“If I hear one more person talking about the importance of maintaining a balanced life while in graduate school I’m going to…”

Steaks Burgers Stop Chicken Fish

Balance: We seek it. We work hard now to experience and enjoy it later. We want to live balanced lives. We are enamored with the concept.  So where does one find this thing we call “balance”? Does it really exist?

Lately, the whole “balance” thing has become just one more thing to add to my “To Do” list. And there aint no getting to the bottom of any graduate student’s “To Do” list, so how do we ever get to lead balanced lives while in school?  The answer, my friends, lies in the concept of the free market.

Question: If each of us were our own individual free market, would we self-regulate? Answer: Yes.

If you were looking for “the free market”, would you ever find it?  Isn’t it right there in front of you? Or all around, wherever you go?  This is how I’ve come to see the concept of balance. Would you know where to go or what you were looking for if you wanted to find it? Would you believe it if you saw it?

Maybe we can only see it when we don’t have it; when it isn’t there.

It’s easy to identify an unfree market: government regulations, income taxes, farm subsidies, tariffs on tires, just like we know an unbalanced life when we’re living it: oh the pain and anguish, the stressed, bloodshot eyes, the fast food and coffee consumption, the “just say no to invites” policy.

However, despite the prevalence of unhealthy, unsustainable practices in graduate school, I’ve come to believe that when left to our own (hypothetically) destructive devices, we end up functioning like individual miniature free markets. We may be volatile, spiking up and occasionally crashing down, we are often “all over the place”, but nevertheless self-regulating in the end.

Take last week. In the midst of  juggling a major term paper, three short assignments, four study groups, 27 bajillion pages of reading, 44 bajillion so-called “extra curricular” activities (meet the deputy prime minister of Israel! Business and GREEN club meetings, field trips, band practice, workouts), where might the invisible hand of self-regulation and life balance lead you?

Maybe it will take you to check your twitter, fb, gmail accounts. We all have our vices. Last week I downloaded an entire Stevie Wonder album and that oh-so-awesome and under- or, over-played Mario song feat. Gucci off of Itunes!  Who knows, it could even lead you to leave the whole “To Do” behind for a women’s wine and cheese night, a million mandate mixer in Harvard Square, and a post-party Ihop adventure sipping OJ and eating chocolate-chip pancakes.

You never know where the invisible hand will lead you, but trust that after a 12-hour marathon library stint, a combination of one’s physical demands and mental capacity, the limits of the market kick in and that ever-mysterious, ubiquitous and constantly moving hand will pull you to self-regulate towards some semblance of sanity – and – that thing we call balance.

Oh, how we shall savior those moments!  Because after that, it’ll pull you right back to the stacks!