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A More Positive Update

SECOND UPDATE Sorry it has taken a bit of time to write an update about this. I was pretty let-down to find out that the PI I interviewed with decided to not proceed forward with me as a candidate. I'm not sure how much of it was due to concerns about a perceived inability for me to perform the tasks of this role, or how much of it came down to not finding a middle-ground on pay. What's weird/funny about it, is I was only asking for another $3-4K beyond the offered salary range. I couldn't in good-conscious to myself, take a step backwards and go back to an offered level of pay I made nearly 6 years ago. I guess what I found more surprising than anything, was that she didn't even check back with me based on what she founded out after talking with the administrators to see if I would still be interested, even if that meant better pay on the next grant. So either, she realized there was a low-chance I would accept this, or she didn't want to insult me with such an offer, since she herself feels the requisite pay I should be receiving wouldn't come anywhere close to what she could offer. Of course, the alternative - of course - is that she simply wasn't interested based out of concerns of where I was at, physically. I personally thought, given the fact she was just in the proess of setting up her lab, that this matched well with taking over responsibilities again. Moreover, we resonated heavily on a variety of topics.

I can only walk away from this with the chosen belief that it wasn't meant to be and likely something better will come along. I'm not sure what is next for me, since ideally I would have liked to work on programming aspects of the project. Although I in many ways don't feel 100% ready to be returning to work, in the right context I would consider it and try to push myself beyond my current perceived limits.

I also had a really nice gentleman from church reach out to me that told me I should consider going onto disability. However, I feel like going forward with that would be shitting on any dreams I have as a person and that essentially I would be resolving myself to my life being over.

While I hate to do this and it doesn't feel good revisiting a potential source of PTSD for me, I am wanting to seek legal counsel to explore if anything can be done regarding the numerous mistakes/misteps that were made with treating my leg, up and before amputation. I find revisiting such topics makes me shaky, both verbally and physically when recalling all that has happened. It is a major trauma. Unfortunately, Amputee Coalition support groups are fairly useless to me. The UCHealth support groups, to a lesser extent so. I started attending Recovery Dharma meetings and plan to coninue doing so. While the group was founded on the suffering of drug addictions, they also allow people to attend that have dealt with other forms of suffering. As a matter of fact, the leader of the Lafayette branch reached out to me because my Mom and him crossed paths. He has been a member of a sister lab in RL4 and wanted to take the time to meet up and catch up with me. After hearing everything I'd been through, he suggested that I check it out and attend.

There are very few outlets for such traumas, unfortunately. However, I have found the meetings to be very friendly, open-ended and actually offer one the opportunity to speak openly with the group regarding suffering and the struggles. This is refreshing, since most amputee support groups are naturally stoic and instead switch the focus onto more pedestrian problems, like my socket doesn't fit... or I'm having X issue. While I'm sure these members don't mean to monopolize the entire hour, it often happens. We spend most sessions making suggestions in the way of couseling, alternative health and other ideas. While it does feel rewarding to help others and give back, the emotional component is often solely lacking.

UPDATE The interview, in my opinion, went very well. We spoke for close to two and a half hours. She is quite nice. The only issue I expressed was the salary range offered. Given my technical background, previous lab management and bench skills experience, it's less than what I was making when I started as a lab manager over 5 years ago. The PI even admitted that this selected salary range is tailored more for recent graduates. Anyways, the point is, we had really good chemistry. She could tell I was being very humble, genuine and honest. I emphasized amany topics I believe are important, include: excellent communication and honesty, helping to shape and foster a positive workplace culture and lab, how my technical skills could be used, among many others. Regarding the former point, I basically beat her to discussing topics of importance and what she was looking for before she even had the chance to bring those aspects up - which means we already have naturally great chemistry. The first hour was my background and her getting to know me. And the following 80 minutes unfolded in a way that felt like we already knew one another, and here and I were having causual conversation about shared expectations. Honestly, it was great. I honestly nailed this interview in terms of being honest, yet confident and effortless to reach agreement about my expected role in her lab. Although she will be interviewing a few others (of the 20 applicants that applied):

(1) I have this deep sense that I was the first to be interviewed; and (2) since she mentioned she would talk to the department's administrator to see if the budget could be massaged so I could be brought on for something closer to a living-wage, perhaps a bit lower to start and hopefully a bit higher after the 90-day trial period. Moreover, she expressed that it would not be a problem to meet me half way in terms of my ideal salary goals, of a reasonable $50-$60K - that if a new grant comes around, she would offer me $50K, given my experience and if everything in the lead-up goes well.

I'm not meaning to be cocky when I say this, but unless she finds a recent graduate that is more experienced than the past nine years I have spent in the same building, within this department, then I'm fairly confident I'll be hearing back from her as discussed early next week to negotiate on the salary. I'm willing to meet her half-way... somewhere between my expectations and her expectations for the first thiree months. After that period, if anything I can receive a slight bump in pay, given my ability to interface with the deeplearning library using python; something that her lab wants to develop, but they lack the current resources to do so. This is such an important aspect of the analysis, that she wants me to invest 30% of my time developing and maintaining it. The rest of my week will be spent handling: lab management, lab orders, mentoring undergrads, acting as the go-to/connector/point person overseeing all of the individual and active projects as well as leading lab meeting, performing surgeries on mice along with testing them, extracting brains at the end of the study, slicing of brains and histology, along with a very a light amount of genotyping. She understands my circumstance and is willing to offer me some flexibility in terms of follow-up doctor appointments, as this condition is now life-long. So I'm very relieved about that, but at the same time, I have to be fair to myself when it comes to my own individual salary requirements. I told her, I realize the job posting listed this range, I'm not trying to be disingenous about it; but at the same time, I have been working in research for the past ten years since I graduated, the standard of living is getting out of control from where it was five years ago and I'm seeking upward career trajectory without getting stuck. Lab wasn't just work for me, I was passionate about my role and it was simply a part of my life, something I'm very home-sick about wanting to return back to. I also explained I want a PI that doesn't over micromanage me, or rule me by fear. Allow be the self-autonomy, self-agency, self-accountability. With those freedoms along with open communication, both of us could have something really good going here, since she received a $1M start-up grant and is just getting established within this department... something I'm already intimately familiar with and something I could run and manage seamlessly and help build the passionate/collaborative/friendly lab culture she too is so desperate to obtain.

I know that's a lot, but simply put, I left the interview thanking her and confident enough in myself to tell her to follow what's best as far as hiring. While I'm not 100% if she'll make arrangements on altering the pay scale, at least I'm seeing she is willing to try. To me, that's telling that she is interested. Likewise, I am very interested, but I need something close to a living-wage, given I'm turning 38 next month as well as be offered opportunities for some career trajectory. Otherwise, regretably, there is really no point. Even if I believe we together would make a great team. Thus, it will be very disappointing if she decides to not follow-up, follow-through on this by offering me something reasonable. For a comparison point: in the previous lab, I earned shy of $22 an hour. In the city next to mine, McDonalds is hiring at $19.00 an hour. I have my bachelors and nearly a decade of experience and I only make $3 more an hour to show for all of my experience?! That hardly seems right. CU's pay schedules, pardon my French are entirely fucked. Je ne sais pas quoi parler. I think at this stage it is perfectly reasonable to be expecting $50-$60K... probably closer to $60K. I told her I could switch over to tech and earn $60K easily, or consider entering the private research sector, but I enjoy academic research better. I enjoy the culture better. Money is not an object to me, but at the same time, I need to be fair to myself. So, again, I will be disappointed if it doesn't work out; but I must also trust that God is guiding me to wherever I need to be and if it doesn't work out, perhaps that's for good reason that at this point, I simply don't understand. If it doesn't work out, I truly wish her the best with her research and hope she finds the right person to fill this position; if so, I was looking forward to returning to a place of familiarity, in the wake of all of this, and feeling a bit more fragile. But, at least my mental and physical attitude has been changing, as of this time last month. I exuded a truthful level of confidence that somehow felt as effortless as simple breath, itself.

Me, 30 minutes before my interview (taken as a selfie): IMG_5775-1

ORIGINAL POST 2023/05/22 Hello everyone. Sorry I have been a stranger for so long. I bet reading my previous post, it was a bit concerning to hear where I was at both mentally and physically.

With that, I'm pleased to inform you that things are, indeed, gradually getting better. It's been as much a physical challenge as it has been a mental challenge, too. I'm weathering it. I realize that it's going to be a good two years before I see marked improvements in my regular functioning. Having said that, though, I have been - in one form, or another - at home, since Nov of 2021; and especially listless after remote work dried up in April of 2022.

When I recollect to where I was at, last year, it wasn't a good place. Going into next month, especially a very bad place. Amputation was imminent and yet, I had to - against better judgement - put the breaks on and make a difficult decision. The decision was whether (or not) I would be letting my orthopedic oncologist surgeon (of 16 years) perform the amputation, whether I needed the amputation, as well as consult with a second-opinion on the matter. In retrospect, although it wasn't fraught with it's own issues, it was the best decision I could have made both physically, mentally, and restoratively for myself. In the backdrop of this decision, I had brought a second-opinion infectious disease doctor on board and she switched me Sivetro, which is a $12K a month antibiotic. So you can imagine, with insurance resetting in July, the costs upfront were enormous for my high-deductible PPO plan.

This whole journey has been such a clusterfuck of a situation, I don't even know where to begin, nor where it ends. I do intend, at some point, to consult with additional attorneys (not their paralegals) to take the time to outline the aspects of the case to see if the case is winnable/workable in court. The good news, though, is I have lots of documentation, pictures and audio to back-up what I'm saying. If my orthopedic surgeon is reading this, your eyes may be widening. All I know, is this wasn't right, it was hell, and yes someone should have to pay for all of the misteps with it. On the other hand, it's not something at this point in my life that I'm obsessing my mind with.

Now, as far as how I'm doing now. Well... I decided against better judgement with where I am, to explore what's next as far as work. Yes, that does mean I put in job applications and specifically, at least at this point, have my first job interview on Tuesday. The good news, though, is that if I'm the right "fit", and I end up getting hired for this position, I'll be back in the same building where this all started a very long nine-years ago and it would feel very full-circle. As far as salary, it's almost full-circle, but it does play less than what I made before when I obtained my previous lab management role in 2018. Since then, I have gained 5 years (but if I'm fair, 4 years) of additional experience that I feel isn't accurately accounted for. To the lab, I don't just bring wet bench lab skills, experience with managing a database and colony and ability to compile large data sets for analysis... I also bring coding skills that are invaluable to research and can actually automate and streamline a lot of tasks that would typically be handled manually within Excel. It's something, for which I'm particularly proud of.... that and my genotyping/PCR/gel-electrophoresis chops. I'm an absolute wizard with getting clean, clear and repeatable results.

So starting at the end of April, I started putting in job applications. I received two emails from CU Jobs stating I had been turned down for what I thought were two separate positions. However, later I would realize the system just sent two identical emails. So out of the 5 research positions I have applied for, I have been turned down for one and the other 4 are in the consideration phase. Of those 4, one in particular - the one lab that is in such close proximity and within my existing department has decided to interview me on Tuesday. My plan is to start with the long, but briefly stated backstory that brought me here... because I think that's immensely insightful and important for her to know. Secondly, I plan to tell her what I've been dealing with and where I'm currently at. Third, I want to tell her about all of my lab experience. And fourth, I want to learn about the lab, tour it and ask questions and talk science with her. If I find that she genuinely likes me and wants to offer me the position, given everything I've told her, then I want to discuss the matter of pay. To put it bluntly, it's low. I need to be making at least another $5,500 for it seem reasonable, in the area of pay. I know what's more important than pay itself, is experience and moreover, enjoying one's life and job. So it also depends on what kind of PI she is. Will she be anything like Jerry was to me? Caring, kind, compassionate, anti-micromanaging, trusting, and nurturing? Or, is she going to be the hovering, micromanging type where I feel a continual level of stress and her expectations, suffice to say, won't be reasonable... honestly I don't know.

So I may create an update post about it after the job interview to let you know how it went.

There are three other major updates I want to cover.

Working Out (1) since running out of PT visits, I want to start hitting the gym and also eventually considering if jijitsu will be possible as an amputee, since a majority of the fighting happens on the ground. I was in shotokun karate for 10 years and left as a 10th degree black-belt. I haven't been in any form of karate since 2003. I mainly left because of the health issues and also because the adult classes were just too difficult and not doing it for me. It wasn't at all laid back like the younger class was. Also, since I was 17 at the time, they failed me during my first test because I didn't show enough hikite (meaning "spirit" in Japanese), when all of my friends passed; then the second time, when I finally passed, they handed me a black-white belt because of my age... even though I took the same 12-hour, overnight test, as everyone else. This truly pissed me off. So when I finally came back for another year of it, got moved to the adult class, and people were hurting me... like badly because when sparing: if I went after someone not super aggressively, but matched aggression like they were doing, they would call me out for being "too aggressive". The whole thing was bloody awful at the end and it made me realize why I quit in the first place. Nevertheless, karate taught me self-discipline, self-control, confidence, and wholeness in body and mind. My favorite quote from one of my favorite animes, is from Soul Eater "a sound soul, dwells within a sound mind and sound body." It is such a true statement and it has been YEARS since any of those three of been harmonized together.

Coding (2) In high school, from sophmore year - onward, I ran a fansite for an MMO, along with a friend of mine. He came up to me, knowing that I was at least experienced in aspects of the web with the idea of starting a gaming website. From there, within the first year we hired on two volunteers, antialize and gn0me. I learned a lot from both of them. Specifically, antialize took the time to teach me disassembly, how to read assembly language, along with the basics of OOP (object-oriented programming) within PHP... my jam, for years. At first, I wasn't a fan of scripted, on-demand, non-compiled languages since my background from high school was in C and C++. I was so good at C, specifically, that I didn't have to take the final... given my grade. While I didn't get opted out of the final for C++ because I was about 4-5% lower than the threshold, I still received an excellent game in that class creating an arkanoid clone. Originally, my final was going to be a turn-based text-based RPG, but then I realized that in order to do that, you have to be smart with your math and create amany algortihm for it. Anyways, I did take cisco networking as a junior and then as a senior I won 1st place in a web-design constest out of 350 participants. It was very reaffirming for me. Then after the cancer, I started working on making my own custom-coded solutions. It started with "EXS" which was my own form of forum software. From there, it offshot into a foundation website for my brother, and later a counseling website for my Mom. The later was written partially in OOP and also allowed me to explore and work with REST APIs for various external software solutions. I was able to take this to the next level, specifically and impart because I worked at a local ISP for two years prior and learned the ropes when it came to Linux server administration. Anyways, the point is, I am now working on building a universal CMS project that is 90%+ written in OOP. It's currently in the scaffolding and baby stages, but I plan to use this CMS to build future websites and make it dynamic, and use MVC design sensibilities. I also even plan on commiting this PHP scaffolding to github by creating a project respository on that website.

My First Piercing? (3) I'm currently an hour out from my consult at a local, popular piercing salon, to see if either of my ears has the anatomy for an industrial scaffold earring. I have been flirting with the idea of getting one for over a year. However, because of all of the infection and other healing, I put it off. I'm now feeling well enough that I think it's probably safe to explore the possibility of getting one. We'll see. For all I know, I'll either be told yes, or no. In the case of yes, I wonder and hope if I'll be able to get it at the same time. We'll see. I also want to ultimately give it to God and not fight it if I find that it doesn't work out at this time. While there is a part of me that's doing it so people see me in more of a kewl, laid-back light, I'm also not wanting for it to be a judgement call as me as a person when it comes to working with other professionals either my medical provides, or with my job. So, while yes, I'm a bit anxious regarding the later, I truly hope - if anything, it sets me aside and fits my personality well. As an old acquantince put it: if you don't like it, you can always take it out (inferred context: and let it heal back to normal).

So anyways, I realize that has been a long-read. I'm excited as I'm nervous about the next two years. I want to be motivated and have purpose, but I also don't like the idea how things might be rough for me when it comes to my leg for the next two years. If it works out, the piercing could be a symbol of transitioning to the next stage of my life, a demarcation, potentially. Also, if I work hard on the programming on the site, that might open up new doors for me when it comes to the tech world. My tech job, straight out of my undergrad in college, before I transitioned to lab, I felt experienced, but at the same time - not experienced enough. It was strange, but it really came down to needing to hone and shape my skills further in a way that was marketable. Assuredly, I made really bad money at that job. My take-home pay on the best year was shy of $24,000. When I entered research, the base pay was $32,000. As a lab manager, I made $40,000. Now given my experience, and time invested in research, I want to be reaching for $45,000, or $50,000, at least. I don't know if that's a possibility, but I would rather receive less pay and do what I love, than receive more pay and hate what I do. Hence why if I got into tech again, or programming, while the base pay may be $60,000, I might suffer there even if I'm finally making a true living way finally. In this area alone, the median income is $89,000 and the mean income is $79,000. I blame all of the California transplants for ruining this area. They drive fast, and they have made everything more expensive. The expenses are only increasing, since after the pandemic and I feel like I need to account for that.