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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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The McCourt Report

You can’t do everything. You can’t please everyone. You can’t hug every cat. Few things in this life are certain. What is certain are these fundamental truths. Allow me to impart some advice for students, laypeople and all whose eyes shall grace this page, student presidents included: life is about priorities. It’s about determining which tasks, goals and people are important, and doing your best to complete/achieve/support/cuddle them. Stuff gets complicated when you (or others) decide other things are also important, and must too be your focus. Things start to slip, and original goals fall by the wayside when you try to please everybody.

If you’re new to uni, then you might have learnt this lesson the hard way: spending too much time hungover to get good grades on your assignments, or getting distracted by a certain someone, or something (YouTube cat videos… Amirite?). If you’re like me, family and friends are really important (see picture). Pleasing them and building those relationships might mean going broke travelling home, or refusing to cancel that hang-out despite a shit-tonne of work you need to get through. If you’re a super-busy person, or a chronic overachiever, then prioritising can be your own worst enemy.

Here’s a tip: if everything is important, then nothing can be. Make time for the most important things, and remind yourself that you can’t do everything.

This is something I find I have to remind myself everyday. Being in a position like the one I’m in, I’m not short on advice or, er… direction. Everyone wants me, and VUWSA, to head in their direction, support their initiative, or fund their hobby horse. Constant demand and criticism can be difficult, but the key thing to remember is that you can’t please everyone. Priorities have to be set, and choices have to be made. There’s just no way around it, so choose those people wisely.

Remembering your priorities is essential, especially on bad days. A healthy dose of perspective is also helpful. Say your special someone dumps you over Snapchat, or you get a C for an important essay. Ask yourself: “will this really matter in a year’s time? Ten years?” Often the answer is, in the voice of Consuela, the cleaning lady off Family Guy, “No”. That’s because the small things are insignificant with the passing of time.

Learning to let go is crucial to getting through life, and through Uni. Lobsters know this. It is said that they are ‘biologically immortal’. Supposedly, they get more fertile with age, and add new muscle cells at each molt. Aside from getting eaten, attacked or falling off a sea cliff, lobsters are said to live forever (or up to 50 years). Do you think these cray crustaceans have the emotional energy to worry about every fuck-up, let-down or passive-aggressive text? Hardly. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If that was the case, then who wants to live forever?

Instead, we, lobsters included, have to go back to those priorities. In the heat of the moment, every view can seem like it matters, like it’s the most important and life will end if you don’t follow that person’s advice. If you’re in a tough place, with tough decisions to be made, you’re not going to be popular with everyone. Not everyone will like you, or share those priorities. Accept that. Try to share your vision with them, but accept that they have their own pressures.

This is especially the case when you’re in a relationship with someone at a different place in their life. Different priorities, different vision of the relationship. Or it can be the case if you’re a student association, trying to retain partnership with a university while achieving a plethora of other goals and relationships. Management sometimes has different priorities from us as students, and a different vision about what VUWSA should be doing. That’s okay, we need to learn to accept that difference –and keep remembering what our priorities are, solely in the service of students. No one else has those priorities.

I think in my job as President, I will get criticised for many things, and many of these criticisms will be fair cop. The one thing I hope, in time, I get acknowledged for is having the right priorities: standing up for student voice, making Vic a more vibrant place and getting a better deal for students. Even within these priorities, choices have to be made. Tough choices. Right now, your Student Exec is going through a budget process, experiencing making those choices first-hand. Across New Zealand, students’ associations are in dire financial straits, with service contracts with our universities failing to cover all costs. VUWSA is no different, and something has to go. Not all of our decisions will be popular, but it will be remembering our priorities that get us through.

Because you can’t hug every cat.

PS Good luck for exams. Prioritise that study, and pop along to our Stress-Free Study Week free breakfasts every morning at Kelburn, Pip and Te Aro. Better living everyone.

Rory xo

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