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It is important to have hobbies outside of medical school or you might go mad. Fortunately, the work/life (or, well, study/life) balance is something that Ann Arbor seems to foster. Even the smartest and most serious students have activities that do not involve the library or the hospital. Sure, there are a few that seem to have caught the “med student disease” and always appear rather stressed and harried, but at Michigan sightings of that susceptible breed are few and far between. Watch out, though, since there will always be someone who studies longer than you, someone who publishes more papers than you, someone who knows more professors than you, someone who got more grants than you, and someone who got their Nobel Prize before you.

I don’t care that this whole work-life balance is something that is incessantly talked about and blogged about. It really never gets old because it never gets solved. Yes, fine, you can make some general progress. You can go after certain things; you can relax certain standards. No matter what, though, the life of a student (or anyone, for that matter) is not one that can be governed by black-and-white rules. You don’t have to always go to Happy Hour or never go to Happy Hour. You don’t have to always study on Saturday or never study on Saturday. You don’t have to always take notes or never take notes. It sounds silly, but applying this principle to more complicated issues can get tricky. How much time “should” I spend with friends? When am I going to practice music or language? How much effort do I put into correspondence with family? Why should I actually sleep eight hours some nights? How many days can I fit in a run? Do I get to keep reading so many random novels? What does it mean to achieve a “balanced” life?

It means sometimes we play cards.

It means I go to the farmers market and then cook real food in my amazing kitchen.

It means we get to go hiking outside Ann Arbor on the weekends.

Obviously no one has a perfect answer to any of these questions about balance, though. These are the kinds of things you have to ask yourself every single day. Sometimes even when you take the time to do something, you are not exactly sure of your motivation. A recent bicycle tune-up experience comes to mind. Did I really need a trip to the bike garage? Maybe not. Was it still enjoyable and marginally productive? Absolutely.

Bike guy: We’ve had a lot of students this month, but the semester hasn’t started.

Me: Maybe they were also medical students, since we don’t follow university semesters.

Bike guy: Oh, are you a medical student? So you will be the Class of 2015?

Me: Well, med school is four years.

Bike guy: So Class of 2016?

Me: Ummmm, the thing is, actually…nevermind. Anyways, advice on where to ride? I know there is a bike trail that goes through Gallup Park, but I haven’t figure out how to get near there by road on a bike.

Bike guy: How do you know Gallup?

Me: Well, when I run through the Arb, I cut across the train tracks where it says “No Trespassing” and I always end up on the bike trail.

Bike guy: And you don’t want a kickstand?

Me: [look of repulsion and lack of interest at dorky accessory like kickstand]

Bike guy: [trying to decide if I am snobby or impractical or both]

Me: [awkward shifting of eyes and feet]

Bike guy: Do you swim too?

Me: Sort of. I used to. Kind of.

Bike guy: So you need a bike that would work for your future triathlons.

Me: Oh?