Since the age of 13, I’ve supported myself financially by working two full-time jobs in high school and one part-time job in university. Working has helped me develop the time management skills, communication skills, diligence and work ethic I need to balance work, school, family and my social life. These essential qualities make up the person I am today.
Since I have made working a necessity to my independence, I’ve spent roughly five years learning to become accustomed to my routine of working shifts as either a hostess, barista, waitress or bartender while juggling my schoolwork and social life. Work has always been important to me, and I was determined to manage this busy lifestyle in university, even though it was more difficult than I had thought it would be.
During my first two weeks of school, I started a new job at a fine-dining restaurant in Waterloo working five to six shifts a week. I was initially very excited and proud of myself for deciding to take this job. I knew that as long as I gave good service, I would make great tips that could help me pay for groceries, OSAP loans and going out with friends. It also made me feel like an adult, and that sense of independence and making my own money contributed to the appeal of working these insane hours.
However, I quickly became overwhelmed with the long shifts of being on my feet all day or night while also adjusting to my weekly workload of homework and assignments. The overload of all these additional responsibilities began to take a toll on my mental health and self-worth as I realized how different university is from high school. It was starting to look like balancing work and school wouldn’t be feasible at all. I was honestly frustrated that I was failing to keep up with work and school, believing that I wasn’t good enough because I was struggling to start this new chapter in my life. I realize that probably sounds a bit funny, but I was equating what I thought were the most admirable qualities about myself, work ethic and balance, with a large part of who I am and was disappointed with myself when I wasn’t living up to those expectations.
It took me over two months to shake off these narrow perceptions and learn how to adjust to university life while maintaining a healthy work, school and social balance. I had forgotten that starting university is a significant change: five classes, living away from home for the first time, cooking for myself, cleaning, meeting new people, dating, going out to have fun and exploring Waterloo were all new experiences. I didn’t give myself enough credit for going through these experiences and working part-time, and I needed to be kinder to myself.
It’s now my second semester in my first year and I’ve cut my shifts down to three times a week. I’ve slowly begun to worry less about trying to juggle it all, and instead have just been focusing on my mental health, along with living in the moment of these experiences.