A couple of years ago, my supervisor Larry gave me a couple of pieces of advice. The first was that layoffs were coming and I should keep my head down, my mouth shut and do my work. I loved working for Larry just as I loved working for Isabelle, my previous supervisor. My job was my bliss. I was able to work in the lab again and learn new things with Larry and apply what I learned previously with Isabelle. Guys, there is nothing better in this world than doing something you enjoy for your living. It was better than making obscene gobs of filthy lucre. Well, I could go on but you get my drift.
I didn’t always follow his first piece of advice. I’m way too opinionated and when I’m worried, I’m easily distracted but when the layoff came, I was genuinely surprised that it hit our group because we were so freaking productive. So, I fell back on Larry’s second piece of advice: Have a Plan B.
One of the things job counselors will tell you besides the fact that you must sell yourself like Wilbur the Pig without the benefit of Charlotte’s Web is that you should not take just any job. I realize that’s easy for me to say because I saved a wad of cash before my layoff and got a nice severance package. Nevertheless, I’m glad I took my time deciding what my next move would be. I realized pretty early on that I did not want to go back into corporate research. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. It’s pretty clear that I loved it and think its probably the way to go if you want to do world class research in the private sector. Corporate labs benefit from an economy of scale and shared resources. But the truth is that the pharmaceutical industry is broken. I mean Seriously, fatally broken right now and while the grasshoppers are busily eating their seed corn, it’s harder to get research done. Then there is the whole lack of a PhD thing that shouldn’t make a difference when you need an experienced modeler/structural biologist (trust me, experience is essential), but somehow has become maniacally important in this job market.
I was very lucky to get some part time work with some former colleagues of mine who decided to bring industrial research to academia. I love this job too but it’s not going to pay the bills in New Jersey when the stash runs out, which will be in the not too distant future.
And then there is the kid who had a few years of high school left when I was laid off. I figured it was probably best to keep her in her present situation and not move her right away. I think this was the best decision for her because she needed the continuity even if she absolutely hates New Jersey with a white hot passion. Next year, the kid will be a senior and through with most of her AP classes. She can take classes at a local university. She’s ready so that’s a load off my mind.
So the time has come to implement Plan B. And what, you may ask, is Plan B? Plan B is to move back to Pittsburgh and live less expensively and without debt.
To that end, I’ve bought a house.
When I close on it next month, I will own it free and clear. It’s in a semi-urban hellhole and about a block and a half from the bus line that will take me into the city in about half an hour. I’ll be looking for a job there soon and fortunately, because I won’t have a mortgage and won’t need a car everyday, I’m not going to stress over how much money I need to make. The house has a big yard so there will be raised bed gardening happening although I intend to spray the veggies if I have to. Screw that organic stuff. I want yield. Ok, maybe I’ll go easy on the pesticides. I can’t wait to try to grow fruit trees on an espalier.
For a short period of time, I’ll be living in two states. The house I’m buying was a foreclosed property but the bank closed on it months ago. It needs a bit of work but it’s got a nice layout and it’s on a lovely street. So, while I’m having the roof fixed and retaining walls repaired, I’ll be seeing the kid through the last months of school here in NJ.
Then, I’m blowing this pop-stand. It’s been real. Never again will I walk into a house and have an epiphany that the bank owns me and everything I have.
I can hardly wait.