Grad School: An Example of Balance

Here is a detailed example of balance in grad school that was presented at the June ASLE workshop, reprinted here with the author’s permission.

“I remember grad school as competitive and neurotic, with everyone obsessing about their work and generally bent to the task.  In this unwholesome environment, Tom H. stood out.  He was physically healthy, smart, good looking, and seemed remarkably sane.  He climbed mountains, played hockey, lived in a neat and tasteful apartment, grew basil and tomatoes in a backyard garden, and studied hard but not too hard. He never complained or put anybody down in conversation.  Intellectually, he engaged issues vigorously but could also be convinced: he was that rare thing, a truly rational person.  He focused on mainstream literature of the Renaissance and seemed generally skeptical of literary theory, although he was well-informed.  Overall, he struck me as very well-balanced and emotionally secure, something that I myself certainly was not.  He had a good sense of humor and a diverse and loyal circle of friends; I believe that he inaugurated the tradition of dinner parties where each guest would bring an offering to the evening’s entertainment, perhaps a poem to read or an instrument to play.  He got involved with one of the undergraduate colleges, coaching intramural hockey and organizing faculty-student get-togethers.  Later, when he was denied tenure despite prize-winning publications, he reinvented himself, first as a dean and then as a lawyer.”

In discussion the group derived several key tools from this story: pay attention to your bodily health, cultivate diverse friendships, get involved with undergraduate life, make room for self-nurturing activities such as gardening, cooking, or entertaining, and above all treat your career with a light but sensitive touch.

Next up:  More tools from the ASLE workshop

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