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The Daily Eastern News

Eating an elephant just one bite at a time

Abigail Carlin, Columnist

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Once a week every spring, my high school would host “Writer’s Week.” It was a week dedicated entirely to student, faculty and guest writers, and we would all read our work and what it means to be a writer. I remember one talk, in particular, that talked about one teacher’s experience training for the Chicago Marathon. Her mantra throughout the experience was: “How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I think about this phrase often, and it seems to have originated from a man named Bill Hogan; however, the phrase has taken on a life of its own.  Any problem can be an elephant, and deciding how to approach any given problems can be a daunting task. Some problems seem so big we avoid dealing with them at all costs, which in turn, is more exhausting than dealing with it in the first place.

That is why we must eat our elephants one bite at a time.

A quintessential characteristic of the successful college student is their ability to plan ahead. Anyone who says that their best work is performed

under pressure is lying. Perhaps they can work at a faster pace than normal under pressure, or “achieve” an objective in a time frame that would otherwise seem impossible, but it is not their “best work.” It is impossible.

What I like about the elephant analogy is the promise that there is an end to every elephant. No problem is so big that it will never go away. Additionally, eating an elephant one bite at a time does not have to be scary, overwhelming, or unpleasant.

Taking one’s time with any task allows the individual to enjoy the process, or at least take enough time for the task to be done successfully. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and returning to the college universe, quality is undercut constantly by the quantity of tasks that can pile up.

I can empathize with the panic that ensues when looking at the to-do lists or the creeping of deadlines. I get it, but we are all paying a fortune to be here at Eastern. Let your journey toward a degree be the most massive, worthwhile elephant yet.

I am not heartless or void of sympathy for the person who lets it all pile up at the end of the semester. To the one who will spend 36 hours in the library, feasting on Jimmy Johns and lukewarm coffee to survive, just to turn the essays in before 11:59, I have been you before, and it is not anything to be proud of.

Being a college student is more than learning about your specific content area, for much of the experience teaches us how to be a successful and happy adult. Pushing deadlines aside is no way to live, and no way to honor the elephant that has been set before us.

We have over a month left of this semester. No matter what the task, a month is long enough. Break up your assignments into bite-sized pieces. Do a little bit of everything every day. Enjoy the research projects, absorb the notes you will be tested on and take a moment to be thankful for the opportunity to learn all the things that will help you make the most of yourself in this world.

Eating the elephant one bite at a time does not have to be a chore. In some ways, it is even a gift. Sink your teeth in and enjoy the feast. Most importantly, do not let any part of the elephant go to waste.

Abigail Carlin is a junior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or alcarlin@eiu.edu.

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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.
Eating an elephant just one bite at a time