Summertime Sadness or a Full-Time Routine: When a Part-Time Job Is More Than Part-Time

by RU Student Life storyteller Zahra Khozema

From delivering newspapers in your neighbourhood in elementary school, to working minimum wage at your local McDonald’s in high school, to eventually climbing your way and assisting your favourite professor in a lab in university — we have all gone to the moon and back to make ends meet. Scrolling through my LinkedIn profile, I cannot believe how much I have job hopped. And still, there are some jobs and assignments I’m too ashamed to admit to having worked, even if it was, thankfully, for a short period of time.

When we’re young, we are asked to pick a career and we are shown the possible paths to achieve it, but no one ever warns us about the countless hours invested in shitty customer service jobs that have nothing to do with our field of study. Today in Canada, there are more and more people working part-time than full-time. I was never a 9–5 kind of girl anyways, but when did stable income grow out of social fashion? Of course, with a full school load, it’s not possible to work a fixed full-time schedule, but this statistic applies to a lot of graduates as well.

Every bad job teaches you a lesson. Maybe it’s a simple one, like you and hairnets are a major no-no, or something life changing, like believing in the reason you should stay in school. But guess what? University graduates are still working at gas stations.

I’ve debated personal pride to work at some of the places I have and, believe me, there are a lot, but the only thing that kept me there (besides the paycheck) was knowing that there are others like me, who have been doing this longer, with no intention of promotions or expectations of better prospects. I’ve met some amazing people through the jobs I’ve worked and I probably would not trade meeting them and listening to their stories for anything else (on most nights anyways).

Starting this summer, I had no job. Now, I’m struggling to manage three, with a course on the side. But, sadly, the job I love the most, writing, I get to do the least of. Writing keeps me sane, it’s my emotional detox; maybe yours is a nice long bath, or working out. Working constantly at uncertain hours takes you away from your true self. Sure, being financially independent builds character, but it also breaks it down if it’s not what you enjoy doing. It’s depressing that we have to take jobs that aren’t relevant and that take away time from our true crafts.

Many of us have immigrant parents who brought us to this promised land for a better tomorrow; these parents of ours have degrees and decades of foreign work experience and yet they can’t find meaningful work when they get here. Only 24% of foreign-educated immigrants actually work in their trained professions: that means the rest work their entire lives building their careers only to end up working in fields unrelated to their hearts’ interests or skills.

When our parents are not given opportunities to integrate, we are supposed to compensate. “Sorry, you don’t qualify because you do not have Canadian work experience on your resumé.” The thing about being Canadian is that you have to have so-called Canadian experience in order to get Canadian experience. Our parents start buying Tim Hortons and shovelling driveways and naming us kids Sam and John so our bosses can one day pronounce it to fit into the job force. It’s a humiliating and degrading way to get status.

The manual work aside, it’s also the irregular full-time hours that fully functioning adults are working. Yes, I’m talking about the horrid evening and night shifts. When we all go to sleep, there are around 12% of us (maybe including some of our parents) who wake up and go to work. It’s different when you pull an all-nighter for an essay, but it’s a similar strain on your body and mind to be in a dull factory in hairnets and safety shoes at 4 am. I did it — for four months last summer and for five weeks this summer. For a girl who’s trained in handling “challenging” customers at a fast food joint, I lost my marbles being alone at night repeating the same mundane packing tasks. My sleep cycle, my diet, my metabolism, and my energy, to put it nicely, all went to shit.

I’m grateful because I know my current circumstances are hopefully temporary — for the adults I work with at the factory, not so much. This is their reality, not a summer job they can just whine about before returning to student life.

There is a twenty-something-year-old woman I work with who had already started practicing medicine in her home country — and now she works night shifts at a factory because her English is a little weak (she is fluent in four other languages).

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, to be honest. However, what I did learn this summer was to still hold myself together and not lose sight of my ambitions, like I did the year before. I scraped whatever time I could on my commutes to stop at a coffee shop and scribble half thoughts in my notebook. So, work bad jobs, meet bad people, get fired, but let it only fuel your fire to be you. Take time out for yourself. You did not take kickass notes on boring slides of monotone professors to be miserable all summer. But, take it as a privilege that we get to dream of having a better job soon enough, or when we return to the books; there are other highly capable people who do not get to call it quits in September.

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