Thursday, January 26, 2017


Remember that fable about the grasshopper and the ant? You know, there's a fun-loving grasshopper and an industrious ant. The ant gathers his ...wheat or whatever it is that ants store up for the winter, while the grasshopper hangs out playing music. Winter comes and the grasshopper hasn't collected any food, probably because he was helping the ant by playing music to help him forget that he was gathering wheat. The grasshopper begs the ant for some food, but the ant tells him to go pound sand, since he should have been working instead of playing music. Then the grasshopper starves to death while the ant feasts on his stores of wheat and rejoices.

Most kids heard this and maybe vaguely got the idea that there was no reward without work. They grew up fine. Other kids heard this and grew up to be people who post on Facebook about how a woman in front of them at the grocery store used food stamps to buy lobster and champagne.

I'm not sure how or why, but I'm pretty sure this has something to do with racism.

To an anxious, overthinking kid like me, this story just gave me a new pile of worry. I already had to stress if I had been good enough for Santa and God, now I had to worry if I had saved enough wheat or worked hard enough.

It probably didn't help that my mom's favorite saying was (and remains) "I've done a full day's work before you even got out of bed." That's the sort of thing ants are always saying to grasshoppers.

I'm still not 100 percent sure if I'm an ant or a grasshopper. I feel I'm basically lazy - if I'm at home unsupervised with a couple hours to spare, there's about an 80% chance there's gonna be a nap involved. I've got just enough grasshopper guilt in me that I can't really relax during the day unless it's raining or I'm sick or something. You know those dudes that can watch football or movies all day? After about 2 hours, I feel a crushing guilt - that I haven't accomplished anything during the day, and some grasshopper is gonna be laughing at me while I beg for winter wheat in the cold.

That leaves me to overcompensate - like if I laze around on one day, I'll have to complete a huge list of chores the next to keep the grasshopper anxiety at bay.

And that's as an adult. I remember being a kid on a Sunday evening and having total little kid psychic meltdowns over this. "This was it," I'd think. "You've had some fun this weekend, but fun doesn't last. Now you have to get ready for school. And you're totally unprepared for school." It didn't help that my favorite non-science fiction reading material at the time was collections of Peanuts, which in retrospect, might not be the most healthy stuff for a somewhat smart, yet tightly-wound prepubescent.

I totally identified with Sally here.

I'm trying to get away from being torn like this. This is the year I commit to either total grasshopper or total ant. So 2017 will either see me transform into a total renaissance man, or I'll just wait on someone else to do things for me, like in my favorite fable, the shoemaker and the elves.

Now that's a story I liked, with a moral I still appreciate - if you're a pretty good person, some magical force will take pity on you and do all your boring work for you, while you revel in the profits and abundant free time.

That seems like a much less stressful way to live.

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