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Things That Will Change.

16 January 2013

Aside from Everything, that is. So, yes, I’ll be changing cities and changing jobs. But many other things are changing too.  I have probably permanently removed myself from tenure-track professorial consideration, supposing that was ever something I truly wanted, of which I’m not sure. I certainly had no interest in it upon graduation with my PhD. And I certainly didn’t see it as my path when I entered grad school. In fact, it popped up on my horizon only recently, after I was transferred to a research position about three years ago, and expected, suddenly, to be a PI when I’d never written a grant, and had only three papers to my name. But I liked the challenge of research, in a way that I did not as a graduate student. My interactions with grad students and post-docs and professors on twitter led me to want to try to compete on their field.

I wrote about 7 more grants after my first one was funded. Only one was triaged, but none were funded either, and my scores ranged from about the 30th to the 70th percentile. I have two currently in review (well, one as PI and one as CI), and I don’t expect either of them to be funded either. I have still not had my papers from my funded grant accepted, though I’m presenting a poster at a good conference later this month.

But my position at PECMC is a hard-money position performing Quality Improvement using simulation techniques. I will be allowed to publish, but I will almost certainly not be submitting grants. At least, not for a good long time. A few years of QI work will be needed, at minimum, before anyone is going to be interested in me branching out on my own. And I’m scared of writing grants, because as soon as you do, people expect you to get funding, and then they expect you to keep covering that portion of your salary and then you’re back on soft money.

But, as I said, when I planned my career as a student, professorship wasn’t the plan. It became my alternative career. But now, I’m back on track to do what I set out to do: improve quality and efficiency in medical systems. With the added bonus of continuing to disseminate results through publication. Which means that if I do go on to seek a professorship later, as an established researching engineer, I’ll have a track record of publication to demonstrate continuing productivity. Presumably. I know that publication is more important to me than to them. But I will be a powerful advocate for what it can add to my new department.

Other things, silly things, are going to change. I won’t have a car. The task of acquiring groceries without a car seems.. insurmountable. But there’s a grocery store across the street from my new building. And an awesome market – a lot like the Pike Place Market in Seattle – less than a mile away. Walk there, take the bus home. There’s a bus that goes directly from the market to my doorstep. I’ll walk to work too, and there’s also public transport that goes door-to-door home-to-work for those days when the weather is too awful to walk.

And I’ll need to change how I dress for work. Now, I’m in khakis and a button up shirt or a polo. I’ll need to be in business dress most of the time. I think that slacks, oxford, and tie is acceptable. But I’m not 100% certain. I like dressing up, so that’s not a problem. But it’s a change. I’ll probably have to make sure my hair is cut monthly. I’ll have to shave more often. I’m going to have to use an Atul Gawande trick and put up a laminated check list so that I can do all the things on a schedule.

And I’ll have to spend more hours in the office, and take shorter lunches and bring my lunch more. In fact, I’ll probably have to bring my lunch almost every day. I haven’t brown-bagged since highschool. But I’ve also recently calculated what I spend on lunch, and it’s ungodly. I can cut it by two-thirds, easily, by bringing my lunch to work. And that brings me to the other big change: financial responsibility.

Right now, I’ve been in a really nice situation with respect to benefits and salary and rent. I make pretty good money, and have been saving aggressively to make up for the fact that I got crucified in the 2008 crash. My current job matches 5% in my retirement account. My new job will match only 2%, and not until I’ve been there for a whole year. They have some sort of pension system, but I don’t understand it. The documentation I’ve been given is not clear in the slightest. But it’s a standard package for all employees, and was not subject to negotiation.

I’ll be making more money at PECMC than I am here, but I’m also going to be paying a lot higher for housing (like, astonishingly higher), and for other basic living expenses. In terms of my disposable income, it will actually drop some. Though my electric and water bill will be lower. And I’m renting out my house, so there’ll be some income from that. And there may be expenses, I’m just discovering, with grocery delivery. Large items like paper towels, toilet paper, and heavy items like milk and canned goods might be best to have delivered. As usual, twitter, in the form of @modernscientist and @doc_becca, has proven very informative and helpful. Apparently, something called PeaPod can help.

So many things will change. Many will stay the same. I’m me, after all. I will still be me there. But I am looking forward to being me in a new place.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Penelope permalink
    16 January 2013 11:01

    I’ll have to figure out a way to visit you there, sounds like it will be fantastic! I like the idea of you in a shiny condo downtown with a view way more than the idea of you clunking around a big stuffy dark house in The suburbs of St Louis. This will suit you very well.

  2. 16 January 2013 12:10

    I don’t have a car, and my ‘local’ grocery store is 3 miles away. I also walk about 2 miles to work after i get off the bus. Here’s some stuff that might help in your transition:
    1. The mr. Bento is a great lunch system. It has a protective cover for it’s spork.
    2. I have an amazon prime membership. This is where I get most heavy stuff (although I buy cat litter at a store 6 blocks away). It’s great for heavy stuff.
    3. Supershuttle for the airport. Picks up at door. Cheaper than cab, nicer than public transit.
    4. I find myself stopping off for stuff on the way home from work frequently, you might want to go easy on the grocery store stuff until you figure out your routine.
    5. Get good bags for grocery shopping. I like ones the fit over your shoulder.
    6. If you are going to have to carry your laptop, make sure you have a waterproof backpack, and make sure that your umbrella covers the extra space taken up by the backpack.
    7. You should not own any shoes that you can’t walk 1.5 miles comfortably in.
    8. Always keep extra socks and an extra umbrella in your desk.
    9. I listen to music during my commute. There’s a sweet spot where you can still be aware of surroundings, but annoyance is drowned out. It’s really nice to decompress during this walk.
    10. Find different routes. I don’t always take the same route to work, it mixes stuff up and makes the day more pleasant.

    You are going to love this.

  3. sciencegeeka permalink
    16 January 2013 12:13

    Also, if you know someone w/ a prime account, they can add you and you get the free 2 day shipping (that’s if you don’t care about the on demand video)

  4. 16 January 2013 13:40

    City living is the best!!! To live without a car is to live free from worry/annoyance about/from this giant thing that costs you tons of money. Walk out your door, and the entire world is right there. And if you ever NEED a car, like to run to Target or something, there’s always ZipCar. PECMC probably gets a discount on what is already a very reasonable yearly membership, and then it’s just $8-10/hr, for as little as half an hour if you have a really quick trip.

    You must get out of the mindset of doing one large grocery trip every 2 weeks or whatever, and buy what you need when you need it. Your food will be fresher, and you’ll throw away less, thus saving money. I go to the store at least twice a week. I know the exact market you’re talking about in ECC, and I am super jealous. If I were you I’d go there all the time!

    Ditto Geeka on the extra umbrella(s), and comfortable shoes. Although you can always keep fancy shoes in your desk to change into when you get to work. I do that.

    Have fun!

    • 16 January 2013 13:43

      I have always shopped that way. Fresh foods about twice a week. The other stuff is really new to me and very helpful!

  5. 16 January 2013 14:38

    Knowing exactly where you’ll be, you can get by fine in that neighborhood without a car! You can order almost anything you need from Amazon, and since you’re in an actual building, you can have it delivered straight to your door (the downside to home ownership — you can’t get deliveries!). There is an awesome farmer’s market down the street from you Memorial Day – Thanksgiving, and I do 100% of my produce shopping there and carry it home (you’ll live closer than I do). You can get pretty much anywhere you need to go by bus – Target, Ikea, etc., and there’s a city-specific car share that’s even better than ZipCar, IMO.

    Although, I have to disagree with Geeka’s comment on not owning any shoes you can’t walk 1.5 miles in — I haven’t owned a car since I was 17, but I still own lots of shoes that are impractical for long walks (and find excuses to wear them regularly).

  6. 16 January 2013 17:05

    I’ve been car-free for 7 years and have never needed grocery delivery. For the first few years I used a giant backpacking backpack for the 1.5-mile round trip walk to the store. I could carry a week’s worth of food for myself pretty easily, including milk + cans, with a tote bag for spillover if I wanted something light but bulky like paper towels. If you don’t have a giant backpack you might also consider investing in a little folding shopping cart. I’ve never had one, but they’re a lot cheaper than backpacking backpacks and I know people who swear by them.

    Now I have a bike – with front+back racks, a full set of waterproof panniers, and a couple of bungee nets, I can carry close to a week’s worth of groceries for me + spouse + cat. We also have a hand truck, which has been great for picking up furniture at neighborhood garage sales but not as useful for day-to-day needs.

    The biggest trick for me with grocery shopping was learning to shoo the baggers away from the end of the checkout stand so that I can pack my own bags. Otherwise, no matter how I try to convey my requirements I seem to end up with unevenly distributed weight or sharp things poking into my back or I’ll have to repack and it’s just more hassle for everyone. The second-biggest trick was learning which carts/baskets at the store have roughly the same volume as my bags, so I can just fill the top of the small cart and know that I will be able to fit it in my rear panniers, or whatever.

    Once or twice a year I’ll rent a car for a Saturday and do a bunch of errands – take stuff to the recycling center, go to Ikea, stock up on laundry detergent & kitty litter, go to a party in some remote transit-forsaken part of the suburbs or get out in the mountains a little bit. If you can organize your hauling into infrequent marathons then traditional rentals end up being significantly cheaper than ZipCar.

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