Each morning I wake up filled with excitement and determination to finish everything that I have meticulously planned the night before. I have my morning coffee, move my body for an hour or so, and then head into the lab. 8 to 10 hours fly by with experiments and meetings. My energy level is usually buzzing because of all the things I am eager to accomplish with my work. As soon as I leave the building and set out to go home, the adrenaline rush that fuels me suddenly halts and I am exhausted. My feet drag, one step after the next as I make my way home. I have just enough energy to greet my boyfriend with a warm embrace, catch him up with my day, and start preparing dinner for the both of us. By the time we finish eating, I am ready for bed.
And this cycle repeats. Monday to Friday. Each day starts off with high energy levels, excitement, and carries on throughout the day. This is what it’s like to do something that you’re passionate about. I am most myself in the walls of the lab, when I am wearing a lab coat and plotting and planning my next experiments. As soon as I leave, the energy leaves me as well. Weekends are for resting, for a chance to shut off my brain and not think. For sleeping 12 plus hours, for pause.
Before grad school I was a creature of adventure, always yearning interaction with other people and seeking out new things. But now, nearing the end of the second year of my PhD, I yearn for early bed times and solitude.
So how do I explain this to my family and friends? That I am actually extremely happy? My family looks at me with pity and worry, wondering why I am exhausted every time I come home from the weekends. That’s all they see, a drained daughter, a tired sister. They never get to see the best version of me when I am amidst my experiments. My friends wonder why I never respond and why I am so lifeless when I do buckle up and stay up past my 9 pm bedtime.
They don’t tell you about how your life will revolve around the research. They don’t tell you about how the number of people you can relate to shrinks as the rest of your friends start their lives. They don’t tell you about how you run out of things you have in common with your friends that are not in grad school because your experiments become your life. And most importantly, they don’t tell you that you would never have it any other way.