Friday, November 9, 2007

The Unbalance of Balancing

Check-lists, reminder pop-ups and Franklin Covey notation on my planner, are all evidence of my effort to keep my life organized. Striving for orderly living is really my attempt at maximizing my efficiency, so that I might be able to maintain a relatively healthy work-life balance. Pre-law school, it was fairly straightforward to adhere to the rigors of my scheduling proclivities, mainly because my work schedule was predictable. In law school, and in legal scholarship, time-management becomes more art than science – making a balanced life seem elusive if not impossible (or sustainable for very long). As a “non-traditional student,” I often find myself juggling competing roles – school bleeds into home life in a way that work did not, and regrettably often, it is home life which pays the price.

The law requires, actually it demands, our full attention. To be successful in the world of legal scholarship, it seems that one must be willing to jump head-long into the depths of the law – no matter where (and when) you might emerge. The process is challenging, frustrating and invigoration all at once. The ability to immerse oneself in the abyss of legal analysis can be as blissful (or terrifying) as swimming in the expanse of the ocean. To tune into the law so completely that the pieces of the puzzle begin to take a coherent shape and solutions emerge is truly a pleasure and luxury. However, as I lose myself in the law, the bustle of life goes on around me. If I am not careful, life’s tendency towards entropy will be readily felt.

Different people have offered their advice on this issue, none of which is completely satisfying. Those in favor of prioritizing home over the law will be quick to point out that it will be my husband, not my law degree, who will cuddle up to me on the couch when we are advanced in years. I hear the argument: invest in the relationship over the degree, and it is compelling, though it gives short shrift to the simple truth that a legal career will provide a lifetime of challenge, growth and fulfillment. Others have likened the work-life balance to juggling: occasionally a ball will fall, but just pick it back up and keep juggling. While I like the analogy, I feel that there are some “balls” which simply shouldn’t be dropped. I think the balancing act is something we all must come to terms with for ourselves. For me, if possible, I should avoid juggling balls that may end up on the floor. I have found that there are some times when home must come first and there are some times that the law must come first. The principle is simple: maximize collective utility, though ascertaining how best to do this is increasingly complicated.

It’s not going to get easier. Law school has yielded an unbalance for now, but it is still far more flexible than work. Once I begin a career and have children, I am sure I will yearn for the lazy days of law school. Viewed in that light, and in the interest of efficiency, if I can learn to better balance the unbalance now, the future may look more promising.

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