If you fail to prepare, you're preparing to fail.


“If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”

“If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”

If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.


Living each day, in all aspects of life, is in a sense like preparing for tomorrow. Everything you do today will somehow either make or break the day you have tomorrow. And tomorrow, well that is nothing more than a test to see just how well you prepared. Have a test? How well did you study last night? College football game day on Saturday? That’s nothing more than two teams preparing for one another, and testing out the skills that they’ve practiced all week. Everything you do in life is in preparation for what is about to come. And you never truly know what is to come; I mean, after all, it is the future, and nobody knows what the future holds. But it can certainly be said that if you do not prepare well in advance, you will most certainly not do well when it comes time to take the test.

Such is the case with me. The Haiti internship, the big Emergency Management internship designed specifically for juniors and some seniors at my school, was being offered again this year. Ever since I heard about this internship, I have wanted to take part in it. I thought it would be so cool to go to another country; albeit, it looks like downtown Syria in some areas, I still wanted to be able to say that I did it, and that I made a difference. I could put it on my resume and show it off to the world, “I WENT TO HAITI! LOOK AT ME!” it would have proclaimed. I mean, granted, I would have had no communication with my parents, my girlfriend, or any of my buddies for a month, and sure, I had to take malaria pills every day, but it was an adventure, and I was up for it. Yeah, I thought about doing other internships just in case; I knew the possibility of me not going. There were 13 interested individuals, and there were only 8 spots open. I had to be one of the best. And I thought I was.

Without further ado, the professor in charge of the internship, a retired Captain from the Coast Guard said that he would be interviewing all of those interested for the trip. Captain Lennon, a true man of his word; I’ve always admired him a lot. He’s the kind of guy that pushes you beyond belief in class, but makes it interesting all the time. He never uses power points, thank God, because everyone else does, and it just makes things pointless after a while. He sticks to his guns, and he’s not easily persuaded in either direction. When he makes a decision, he goes with it. In complete contrast to me, he’s never been the kind of guy to reflect on and wonder if he made the right decision.

I wound up scrapping an interview slot with him. It was later than everyone else’s, but that was only because he held the sign-up sheet right smack dab when I was in class; by the time I got to it, the list was already signed up. A couple of days passed, and it was time for my interview. I came prepared with a notebook, my resume, and a couple of questions and answers I had thought up along the way. He started off the interview by asking me about myself; I am in his class, but he has not had me before, so he doesn’t really know me all that well. I dove in a little bit, and then he asked me.

“What’s your GPA?”

Shit. Shit. Shit, fuck, God damn it, you cocksucking, motherfucking piece of God awful shit. Shit.

“A 2.7 Sir.”

Now a 2.7 isn’t terribly horrendous, given some of the other grades I’ve seen at this school, but it’s most definitely not where I’m capable of being. A 2.7 is like a C++; in other words, a 79.5, that way it can round up to a B-. And a 2.7, while it’s better than some of my friends, is not where he expects Emergency Management kids to be either.

“Why is it so low?”

“Well, I probably didn’t take advantage of too many opportunities when I was a freshman Sir.”

“Mhmm. You got a pretty bad grade on my test the other day. What happened?”

“Well, I had a paper I had to write the same night, so I didn’t really get a chance to study.”

“How long did you study?

“Probably about an hour Sir.”

Ha! An hour. Chances are, I probably studied about 15 minutes at best. That paper? I didn’t start it until around 2230. And it was an easy 1 page paper that could’ve taken me about 20 minutes tops to write, but I kept getting distracted with Facebook. That, my friends is why I got a 47 on the test.

The interview continued, and it got better along the way, but at the end of it, he looked me straight in the eye and told me that there were good things and bad things that he saw in me. Not bad things personally, but a 2.7 GPA doesn’t exactly portray a sense of maturity and taking initiative for schoolwork, and being in a country that is filled with disease, rabid dogs, and probably some crazy locals, he didn’t know if he could trust me. And I don’t blame him.

So I was nervous. He told me there were 3 spots available for the trip, 4 at the utmost if he couldn’t get a business kid to go. So while I still had a shot, it was a long shot. I walked away kind of feeling like I was the Manu Ginobli on the San Antonio Spurs.

But I made sure I took care of my shit and went about my business. I tried my best to stay on task and get my work taken care of, and I obviously handed in any assignments I needed to. But then yesterday came.

To put it simply, yesterday was a clusterfuck. I was getting prepared to go to his class, when about an hour before; I get a phone call from the Admissions department saying that I was running late for a tour, a tour that I knew nothing about. If I missed the tour, I would lose my rank in the regiment. Being all flustered about it, I sprinted down there, and gave what was probably a very shitty tour. And it cut into half of the class time. I came back furious, because I was signed up for something that I knew nothing about, and handled the matter with my boss. While I was extremely happy about how it turned out, the fact of the matter was, I still missed his class.

Later that day, I’m on my way to cross country practice when I hear behind me, “Mr. Aldrich!” Thinking it was one of the freshmen I’m in charge of, I turned around, only to find my teacher. He asked me why I didn’t go to his class, and I gave him the whole story, with no bullshit included. He said it was okay, and went about his business. I told him I would send him an email with all the details again, and he said that was fine. He also told me that he was down to one position for the Haiti trip, and it was between me and another kid. Not exactly the thing I wanted to hear after missing his class. I was nervous for the rest of the day

Practice was good, and then I ate dinner, got a quick haircut, and went back to my room to attempt to get some homework done. Kids were knocking on my door all night, and I didn’t start another essay until around 2300. I also found out that there was a court case I had to read for this teacher’s class due the next day, and it was 28 pages long. I found this out at around 2230. I finished my essay, told myself that I would read the court case in the morning, and went to bed at 0130.

I woke up this morning, and immediately had to go to a meeting at 0700. Missing breakfast, after Morning Formation, I went to go eat quickly at 0800, and then printed out the court case in the library. I had a class at 0900, so I read for a couple of minutes, and then went off to my three straight classes. When it finally came time to go to the class, I sat down, and proceeded to see him hand out paper.

“Okay, as you have probably heard by now, you’re having a quiz today. Finish it and you can leave.” After he handed me my paper, he told me he wanted to talk to me after class. Great, the news about Haiti.

I looked at the quiz. It asked me to explain what happened in the court case. The court case, that, as I’m sure you can put together, I did not read.

Before coming to class, I saw something in the documents about an asbestos outbreak and how the EPA was suing a water company for damages and such. So that was what I based my quiz off of. 6 to 8 detailed sentences using that one statement. You could not water down any more than I did; it was pure water what I handed in. I gave it to him, and prayed to God some kind of Disney, storybook ending would occur. He read it right in front of me, looked at me, and said, “What kind of bullshit are you trying to feed me? Sit down.”

I was fucked.

He explained to me that with a 47, a now 0, and a missed class, he was wondering how it is that he in fact made the decision to have me go on the trip. I was the last one selected, he said, but now, he was reconsidering it. How was it, he said, that I could do all of this, yet still be trusted to go to a foreign country and be trusted to be in charge there? And therefore, he said, he was reconsidering my placement on the trip.

It sucked. It hurt. I was really pissed off at myself, more pissed than I think I ever have been. Because I could’ve prepared for it. I could’ve taken the time needed to prepare for the test, read the case the night before, take a couple of notes on it, and actually known how to answer the test question. I could’ve emailed him at a decent time, but because I didn’t, now the trip that I have wanted to go on since freshman year was greatly at stake.

There’s so many times I, and I think a lot of people, start off on a torrent wanting to accomplish something, but die off halfway through it, and either fail to accomplish it, or give up on it. And that is exactly what I did. You want to accomplish so much, yet you get caught up in everything, get distracted, or whatever; and you never wind up getting what you wanted in the first place.

Did I really have to check Facebook? I love my girlfriend, but I could I have say goodnight 10 minutes earlier so that I could study for a test? I love hanging out with my buddies, but did I really have to smoke and joke with them for how long? This isn’t meant to be a sob story, it’s meant to be a lesson learned for me. Hopefully, I will actually learn from it.

For the record, my teacher never said that I was officially off the list. I’m still on, but I’m kind of on life support right now. I know what I need to do to make my case better, but it’s not necessarily a matter of knowing what to do, but actually going out and getting it done. I’ve got other goals in life, but am I to continue down this path of not living up to my expectations? And will I change some of these old habits and actually follow through on my word? Will I adequately prepare myself for the tests that lay ahead of me?

If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

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Comment by SB on October 25, 2012 at 11:07am

Douglas--this is an excruciatingly detailed account of a very trying experience.  Thanks for sharing.  It sounds like you have learned one of the most important lessons of your life.  I hope you learned it in time to go to Haiti.  good luck!

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