As a senior here at the College of William and Mary, I still look back on my high school memories with fondness for both my teachers and for all the lessons that they taught me in terms of school curricula as well as navigating life.
One story in particular always sticks out to me, and it’s something I try to remember every day of college as a way to be productive without losing myself to my work. On the first day of sophomore year of high school, my English teacher, Mr. Lopez, handed out a piece of paper, and he read it aloud to the class. It is a story that has been told countless times under many different names, so I’m not sure which exact version he used, but I’m going to call it “Golf Balls, A Mayonnaise Jar, and Coffee,” which you can read for yourself at this link.
In the story, a professor stands in front of his class with an empty jar of mayonnaise, golf balls, pebbles, sand and two cups of coffee. First, he puts the golf balls into the jar and asks the class if the jar is full. They respond that it is. Then he adds the pebbles, which fill into the cracks, and he asks the same question. They respond that it is full again. Then he adds the sand, gets the same answer, and lastly adds the coffee to truly fill it to the brim.
The lesson he is trying to teach his students is that you should always prioritize what is most important in your life — the golf balls, in this case — so that you can ensure there’s enough room for them. Then, the smaller things that are still valuable to you can trickle into the cracks. And of course, there’s always time to grab a cup of coffee with a friend.
The story is admittedly pretty cheesy, especially the more you hear it, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. As it turns out, Mr. Lopez read that story to all of his classes on the first day of school, as well as to all the parents on every back to school night. So, after taking two more English electives with him, I was definitely rolling my eyes a little with my classmates. Despite the humor of the repetition, the lesson is undeniable.
Right when you get to college, your schedule is immediately challenged. You’re signing up for classes trying to figure out how much you should take on, you’re at the activities fair deciding which and how many extracurriculars to join, all while starting to make friends. It’s easy to fall to either extreme: over committing yourself or not using enough of your time wisely.
I was definitely torn while trying to figure out which organizations to join. I remember imagining that these would be where I’d meet friends and spend my free time for all four years of college, and being stressed when some of those clubs weren’t what I thought they would be. I would recommend putting your name down for a few different listservs, some for clubs that align with your interests, and maybe also try something new with your hallmates. You don’t have to keep going to every single one, and you can choose what you like from there. An important tip to remember is that it’s great to get experience through your extracurriculars that you can use later in life, but it’s also important to remember that the organizations you join are supposed to allow you to have a nice break from classes instead of adding more stress to your life.
For me, besides classes (which are my golf balls and should probably be yours too), The Flat Hat and Flat Hat Magazine are incredibly important to me. They’re a way of socialization for me, and they also are a way to build my skillset as a marketing and English double major through writing, designing, leadership, organizational and interpersonal skills. I know that I need to set aside time each week for these responsibilities. Then, I’m a part of a couple of other organizations, such as the literary magazine The Gallery and Active Minds, which I attend when I can, but I know that I need to make sure I have the time available. And recently, I’ve been pushing myself to say yes to more activities that are “just for fun,” because what is life without some fun? There’s always time for a laugh, no matter what you have coming up. Pro tip: if you know someone with a car, the Cookout drive-thru is a really great way to blow off some steam, laugh with friends and get your junk-food-fix when you’re suffering from a bit of burnout.
Alyssa Slovin ‘22 is an English and marketing double major. Besides her work at The Flat Hat as Opinions Editor and Flat Hat Magazine as Editor-in-Chief, she is involved in Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, The Gallery and Active Minds. Email Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org.