Here it is, 2 months into 2008 and this is to be the year I figure out balance. Much to my utter astonishment, I am leading a really nicely balanced life this semester. I can't take all the credit, but I can take some. Here's the story.
My three courses, the normal grad school load, do not insist on insane amounts of reading and writing. There's plenty of reading so far, but not too much. I have time for it, plus time to think about it and talk with people about it and relate it to other things. Much more like what I really want a grad school experience to include. All three are interesting, and I'm having fun with my ethnography fieldwork, and I'm able to spend plenty of time contemplating my dissertation topic and have several opportunities to get feedback on my ideas. It seems easy this semester.
But that's just part of it. The other part is that I make deliberate choices each day to do other things that don't relate to school. I've been (knock on wood) regularly exercising in the mornings before I get going on other things, reviewing French (watching French in Action episodes), taking breaks and meals in the garden, visiting with friends (lunches, coffee, drinks after work), doing a bit of backyard birding (I have a pretty unusual backyard with a high cliff overlooking a creek, and a lot of interesting birds wander into visual and auditory range), spending time with my mom. In short, I've been doing things that make life rich and rewarding and studying is a part of that, but not all of it.
And then there's work. That is limited to 10 hours a week, and it's well-correlated with my studies. Admittedly, it runs over an hour or so from time to time. But it does not, cannot, get out of hand because I just can't give it any more time than that, and I don't.
It makes me think that maybe this was within the realm of the possible all along but I sure didn't feel that way in any year up until this one. I think it mostly comes down to not having that one thing that, of its nature, pushes everything else to the margins. That's really the secret, and I just have always had that thing that took too much, or to which I gave too much. Either way, it was never balanced, and this year it is.