“This is supposed to happen to other people. This was never supposed to happen to me.”

As I’m sitting on my mother’s porch on a Tuesday afternoon these are the thoughts that ran through my mind. Its funny how having plenty of time on your hands leads to contemplation. Officially, I will be unemployed as of April 15th but unofficially my last day at my job was March 29th. I hold a bachelor’s degree in biology (minor in chemistry) and a doctorate in biomedical research with a concentration in biochemistry and cancer biology. Sitting on the porch, one of the skits from Kanye West’s debut album comes to mind:

Then you get your doctorate,
You go man, then when everybody says quit
You show them those degrees man, when
Everybody says hey, you’re not working,
You’re not making any money,
You say look at my degrees and you look at my life,
Yeah I’m 52, so what, hate all you want,
But I’m smart, I’m so smart, and I’m in school,
And these guys are out here making
Money all these ways, and I’m spending mine to be smart.
You know why?
Because when I die, buddy, you know
What’s going to keep me warm, that’s right, those degrees.

My first job out of school was awesome. Who wouldn’t want to move to New York City and work at New York University doing exactly what you went to school for? I jumped at the chance. Plus, jobs in academia are supposed to be secure and not transient like pharmaceutical or biotech jobs. I was on my way towards greatness. I had a great job in a great city, until Congress in all their ineptness did something that only Congress does. They allowed the sequester to take effect on March 1st.

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sequesterThe sequester refers to a series of federal budget cuts of approximately $85.4 billion in 2013 alone. Cuts to the National Institutes of Health will equal more than $2.4 billion and more than $444 million to the Centers for Disease Control. Since 100% of my salary comes from federal funding that meant I was essentially out of a job. These are just numbers related to biomedical research. Imagine how many jobs have been lost across the country in all areas. Teachers, policemen, firemen, construction jobs, librarians and doctors are all losing jobs.

Looking at MSNBC or CNN and imagining that the decisions made by politicians can directly affect my livelihood is a tough concept to grasp. It may have been hard to conceptualize but now this is my reality. Looking forward, I’m viewing this setback as a blessing in disguise. I’m taking some much needed time off to rest and concentrate on my hobbies. Luckily, with my background and experience I won’t be out of work for long, but the same can’t be said for everyone who loses their job due to this sequester. Some people will be out of work for the foreseeable future. It is really sad that even after all this members of Congress will still get paid their average salary of $174,000 per year. In most workplaces such ineptness would lead to termination, yet it seems like we’re rewarding it.

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Do you know anyone who has been affected by the recent sequester? Should Congress still be paid their full salaries while their bad decisions led to the loss of so many jobs?