How Do You Eat An Elephant?

During my senior year at Georgetown, I was constantly feeling overwhelmed. Scratch that. I felt defeated. There was homework (and lots of homework). And group projects (many, many group projects). And looming graduation and unemployment. And one thousand and one meetings in the city. And yeah, well that was a lot.
One of my friends (who received the grunt of my exhaustion) would Skype with me every night. Just as I was near hysteric tears, he would ask me… “Carly, how do you eat an elephant?” It started to really annoy me every time he asked me that dumb question.
But he was right.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
An elephant might seem impossible to eat (okay, gross… no one actually eats elephants), but when you take it one step (errr bite) at a time, you can. Seemingly impossible tasks become doable when they’re broken up into small, measurable, and purposeful tasks.
Remember how I mentioned that our trip to Nantucket took 26 hours? Well it really was complicated trying to figure out the logistics once Plan A didn’t work.
Here’s what ultimately happened:
We flew all the way to Nantucket, circled around the island for a bit, and then had to fly back to the city because we couldn’t land due to too much fog.
No big deal, let’s get on the next flight to Nantucket. But then there were no seats on flights to Nantucket until Tuesday. So we weighed our options and decided to get to Boston, where Emily’s family lives. But we couldn’t get on the earlier flight so we were on a 9something flight. Which really didn’t leave until after midnight. (Oh, and Emily’s mom was waiting at the airport and we still hadn’t taken off.) So we finally get to Boston and literally have no idea what to do next. So we book a hotel. (Hotel Tonight is a lifesaver.) We try to figure out how to get from the hotel to Hyannis to take the ferry.
Ultimately, there was a shuttle to the airport, a bus to Hyannis, a shuttle to the ferry, and the ferry to the island.
When we were standing in the airport in NYC without a plan, getting to Nantucket seemed impossible. But we took it one step at a time.
It was definitely a little frustrating at times, but we were all in good spirits and it was kind of fun not really knowing what to do next. (But actually, it was like a weird adventure from a movie.) Plus we had iPhones. Yay for smartphone technology 😉
The best part? Once we got some iced coffee and changed into our bathing suits, it felt like we hadn’t just spent 26 hours traveling at all.
Next time you have something that is so big it seems quite impossible… ask yourself, “How do you eat an elephant?”
When was the last time something seemed impossibly difficult? How did you handle it?

PS I repeat this in my head a lot, but I also repeat “This too shall pass”! Both are great for trying to get through frustrating scenarios.
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I really like this way of thinking! I'm going back to college in a few weeks. I'll be studying, work at my job, be involved in my sorority, and possibly a few other big things. It's a lot to handle each week, but this is a great way to look at tackling all of it! Thank you!


This is such a cute post! So glad you finally made it. I've had trouble getting to Nantucket, too, haha. It can be really tiring and exhausting… but in the end, always worth it. (Nothing like stopping at Juice Guys or Stars Ice Cream for a pick-me-up!) Hope you had a great time!!

Today, my husband and I were traveling back home to NYC from our honeymoon in Vieques and Culebra. WOO. It was a rough one! We left our hotel at 8 a.m. (not bad), waited in a gas line (because there's only ONE GAS STATION ON THE ISLAND?!) for an hour, dropped off the rental car, had a rental car person drive us to the ferry, and waited for the ferry for three hours. Because it was 2.5 hours late. Goodness! When the ferry finally showed up, it was a cargo ferry. They let us on, but we had to sit in the sun for two hours, and I'm a vampire. I was sooo good throughout the entire honeymoon–50 sunblock every day!–but got a horrific sunburn on the ferry, haha. Oh well. When we got to the mainland, we had to wait for another 45 minutes because a police dog sniffed something suspicious. So, of course, all the passengers had to line up to get sniffed. We managed to get a cab to the airport, but the cabbie tried to charge us $160! (Long story, but she was definitely in the wrong, haha.)

Needless to say, I wasn't too happy. But once at the airport, things got better. We got pizza and coffee (always makes me happier!), and settled in for the long commute home. (Why are NYC airports so far away from Manhattan?!) Having great company (and an ipod) helped too! 🙂

Anyway, your post made me feel a lot better! Thanks for sharing! 🙂




Carly, thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now! I have so much on my plate for the next several months and I've been in a state of perpetual panic lately. Just like you, I need to remember to take everything one step/bite at a time.


This is exactly what I needed at the moment! I'm almost 20, and about to be a Junior in college, and this summer I've been interning at a production company and working at a clothing store. I'm only working at the clothing store because my internship is unpaid. I've been feeling extremely stressed all summer trying to balance both jobs, my social life, going to the gym, quite-time, and all of the components that make up my life. It's been getting to a seriously overwhelming point, and this post really just helped me calm down! I'm going to think about the idea of "how do you eat an elephant" for the rest of the week and try and break up all the things I have on my plate into smaller steps. thanks!

Vera Nicole

I can definitely relate to you on this article. I went to St Thomas last fall for a wedding and it took me about the same time to arrive as well. The delay was insane. But in the end the trip was wprth it and I had a great time! I know you did too! Glad you eventually made it to your final destination! xo


What an adventure!! It once took me two and a half days to get from SC to Tel Aviv and a total of six days to get my luggage!

For future reference, there is a train called the Cape Flyer from Boston South Station to Hyannis. It's $35 round trip or $20 one way. It doesn't run too many times on the weekends, but it's better than the traffic!


I love this saying! I was really stressed out this past week as I had over scheduled myself; but when I found this saying I just took a step back and took one step at a time!



I would just like to let you know how inspirational you are and that you are honestly my role model. I'll be a junior in high school and have so so much AP summer work and even the thought of the upcoming most important year gets me worked up. Thank you for always offering such great advice here on your blog, the way you compose yourself on here seems just like we are talking as friends and it is so comforting. Keep up the wonderful blog!

3 Peanuts

I love this. I would like to know how you have become so wise at such a young age Carly? I am eating an elephant right now as my hubby and I purge years of collected stuff in an effort to simplify our lives. Our house is rather organized and clean as it is but it is big and we were keeping a lot of stuff merely because we had the space and it seemed overwhelming to go room by room getting rid of stuff. But we are doing exactly that one bit at a time and it feels great. Thanks…now I need to get back to purging:)

Shelby Revis

I'm heading into my senior year of college and am graduating a year early. I can totally relate to the feeling of impending doom; there's so much to do before graduation and yet I have no idea what I'm going to do after I receive my diploma! On top of that, I have to do an internship before I graduate and that has yet to be decided.

Although it sounds a little silly, I think that concept of "eating an elephant" really makes sense. It's overwhelming when you think of all the things that need to be done, but if you do a little bit at a time, it will be over before you know it. I'm going to do my best to enjoy senior year and not let every little thing stress me out.


Jessica Joyce

Getting lost is always an adventure, and it always results in great stories like yours! My tip for times like that is definitely to make sure I'm not hungry. Many times, people get frustrated when their stomachs are empty LOL. But when everyone has the energy to go, then things will get accomplished. It's all about the mindset! And a map helps.
Your Friend, Jess

Madeline Cavalier

I really enjoyed this post!! Even though it's still summer, I'm stressing out to finish my summer reading and assignments, I'm worried about the upcoming year in general. Now I have two great phrases to get me through the most important year of high school! I'm going to make this my wallpaper so I can remind myself of this when it's midnight and I still haven't reviewed material for a supper important test the next day (plus the Lilly print is supper cute!). I really really love your blog! I love reading your blog when I need a pick me up or just whenever!! I really look up to you and really hope that in a few years I'll be just like you!!

Megan Bos

This is such a great example and really puts into words what I learned when studying abroad! Before living out side the US I would get really stressed out if something didn't go as planned or I had to much on my plate that I was working with.

Studying abroad really helped me to see things differently. Nothing puts things into perspective like trying to find your hostel in a new european city that doesn't speak a language you know late at night. You learn that everything will work out- and stressing or worrying about the outcome does not help the situation at all!

Turns out getting lost was one of the best things that could happen to me- helps you not to stress and enjoy the ride!


Carly I'm always reading your blog looking to see what clothes you wear, etc. but I have to tell you something…all you ever seem to do these days is bitch about how busy you are. Honey you are preaching to the choir. We read your blog or any blog to just be entertained and not to listen to constant complaining. We are all busy as hell…so could you soften that element? Thanks!


I just finished my second week of an intensive fashion design program, and I've definitely been feeling overwhelmed and defeated. It is so much more work than I had imagined, and was not prepared at all. I think I'm going to start saying that in my head as well…