Making it Work: Balancing a Job with School

by | Mar 17, 2019

(Image from Circa Interactive)

Growing up, I always knew I would work as soon as I could. I was a go getter; I knew what I wanted and what I needed. My goals all required money that neither I nor my family had. Even growing up, I knew I had to go to college. I never wanted to struggle with money or let my future children struggle with money. If I could, I would love to be able to buy my parents whatever they want. The options are marry rich or get a high-paying job, so obviously going to college to get a good job was the wiser of the two options.

But even going to college costs money, lots and lots of money. I’m the last child, so I’m last in line. I knew I would have to pay for myself.

But even going to college costs money, lots and lots of money. I’m the last child, so I’m last in line. I knew I would have to pay for myself.

So at the end of the 2017 school year, I got a job at a sit-down restaurant, saved it all up, and bought a car, a loft bed, and a laptop. I spoiled my parents, buying them Fitbits for Mother’s and Father’s Day, all while doing well in school, orchestra and the school musical. I admit it was a little crazy.

The first thing I bought was my loft bed, something I had wanted for years. I was scared that I was wasting money and that I shouldn’t be using any of it at all because I needed to be saving up for a car and college admissions. My family helped a lot with the guilt of using my money, reassuring me that it was MY money and I worked hard for it. I eventually loosened up and started to spend the money I could afford to spend while still saving money for the more important things. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I got was from my dad: put the hundreds in savings, then use the rest for yourself. I believe he is the reason I saved up my money so fast. I still do this and it works amazingly.

I did well at my first job as a hostess. I made friends with all the servers and cooks and worked well with my coworkers at the host stand, making as much fun of the job as we could. Soon, I fell into a pattern: get out of school, go home to change into my work uniform (if I wasn’t already wearing it to school), eat a snack, and then be at work in about an hour. Later, as I got used to the routine, I started to bring my clothes with me. I’d sit down in the restaurant to do my homework before work — I got a lot of homework and studying done then. I could even finish my schoolwork at one of the tables if I got off work before we closed the restaurant; sometimes, if we were slow enough, I’d even do some homework at the host stand. But if I couldn’t finish everything then, I would spend late nights doing homework or have to suffer the consequences of bad grades and an even worse feeling of not being good enough.

After a year and the hiring and firing of hosts, servers, bartenders and a manager or two, I decided to leave the restaurant. My job wasn’t as enjoyable anymore: the new management was working us more than we were supposed to, we stopped getting tips from the servers, and one of the new managers and a server continuously bullied me and a coworker. We complained, but no one was reprimanded until the server yelled at me in front of customers and the manager made my coworker cry. It became a stressful workplace and my grades began to drop. I had less time for homework, I wasn’t as active, and I stopped playing instruments for fun. I simply had no time to myself.

It became a stressful workplace and my grades began to drop. I had less time for homework, I wasn’t as active, and I stopped playing instruments for fun. I simply had no time to myself.

Even though I realized how stressed I was and how much my job was hurting me, it took me a while to actually decide to quit. I loved most of the people I worked with. I made an amazing friendship with my coworker Katherine, and I bonded over musicals and plays with the bartender Conway. We had fun most days: our main job as hostesses, seating people at certain tables depending on what servers were available, was pretty easy to do, if not to explain in writing. So I was on the fence about leaving the restaurant, making the decision then taking it back, changing my mind almost weekly. It wasn’t until my coworker Katherine finally put her two weeks notice in that I officially decided to find a new job. After a week or two I got a call back from a store in the mall, and I immediately put my two weeks on paper and handed it in to my manager. I waited out my two weeks notice and quietly said my goodbyes to the few people left that I enjoyed working with.

Transferring to the new job went smoothly, as the transition occurred at the very beginning of the new school year, and I’ve been working there happily for a little over half a year. I use all of the social, leadership, and management skills I learned at my first job, and I’m still learning more. I have a good relationship with almost all of my managers, and I have plenty of friends there as well. My grades have gotten better, but I still don’t have as much energy as I did when I first started working. Although I still play my main instrument in the orchestra, I rarely have time to play the others for fun or do any theatre. While I wish I had more time to do these extracurricular activities, I realize I have to work hard to save up money for a reliable car, college, and possibly an apartment with some friends.

I still find it hard to make free time for myself, even on the weekends. I power through all of the late nights and little free time, though, knowing it will pay off. If I get into a good college and work as hard there as I do now, I will be able to get a career I enjoy. Someday I’ll have that big house I’ve always dreamed about. I’ll be able to spoil my parents to thank them for all that they’ve done for me and my siblings. And I’ll never have to worry about my children being hungry. I’ll teach them to be thankful for what we have and what we don’t.

Someday I’ll have that big house I’ve always dreamed about. I’ll be able to spoil my parents to thank them for all that they’ve done for me and my siblings. And I’ll never have to worry about my children being hungry.

I may not exactly cherish that first job, or the late nights and nonexistent free time, but I will always be thankful for the learning experiences it gave me. More than anything, I’ve learned the value of working hard to get to where I want to be.

 
Sarah Kent is a senior at Henry Clay High School.

The opinions expressed on the Forum represent the individual students to whom they are attributed. They do not reflect the official position or opinion of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence or the Student Voice Team. Read about our policies.

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