Western Courier

Failing is as hard, or as easy as you want it to be

Tom Loftus

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I’m sure many of you are familiar with the tale of the ant and the grasshopper. If not, let me briefly refresh your memory: the ant, a hardworking little fellow, toils the day away laying by provisions for the upcoming winter, while the grasshopper, fun-loving little hooligan that he is, plays the day away. I’m sure you can see where this is going: Come winter, the grasshopper is cold and hungry, while the ant enjoys the rewards of a fruitful harvest.

I’d like to regale you now with an updated version of the tale, set against the backdrop of an average, everyday university.

Ashley Ant, who was thrilled to be going off to college after a final summer of fun with her friends from high school, packed her belongings in the back of her environmentally-friendly automobile, kissed her parents goodbye, and drove off to Midwestern University.

Meanwhile, Glenn Grasshopper, who never really cared about school because he got by on his good looks and attitude, threw some clothes and shoes in a duffel bag the afternoon after the big going-away kegger and took off for school after a few bowls of Marshmallow Mateys and a Jersey Shore marathon.

Ashley threw herself into the college world: floor meetings, activities, volunteer work and most importantly, schoolwork. She took time out to have fun now and then, going to a party here or there, storing up the fun times to see her through the days of studying and attending classes.

Glenn, who had always thought getting involved was a waste of valuable party time, attended classes regularly at first. After a few weeks, though, the stress of balancing homework with parties and all-night video game sessions grew to be too much. Glenn, who was rapidly gaining a reputation as a fun guy, began to skip now and then to catch up on sleep, get over a hangover or to hit the next level in his game, as well as keep up with the latest season of Jersey Shore.

Ashley ended her first semester at college with a respectable grade point average of 3.94, and had made many friends through her activities and regular attendance in classes.

Glenn’s GPA was less than spectacular, but if he worked hard the next semester, he could probably recover. Besides, lots of people had to repeat a class or two in college. It was inevitable, right?

Ashley continued to do well in classes and keep up with her activities, while enjoying the odd party now and then. Teachers were happy to see her name on their rosters, and she became the kind of student others would go to for help with their schoolwork.

Glenn tried hard for a few weeks to catch up, even going so far as to ask Ashley to tutor him, but he couldn’t forget his reputation. People were counting on him to provide good times, and who was he to deny them?

Fast-forward three years. Ashley is walking across the stage to receive her diploma, with all the honors and accolades her hard work has afforded her. After school, she will be heading off to her first job, and feels confident about her future.

Glenn never made it to the end of college, dropping out in his second year after his GPA went down the toilet. He’s been working the midnight shift at a gas station in his hometown, saving up to return to college “someday.” He still sees his old friends from college now and then, but for the most part they have all moved on with their lives.

In the future, he will apply for a job at an office, hoping that his people skills and his slight knowledge of computers will pull him through. When he walks in for the interview, Ashley will be sitting on the other side of the desk. Glenn will go home, still an attendant at a gas station, still hoping to return to college someday.

When he asks Ashley after the interview why he didn’t get the job, her answer will be simple: “We need someone who will be serious about the work, Glenn, and that’s just not you.”

Sure, maybe this fable is a little over-the-top, but going to college is no joke. As you head back to class this fall, remember why you came here in the first place. Parties will always be there, but the opportunity to prepare for and create a promising future may not.

Be smart about your studies, take advantage of resources, and above all, remember why you are here. Most likely, it’s not to tappa kegga beer.

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Failing is as hard, or as easy as you want it to be