I am not great at hiding my emotions. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. As a result, people who know me well can quickly figure out when something is wrong.

At dinner with my parents last week, it didn’t take long for my mother to ask what was bothering me. I’m convinced that she always knows when something especially good or bad has happened to me. Thankfully, she doesn’t always ask for details because she trusts that I will tell her about what’s happening in my own time.

The thing bothering me last week continues to keep me down. I feel like I exist in two lives, and they don’t seem to want to go well at the same time. I have a professional life and a personal life, and they haven’t really intersected for the past couple years.

A month ago, my personal life was going well, but my professional life had slowed down significantly. On the flip side, for the past few weeks, my professional life has been going well, by my personal life has taken a dip.

This is not a shocking problem and I am far from the first person to be facing such difficulties. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make me feel any better.

My personal life had been going well because my grandfather had been pretty healthy and I had ventured back into the world of online dating, with some initial success. Everything else in my personal life stays relatively constant.

Just life every other foray I’ve had into online dating, it only took a few weeks for me to lose all confidence in the system. Between unsolicited dick pics, 30 year old guys still trying to figure out their lives, Trump supporters, and guys just looking for something “casual”, I started dozens of conversations that all ultimately ended up the same way.

A couple friends from school found their current significant others online, so I know it’s theoretically possible; I just haven’t been so fortunate.

My professional life hit a slump while I prepared for my first committee meeting and planned out my first experiments. Since my successful committee meeting, I have had the time to start my first set of experiments. They are nothing too exciting and things in the lab rarely occur as desired/intended, but I’m happy anytime I actively have work to do. In addition, I’m really looking forward to some upcoming academic events in the next month, so I hope this positive momentum continues for at least the next month.

As I wrote about recently,  my work successes have been juxtaposed by my grandfather’s declining health. This has undoubtedly made it more difficult to celebrate when things go well in the lab. My grandfather is doing surprisingly well, and I want with every fiber of my being for him to continue to improve, but every day brings new challenges and surprises.

My inability to find a positive balance between my personal and professional lives has required more of my energy than I have to spare. I want to find a balance where both of my lives are constant and moving in a desirable direction. I am not looking for perfection, just an improved status quo.

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Posted by Megan Livingston

Ms. Livingston is a PhD student studying Biochemistry & Cell Biology at UT MD Anderson/UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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