A life lesson learned in my second year of college came from the dean of women who summoned me to her office.
"You are in line to be president of your sorority, aren't you?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, I am."
"And you are on the newspaper staff. Do you want to be editor of 'The Daily?'"
"And you've just declared a pre-med major?"
"Not only can you not do all of those things, you cannot do any two of those. The problem is time. You only get 24 hours a day. It's not enough for any human being to accomplish all the things you've set. You will have to learn to prioritize."
"You have to reduce three major goals to one."
"How am I supposed to do that?"
"It may be easier at first to decide which of these you can forfeit most easily. Do you know off-hand which one that might be?"
"Well, being president of my sorority probably will be less important to me long-term."
"You see, no one else could decide that for you. You had to be the one. All right, you have it narrowed down to the two, editor of the school paper and pre-med."
I was in a quandary. I wanted both of those things and didn't see why I couldn't juggle my time to have them both.
"Think about it," she advised. "When you decide which it will be, I want you to call and tell me."
She wanted me to make a decision--not wishy wash around about it. I was 19 years old. She'd been dean of women longer than I was old. She seemed pretty smart and talked like she'd been here and done this. So, I agreed to let her know.
Soon after that by zoology professor said his anatomy class had gotten a cadaver, a major event. He invited me to join his class in studying the body. I was flattered to be the only zool. student invited. I arrived early at the appointed place, a free-standing building near the chemistry building. It was an overly warm fall afternoon. The graduate assistant assigned to turn on the air-conditioning in the building that morning darted to unlock the door just as I arrived. He had forgotten to turn on the a/c. The body had been delivered at noon and left on the examining table in its large green bag in the stifling heat.
There was a distinct odor in the one-room building as we entered. It reminded me of dissection days in high school biology. The older student flipped on the a/c, then circled the table.
"Let's take a peek," he said.
I stepped closer as he unzipped the bag and swiped away a layer of sheeting. Exposed was a huge white woman's naked belly. The smell of her wafted up, encircling my head and invading my nostrils.
Not required to attend--there only as a guest--I hurried outside into the fresh, heated air. I skipped that rare opportunity.
That same afternoon, the supervisor of the Daily asked me to do an interview with our legendary football coach. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. The appointment had already been made and I was assigned.
Later that week, after the cadaver and the interview, I changed my major. Making a choice between dead bodies and live ones, determining how I would spend my precious 24 hours a day, turned out to be easier than I expected.
You and I make those same choices every day: how to invest the next 24 hours allotted us. Choose wisely.
Causes Sharon Ervin Supports
Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, St. Jude's Children's Hospital