follow, but this UMASS thing would give me the opportunity to learn some pretty cool techniques (i.e. optogenetics). I told this researcher what our situation is, with my adjunct teaching thing and unforgiving schedule, along with the position I’ve already informally accepted, and the very narrow timeframe I’m working with. She seemed to be understanding, and I will be talking with her tomorrow afternoon.

But then there’s still another possibility, albeit one with longer odds and some complications of its own. The biology department is looking to hire another faculty member, a rather specific one, actually. I have already met her when I interviewed at the University of Cincinnati, and her research mostly lines up with mine. I do not want to stay here, we absolutely need a fresh start. But things would be so much easier if I could work here, where the pay would go a little further and we could save money for a couple of years instead of continuing to struggle as we have for so long. And then, earlier this morning, Eva said, “I miss Gwamma and Gwampa and Jamey and Alex and Tony,” and well, dammit. That just adds another layer of difficulty to what should essentially be a small illusion of hope as we trudge through this toxic, punishing wasteland of seemingly endless defeat.

I am sick to death of this place, as Jen and I are nomads by nature and have only been in the same place for the last nine years out of absolute necessity. I personally have nothing keeping me here, I never have, there is no sentimental value to my life here (scratch that, there is sentimental value, but it’s negative), but considering what is best for Eva makes it a little bit harder. but another complication is that I have spent nine years at KSU, as an undergrad and as a grad student, and it’s not the best strategy to stay in the same place yet again for some time as a postdoc, because it looks like I can’t cut the cord or I’m not ambitious enough or some BS. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily matter if I don’t want to be a big shot researcher pulling in multiple R01s and running a science factory like some can manage to do, because I don’t, I have enough anxiety as it is, and I want to conduct research because it’s more a personal quest for me than it is an enterprise and I don’t want to lose sight of that. But I’m not aiming for asceticism either, and I don’t want to throw a wrench into my career plans.

Ultimately, we will most likely end up in NYC, but it’s because it’s the most realistic choice, as difficult and ironically unrealistic as it will be. But also because I want to make a future for Eva, and staying here sure as hell won’t do that. I may not get us out of the gutter, but I can take Eva to its exit so she can climb out of it and be somebody, somebody that I couldn’t succeed in becoming.

[an aside: this issue is an improvement at least, as for once, I have an actual problem that’s not just a product of my crippling anxiety and completely in my own head]

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please turn to side 2

Time to move on. I don’t have much time to say this because the teaching gig is still grinding away at me, but I’m taking an opportunity in NYC starting in January. I wish it were someplace less prohibitively expensive to live, especially on a postdoc’s salary, but I have to start somewhere, and where I am now en’t gonna cut it.

And so begins the end of the first half of my life.

honk honk! it’s the clown car!

Welp, the GOP debate is tonite! and this is more compelling than any game of Sportsball this summer, so Yah-Mo B There. I’ll probably go out to Ranchero’s Taquería and get some horchata (since it fits in rather nicely with the virulent anti-Latino/Chicano sentiment) and “enhance” it with some Kahlúa. Gotta cope somehow.

Gonna be some good stuff. Gonna be packed with laffs and rage.

God I’m so bitter.

Maybe I’ll follow it up with some Yacht Rock to numb the pain, since the Kahlúa won’t actually help.

Dr C, PhD*

*this title is derived from the penultimate track from the Beastie Boys’ 1998 album Hello Nasty

I’m done. That was probably the easiest final exam I have ever taken, my defense. So now I can actually be called Dr. Camp. Okay, now what? Aside from making final, final revisions to my dissertation (typos and other clarifications caught by my committee) and send it out to be digitally archived, I am sort of at a loss as to what to do with myself, since I only nominally have a job. More on that later.

I do know that our apartment is in dire need of a belated spring cleaning. I managed to lose my old phone somehow, and while the only reason why I even care is because I was going to reformat it to factory specs and give it to Eva to play with, it’s still befuddling that I could literally lose a phone. Sure, it’s around here somewhere, but that’s the point. How does this happen? [it doesn’t help that we have a metric shit-ton of toys that Eva honestly doesn’t actually need and that’s aggravating as hell, but I don’t want to launch into a full-on rant right now] More importantly though, is just getting rid of so much useless stuff cluttering up the landscape, making our apartment look like a self-contained trash heap.

What I’m really playing at right now, though, is having a pastime. I’ve been fretting for years that I don’t have a hobby, and now that this long-ass chapter of my life is ostensibly over, I have to quit using studenthood as an excuse. So far, I’ve made an attempt to pick back up on my Spanish language skills, with an additional misfired attempt at French and Esperanto. I’ve decided that one at a time will do for now, and while I think I’d rather take up French for some reason, I’m already too invested in español to switch right now, and yet, be that as it may, it’s still probably going to be a long time before I can say I’m satisfied with it. So, Spanish it is. Welp. I’m also making another attempt at HTML and other programming, something I haven’t bothered to play around with in over ten years. I’m still not even sure I’m interested enough in it, though knowing Python and R will likely come in handy in my career even if I’m not an IT dweeb. But I want to take up something else that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen, but I don’t have a clue where to begin. I don’t have room (or tools (or money (or the know-how))) to build anything, whether it’s with wood, a model kit, or machined metal. I don’t trust myself with archery or knife-throwing. Auto repair and restoration: see above. Maybe I’ll pick up on genealogy again. Whatever, I have time or something. Maybe. If Eva will allow it. Which she won’t.

Anyway, the job front. God damn it. First off: job search websites are worthless. One is sending me job alert updates for positions as registered nurses, phlebotomists, receptionists?! Another one is sending me postings for tenure track professorships, for which, at this point in my career, I am wholly underqualified. So I have to take the shotgun approach. The thing is, finding a lab to join is A Thing unto itself; I have to find a group that does the kind of research that I’m trying to pursue, which is a relatively narrow focus because I had to make affective disorder research like some kind of crusade or something. I have been able to find such labs, dozens, actually. But there’s the matter of funding. There needs to be enough funding to hire a postdoctoral fellow, and that’s always a problem nowadays, what with certain groups of politicians thinking science is a waste of time and money and an affront to god or whatever. Thanks. So if I contact, say, sixty researchers, I’ll be lucky to find four or five who actually have a space for another person. Then it’s a game of phone/email/Skype tag, hoping they actually respond to messages, and when they do, it’s in a timely manner.

If, by a lightning strike of kismet, things do click, then there’s the interview process. Some companies will have you go through a series of interviews before you’re hired. To land a postdoc position, you have to first go through an initial phone interview (since the likelihood that I’d be working in Ohio (not that I even want to) is zero, this is how it goes), then it’s another game of telecommunication tag just to set up the in-person interview. But, as with the multiple-interview kind of thing with some companies, you have to talk to several people. In one day. Last one I did, I talked to fifteen different people. And, at one point, you give a seminar about your research, basically an hour-long presentation followed interrupted by a barrage of questions. Honestly, that’s no big deal, except that the last one I did was at the end of the day, the long, very exhausting day, and by the time the talk came around, I was a bundle of frayed, smoking nerves. I didn’t get the job because I was too keyed up to respond to the questions, which, while I understand completely the concern, I don’t believe it was entirely fair given the circumstances and the way I operate. But whatever, so it goes. It’s a rough, draining process, and getting a job is going to take time. So in the meantime, I will more than likely be teaching part time at KSU. Which is totally not what I’d like to be doing, but it’s a paycheck and it will give me the time to apply for an NRSA fellowship and find the right place for me.

But I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m sick to death of Ohio. We’ve been in this particular area for nine years, longer by far than any other place I’d ever been in my entire adult life, and while it’s myriad leagues better than that Lake County hellhole we lived in for a while before that, it’s still several years too long. I’m a nomad by nature, I prefer the feeling of being sort of lost in my surroundings. As the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt,” I feel like claiming that I coined the phrase. It’s a seething sort of contempt, boiled slowly over such a drawn out period of time. We could be leaving to start a new life tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be soon enough for me. And we could be heading to the other end of the country, and it wouldn’t be far enough for me.

On that dour note, see ya. Maybe in another few months? Who knows? Or cares.

here

Just a reminder that I’m still alive. I finally finished the final draft of my dissertation and sent it to my advisor, all that’s left is to send it out to the committee. I want to make some rumchata to kill the nerves now that I’m done but, one, the cheap grinder I have doesn’t grind rice for shit, and two, horchata would take too damn long to make anyway on the borrowed time on which I’m living. Besides, I’d be the only one drinking it since Jen is too put off by the boozy scent of the kahlúa I’d be using. Hell, that’s the only reason I’m making this stuff anyway, that was her stuff in the first place. I’d rather have a jack and coke.

ggggh [pt. infinity]

I’m in DC right now for a neuroscience conference, but getting here was a massive pain in the ass and things just imploded from there. Turns out that when you reserve a hotel room through the organization, you don’t actually pay for it up front like I could swear I had done, so I’ve got to haul ass to someplace else that’s half an hour away tomorrow. Oh well.

The census-designated area known as Potomac, MD can burn. Bunch of rich buttholes who think gas stations are eyesores or something, making me go 45min out of my way to make sure I don’t end up on the side of the highway with an empty tank. Tomorrow better be a less terrible day, or I’m going to hit somebody.

There are just two words in the English language that end in the letters -gry. I am both of them. Time to get food.

the wall

currently listening to: Scorpions – Wind of Change

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the coming end of Soviet control of the Eastern Bloc, and the beginning of the end of the Cold War. People will celebrate Ronald Reagan as the man who ended the Cold War, complete with sound bites of the former president shouting, ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ However, I disagree with the notion, as I believe that it was Gorbachev’s insistence and work for reform in the Soviet Union that played a much bigger role in ending the Communist regime. Reagan was just itching to get the fire started with all his sabre-rattling, and his SDI proposal, which would have disintegrated the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, could very well have started a (mostly one-sided) nuclear war. But it’s the people, those who pushed against Soviet control — from Alexander Dubček and the Prague Spring to the tragic failed resistance in Hungary, from the Polish Solidarność movement to the revolutions of 1989 — who cannot be forgotten as the true heroes of the Cold War.

I’ve always had a strange fascination with the Cold War, whether it’s the history and geopolitics or the very aesthetics of the era, so this is indeed an incredibly important day to me.

Here is coverage of the event as it happened from Primetime Live on ABC News, courtesy of Youtube user grahambunk

from ABC, via its own Youtube channel:

‘Beyond the Brandenburg Gate’, from Ted Koppel on Nightline, from ABC’s channel:

More: links to footage from NBC News, courtesy of Youtube user TooleMan87.