How to divvy up life? (I am asking not telling.)

Katie Sloter

Katie Sloter

Kurt Vonnegut said something to the effect of “Please notice when you are happy, so you can say to yourself ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

I am happy. However, I am feeling a sense of urgency, somewhat. I cannot believe it is the second semester of this year. There is so much I want to get in this life. A year in Uganda perhaps, two in El Salvador? Medical school, maybe five or six years working for Doctors Without Borders? Don’t forget that year in Italy to learn to cook, and maybe a family and/or motorcycling from Alaska to Chile?

I know this can be a stressful time for you—second years thinking about the immediate future. First years figuring out living arrangements for next year, juggling jobs and school and trying to find a (funded!) internship. The things we are doing now are in preparation for the coming years. The people we invest in, the jobs we choose, the internships we pick—it all matters a bit more now.

Time has somehow changed from a vague concept of something untouchable and mysterious, to something becoming more formed and planned. Which is good. Sobering, but good. In the best case scenario, I get 79.9 years, the average life span for a woman in the United States. What is worthy of this time? Investing in mind, spirit, or the creative things?

As I look around at you, my lovely classmates, I am amazed at how you will use your time. How much potential, and opportunity, sits in this room? Maybe 40 desks, three or four people per desk. How many teachers, coaches, sisters, pastors, parents, friends gave encouragement? “You will be great, I just know. You can be and do whatever you want to, I just know. You, my dear, will change the world. You must know this one for yourself, I think.”

So all the connections formed, all the pathways, all the investment of time and hope, and the hopes of people you might not even intend to affect are waiting to be used. Even as time is becoming more planned, we still have the freedom of how to apply what we are learning here. There is still freedom—and freedom makes me happy, and possibility, and a continued totipotency throughout life.  If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

In the best-case scenario, I get 57 more years. How do we use the freedom well, so at the end we have lived with honor? How do we divvy the time and investment, of all the worthy things, of every person that waits, how do we decide which ones are most important and where to direct attentions?

3 thoughts on “How to divvy up life? (I am asking not telling.)

  1. Hi Katie,

    First of all, I’d just like to thank you for this wonderful and inspirational post! You are indeed a fantastic writer!

    I found this blog during my current (hectic) research into public health schools. I’ve just received my offer for MPH in HBHE here at UMich (I’m very excited about this!), and I’m currently deciding between Michigan and Emory (waiting on a few other schools, too). It’s so nice to know that such a blog exists, even for prospective students like myself. I used to also write regularly for a similar Student Life Blog at the University of Toronto, which is where I’m finishing my undergraduate studies right now. It’s amazing to be on the receiving end for once, and to realize what a difference these posts make to ease the minds of anxious students! I was extremely torn between the two schools, because deciding on one seems like such a heavy decision with equally heavy consequences. But this post has definitely helped to put things into perspective for me. So thank you!

    Take care,

  2. Hello there Lucy!
    It is so good to hear from you, your comment was very kind and I am glad you felt encouraged in some way. I felt the same way, and sometimes still do with big decisions. However, I am very happy at Michigan, and it is nice to know that in the end you have a win-win choice in front of you. If you ever have any questions for me, please feel free to email me at, and I’ll try and answer what I can.

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