Tag Archives: leaving Phd

I’ve kept it trill: true and real

So here I was, back in my apartment in Boston, hungover, overwhelmingly tired, with no cash, my credit card maxed out and maybe $7  to my name in my checking account. What a bizarre situation. I was ogling my last four cans of black beans, a bag of pasta, and a bottle of ketchup in the pantry. I was certain these food items were ceremoniously awaiting me this whole time to celebrate this special day of finding my new personal low. Doing a little math in my head, I figured that supply could get me through to my next paycheck, so I decided to max out the livin’ in poverty thing and spent my last $7 buying a bottle of 2 buck Chuck and one of those large Foster cans. I kept it trill.

This was back in a transitional period of my young adulthood, when nothing seemed to go my way. I’d guess it was around April 2011. The commonalities that were binding me together at the time were unsteady employment, steady unemployment and a broken heart.

Days before arriving in Boston, my home, I was in the midst of a highly unplanned and strangely thrown together last minute trip to Fort Lauderdale, then LA. Yes, epic indeed. Beaches. Babes. Booze. It was my very own cross-country adventure, from the (non) comforts of an airplane. This journey made little sense financially, since I had about $600 to my name. But fuck it, it felt right at the time. My best friends live in Ft. Lauderdale and LA. This was a good reason to escape the heartache and depression of the past few months and enjoy myself.

ft lauderdale

No money no problems. April 2011

I’ve always lived with a habit of spending money that I don’t have, and always entirely too quickly. So I was ready to have fun. You see, I was raised poor. I moved around a lot. I have an inkling that YOLO was firmly tattooed in my head as a baby, albeit subconsciously. So sure enough, by day 7 of my 10 day vacation, I involuntarily put myself on the Brokens Diet – a special meal plan consisting of Crunchwrap Supremes and McChickens. Anything left over was obviously saved for booze and hookers. Minus the hookers. Either way, we had the time of our life.

laudi nude beach

Found Captain America’s favorite hang out spot – he was rockin’ his USA G-String

While I seriously lack the grownup ability called saving money, I must have a sixth sense for limiting a budget. I started my vacation with $600 in my pocket. 9 days later, I’m on a red-eye back to Boston, not sure I have enough dough to afford the train ride from Logan back to my place. That’s $2.50. I was flying in at 6am with no Brokens backup plan. I figure that’s pretty pathetic from most peoples’ perspective. But that’s why most people are boring. I didn’t care because it would have figured itself out, either way, as life always does.

I did make make it back with a whopping $7 to throw around. I feasted on a dinner of pasta and beans in a jazzed up ketchup sauce, paired with a glass of Charles Shaw Cabernet. And a beer for desert. And I was winning.

Why? Because I always put myself out there. I treasure the story over the money. I’ll thirst for new experiences, unafraid of potential embarrassment or failure. I’ll celebrate life in the midst of craziness. It may come from my upbringing, but it’s my journey, personally and professionally. I value uncomfortable situations because they teach me something. I take incredibly outlandish risks that few seem to understand. And I make mistakes, but I also learn. Isn’t walking down a winding road so much more interesting and fulfilling than trudging along a straight and narrow path? Ultimately, I believe in unconventional wisdom rather than conventional wisdom. And it’s worked out, and it’s quite possibly the reason I am where I am today.

Dylan Shotgun

Drink your beer unconventionally – shotgun it! You my boy, Dylon

3 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, My Personal Journey

Hi my name is Igor and I fight the good fight. You can too.

Now that I’ve announced my return from writing retirement, let’s address the elephant in the room. What the hell am I up to nowadays? Well, one thing in particular absorbs about 150% of my awake time. The beast of burden? The one and only Bootstrap Compost. I live it. I breathe it. It smells like compost. I figure I should to tell you a bit more about it, and how I got here, and some other personal tidbits to fill the gaps.

Boothead

Saving the world one Bootstrap bucket at a time. BIG thank you to all our subscribers!

[puts on corporate hat] Hi my name is Igor Kharitonenkov and I am co-founder and Vice President of Bootstrap Compost (BSC). BSC is a residential and commercial food scrap pickup service founded in Boston in January 2011. Our mission is to collect organic material and redistribute it to area farms for the sake of composting. Every day, we divert hundreds of pounds of food scraps from landfills, and in the process, help create a valuable resource for the local food community by creating a safe, nutrient rich, all natural soil amendment. All told, we serve to empower individuals and families by building a community around composting. To date, serving over 450 subscribers, we’ve diverted nearly 200,000 pounds of compostable material from landfills. As VP, I spearhead business development.

[takes off corporate hat] You’ll have to excuse me, but I can’t explain the trajectory, even to myself. I went from an unemployed, grad-school dropout. I was a depressed blogger, a guy whose alarm clock was set to double digits, only so I could get up to write in my pajamas. In many ways, I was a bleeding-heart liberal looking for a solution in a society that seemed apathetic to solutions. And here I am, co-founding a popular, market-proven and growing green startup company, making a real impact in our community. And we’re really doing it. Our clients, the press, fellow entrepreneurs, they love us. The plants love us. It’s really too fucking much to think about. I’ll psychoanalyze later.

MC2012 reception

Bootstrap Compost took part in MassChallenge 2012 as finalists! Pictured at the reception.

Just today, I found myself on a panel at Harvard speaking about social entrepreneurship. I know what you’re thinking, but c’mon I gotta name drop, it’s Harvard. And they gave me a sweet pen for participating. Which means I feel like a made man, Goodfellas style. Anyway, I was asked about the mentality of succeeding as an entrepreneur. My advice? Fake it until you make it. It’s what I said and it got a good laugh. But I’m not selling myself short, this is relevant. I told the story of my friend who cheated on every test in college. He got a degree without putting in half the work. He’s now a successful businessman. I don’t endorse this by any means. I believe in an honest day’s work. But my friend has serious charisma and can sell you fire in hell. As for me, I’m not as naturally gifted. But maybe I was in the right place at the right time. Maybe it was my hard work. I think it was a combination, but mostly, it was good attitude and a hope that just one day, maybe one day, I’d be able to prove that yes, I do in fact have some talents to offer this real world. It was a fight and I had my doubts. I got depressed. But I knew a better day would come. I faked that good day, until I got there. I’m still, in many ways, getting there.

Harvard pen

This pen? Gold. Totally worth sharing my opinions with undergrads at Harvard

To those who know me best, I’ve always been a believer in that cliche JFK quote, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Living in the United States with a college degree in hand, I’m like in the top 5% of the global population. I pretty much have a golden ticket, no matter what happens, so I’m doing what I set out to do: fight the good fight in the name of mother nature. And I’m making a living doing it.

 

3 Comments

Filed under My Personal Journey

Leaving a PhD Program: Part 3 – From Stress to Success

It wasn’t too long ago when it felt like my world was spinning out of control; when the pressures of life turned the mumbo-jumbo in my head into a full fledged jambalaya.  It happened when the initial rush of leaving my PhD program subsided and my eyes got tired of staring into the unknown.  It happened when I spent two long and lonely months in my apartment updating my resume, filling out endless cover letters, and writing freelance while coming dangerously close to developing a mild case of agoraphobia.  It happened when my stint working part time with the Census was over and the reality of my empty piggy bank confronted me; or when I realized I was alone in my journey and

“Standing on a hill in the mountain of dreams, telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.” – Robert Plant

the problems I would have to solve were my own.  I made the decision to leave grad school so I lived with the consequences.  Still, the instability I lived under was threatening my sanity.  Here I was, in Boston, barely covering rent, without a job, and few friends to turn to.  The pressure was slowly building upon me.  I wondered, was I heading for a catastrophic collapse?

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, My Personal Journey

Leaving a PhD Program: Part 2 – Pursuing the American Dream

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve left neuroscience graduate school to pursue a new career.  My journey is currently facing the double edge sword brought about by change.  Early on, I quickly realized that with avid support comes great cynicism.  Handshakes and hugs are equaled by looks of misunderstanding and intimidation, and admiration is met with jealousy.  And yet every morning I face the world with a smile, my head held high as I keep on truckin’, because after all, America assures us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Bobby Kennedy

My biography is about as unorthodox as the trail that I’m currently blazing.  Born in Moscow (Russia), my family and I moved to Munich (Germany) at the age of 4.  I spent my golden years of childhood there, years that pass too quickly we can all agree.  Before my 10th birthday I was back in a foreign land, finding myself outcast, deaf and mute to my English speaking surroundings – welcome to America! Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, My Personal Journey

Leaving a PhD program: Part 1 – Are you crazy???

On March 19th, 2010, I finally parted ways with the world of science and academia.  After 8 months of doubt, deliberation, and debilitation, the chains of an unpleasant and unhappy future were broken.  For the first time, I find myself in the great unknown, but my dreams are in sight.  I hope my story inspires lost souls to look up at the stars and believe it’s possible to pursue their passion.

Flash back to spring 2009.  I am 21 years old, about to graduate college, and I’m looking ahead at the fork in the road of my life.  Where to go?  What to do?  At the time, attending graduate school in neuroscience made perfect sense.  I was graduating from Indiana University with a degree in psychology and a certificate in neuroscience. I worked in a cocaine addiction lab at IU, and I also interned in the pharmaceutical industry at Eli Lilly.  I had the experience.  On top of that, graduate programs in medical sciences typically pay PhD candidates to go to school.  It’s a great deal; they pay full tuition, offer a healthy stipend, and provide free health insurance.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I needed financial stability because my girlfriend and I decided that we would remain together as we moved to a new place.

I never did much soul searching in college.  Maybe the social life of a Big 10 school kept me distracted from figuring myself out, maybe I wasn’t far enough away from home Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, My Personal Journey