Confessions From A Group Project Pariah

When our professor announced we would be partaking in a group project, a sea of groans blanketed the classroom. No one like group projects.

It’s difficult to know your fellow classmates at a school the size of Penn State, so every group project I’ve been a part of has been a pairing with strangers. During our initial meeting, I always share my contact information and offer to help out in any way. Unfortunately for them, I have a reputation of being unreliable and inconsistent.

Among every group project there is always one member who brings everyone else down. I am this group member every time. When it comes time to meet with the group, I am nowhere to be found. I avoid contact and I have no knowledge or help to offer my peers. I attach myself to a group of smarter individuals and pray I am not asked to do anything. When it comes time to present, I hide away in the back, shuffling my feet in fear.

My most recent project wrapped up a few hours ago with a group of individuals who will most likely become more successful than I. While they emailed the professor with questions on our project, I remained laconic that everything would work out in the end as it always does.

We presented this week, so the group met together this past weekend to plan and discuss. Again, I was nowhere to be found. Hidden in my apartment, I claimed I was out of town. A lie I’m positive they saw through.

After missing the first two work sessions, I decided attending Monday’s group meeting might be beneficial considering I had done absolutely nothing to help so far. In a recurring lapse of irresponsibility, I decided to arrive at the meeting an hour late. Of course, they were already done. I told them I missed the bus.

Upon the arrival of group presentation day, I lied in my bed staring at the ceilings, waiting to the face the music. I was certain my group was rightfully angry at me. I hid under my blankets until the bus was close by.

Waiting again till the last minute, I ran down to the bus stop as my CATA bus was driving away. I did not have time to reflect on the irony of missing a bus I had lied about missing the day before.

Unlike the brigade of lies I created last weekend, this was something that actually happened but in no way would it garner any sympathy from my group. I arrived ten minutes before we presented, during which I hid in the back of the room.

My project pals were chatting on GroupMe about the groups that were currently presenting. They playfully dismissed the previous groups, claiming that we were surely going to be the best.

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In an attempt to establish good faith and relate, I joined in with this.

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Apparently not showing up for group meetings and not offering any help only creates animosity. I just wanted to join in on the bashings and hopefully cool some of the anger towards me. I thought they might have made a mistake and thought I was referring to them presenting.

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Upon reading this, a wave of guilt and shame flooded throughout me. I elected to skip my final class of the day and went back to my safe place, under the covers of my bed.

If this had been a one time occurrence, I don’t think I would have felt so bad. But deep down I know this is who I am.

I left college four years ago with a broken foot and pocket full of public intoxication citations. I worked hard to get back into this university and when I first returned, I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to fall into the old habits that made me leave the first time. But here I was, allowing my irresponsibility to not only affect myself but actually harm others.

Every semester I think it’s going to be different. “This will be the semester I get to sleep early. This is the semester I complete assignments. This will be the semester I finally live to my potential.” But it’s never my semester.

The reason people hate group projects is because of people like me. My group members and I will receive equal credit for the activity despite my lack of effort. I know I would be upset if I were in their position. I can’t dismiss them for their anger, I know what I did (or didn’t do).

But if the point of a group project is to learn how to work well with others, I may have learned more than my peers. A shaming like the one I received from my group members has made me a better person. I now understand how my apathetic actions can be a burden on others.

My group members, unlike me, will forget about this and continue living their lives. It’s a testament to my weak emotional resilience that I let a group project failure send me into a shame spiral of which I am still recovering.

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About the Author

Mario Di Paolo

Mario Di Paolo is a contributor to Onward State. Originally from Montoursville Pennsylvania, Mario is seeking a bachelors degree in Print Journalism and hopes to finish by 2017. As a devoted lover of cinema, Mario can often be found alone in his apartment watching pretentious films he pretends to understand.

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