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MIT student blogger Connie H. '15

stepping back by Connie H. '15

on keeping your priorities straight

Recently I considered sprinkling (read: coating) ramen powder on saltines for a meal, hoping to recreate Chicken in a Biskit to slowly saturate myself with sodium and MSG.

It was not one of my better days.

Thanksgiving break finished off a stressful week. After waking up from a pie induced coma, I spent the last few days working on those things I put off for “when I have more time” — sleep, for one, but mostly art.

Two hours of bliss in Photoshop, above. Shameless plug: I’ll be selling prints soon.

Long weekends always kill me. They are a gift, but also a sharp reminder of how easy it is to pass a day without making the most of it.

I decided to draw. Expressing myself through color and bad Photoshop layer effects is so paramount in my life that it surprises others and myself when I admit that I haven’t been doing it as much as I’d like to. I’ve managed to put this aside with a million reasons. I should be working. I could be sleeping. I should probably go scavenge for real food.

Lately it’s been easy to put off what I’d prioritize on any given Sunday morning — right now the time I spend working could be spent on soaking up the sun and watching inane animations of cats doing people things. And that scared me a little bit.

If you’re Facebook friends with anyone between the ages of 11 and 9000, you may have seen this story — and liked it, because you thought it was awesome that a paragraph put your life in perspective for at least 45 seconds. Here it is, if you’ve missed it:

“When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee. A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes”. The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ” I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things in life. Your God, your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions, things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.

The sand is everything else, the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.”

Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.” ”

In my moments of clarity I can ask myself what’s important to me — family, friends, health, happiness, and avoiding arteriosclerosis.

But there are times here when I forget. There are times when a lab or a pset or a test sneaks up to the top of my list. It’s hard to keep it straight. It’s easy to forget to check in–I don’t call my parents nearly enough. It’s easy to miss meals–Doritos seem like a reasonable substitute for nutrition more often than not.

So how do we remember to step back?

I couldn’t do it without the anchors in my life — my close friends, my parents, my roommate Liz (and Anji and Nicole three doors down), my sorority sisters, my actual big sister, my big, Ruby, who I can look up to, and my little, Jessica, who inspires me to hold everything together so she has a reasonably functional human being that can support her. Oh, and my boss.

And on this Thursday night I know I haven’t quite figured it out, but I’m slowly stepping back far enough to move forward in a direction where I don’t forget myself and what I love.

yes, this is my hand. no, i don't know magic. :(