Sunday, December 8, 2019

On the plus side

There is absolutely no way we can financially make it work. I've accepted that. I am still very happy I came out to see how different it can be in a less toxic but still highly regarded academic environment, and to get the incredible ego boost of knowing I had something valuable to offer. I gave a talk, which will go on my CV, and I also met some potential collaborators.

Basically, the answer I got (repeatedly) when I wondered how people made it work on our poorly-paid salaries was "marry rich". Too late for that and even if I wanted to find a sugar daddy I am well past my prime and doubt I'd be in demand (lol).

While work stress is problematic, living beyond our means is an even worse soul-sucking proposition. The day after the interview, after falling asleep perusing real estate, I woke up at 3 AM (as one does traveling 3 hours west) in an intense panic about how we would pay double our mortgage amount (and that's for renting a small apartment in a not-great area with a long commute) and could only breathe again when I remembered that I still have a job here and have no requirement to move anywhere.

G agrees, he likes our financial stability and the opportunity to work not-so-hard at a job he likes well enough for not that much money---so that he can spend his energy on hobbies and other interests as well as lots of time with the boys.

I'm looking out for other opportunities in other (less insane COL) areas, and will absolutely go interview if anything catches my interest. And I'm reveling in our ability to enjoy our lives, with lots of lots of extras, and still save and plan for the future.


  1. What a horrible thing that they know that they aren't paying a reasonable wage for highly trained and highly skilled people.

    1. Lol. What is even reasonable? If you live in Palo Alto, you can -- I think -- rent a 2BR apartment for about 5000 per month. This does not include things like food, and your car (not optional). I think to make it work you really need to be paid in the vicinity of 250-300K per year, and even then you will be kissing home ownership goodbye (not that this is the be all and end all), and possibly also retirement -- ever. It's just that the cost of living has gotten incredibly out of control because of silicon valley.

  2. I’m assuming you were looking in the Bay Area. Given that, the secret isn’t just “marry rich;” it’s also “or transition to industry while maintaining academic ties.” This is how we’re making it work as industry does pay and the opportunities can be extremely fruitful (especially if one can gain a reputation). But it does require not listening to anyone in academia is it’s a well guarded secret.

    I have my own rants about how broken academia is. Even if you do decide to stay in your current town, I would seriously consider transitioning. I can attest it’s been a far better career path.

  3. As someone who lives in a crazy COL area, and had for her entire adult life, I can say that it can be kind of soul crushing. It feels like there is far less choice, and very little breathing room. Everyone seems to be hustling to make it work, or they aren’t and everyone else wonders how they do it (usually one of them makes crazy money or one or both of them come from money). I travel to St. Louis to see my family and everyone just seems happier there. I don’t know. We stay because both our parents live here and my husband was born and raised here and so far nothing has pulled us away. But I wonder a lot about what life would be like somewhere else. It’s not fun living here a lot of the time.

  4. Yep. It's part of how I ended up in anesthesia. I just couldn't see myself justifying uprooting my family for an across the country move for a 100K per year job, which is what it would have been like in a lot of the other specialties I was considering. (And also, I really love anesthesia, and I think I would have gone nuts in many other specialties.) That said, finding an institution that will protect adequate non-clinical time to make the academic piece work in academic anesthesia is its own headache (bottom line: such a place doesn't exist, and you have to work evenings and weekends to make it work -- and even THAT may not be enough). Plus it is horrifyingly STILL not enough $ to make it work in a place like Palo Alto. You're going to get me going on a long and bitter rant. I have a friend who did fellowship out there with her two kids in daycare. You want to know how they made it work? Her parents ponied up $6000 per month to pay for daycare. She's almost 40! Another friend with three kids (around here) moved her mom into a nearby apartment to provide "free" childcare. I thought I was being smart by only having one kid, and while it certainly does make things easier than if I'd had more, a lot of the time, it still isn't enough.

  5. Wow, not in the medical field so surprised that academic medical positions don't pay more.