If you’re like me– sixteen and thrust into a grown up world of taxes and employment before you even graduate– then you’re probably internally dying over taxes, employment, and what in God’s name the powerhouse of the cell is…because you have a biology test next week and you have no idea.
If you’re not like me, congratulations, because you still have a soul hidden from the rudest people in mankind and the desperate urge to sleep. Juggling this all would’ve been easier with a handy guide to navigating the intricacies of balancing adulthood employment with high school drama, but it’s not like anyone’s ever made one before. Til now.
No one ever tells you how hard it is to find a job. So many TV shows and movies have led us astray with teenagers who magically get a job “for the summer” at the start of the summer, and let me tell you– that’s a goddamn lie.
First of all, if you don’t apply to a job before April, you’re not getting one in time for June without some sort of divine intervention. It’s just not happening.
Secondly, hard to believe, but employers don’t really like hiring people for the summer. Sure they have seasonal jobs specifically for those who only need one for the summer, but once they know you’re not sticking around, the niceties go away and they prove that they prefer long term employment, which means you’re going to want to die when it comes to school, because it’s not like you can prop up a biology book at your register and study about mitochondria the day before that big exam.
Also, no one tells you how there is no one magical job that is so cool and amazing that you don’t mind working. Every job sucks. No matter where you work, the potential for rude people is still there, and the even bigger potential for rude bosses is always there. Even working at your favorite place gets old after awhile, but since your favorite place is probably everybody else’s, there are no job openings for it, like, ever. If you want a job at Hot Topic, you’d better be ready to wait months and months before even hearing back, because Hot Topic has no shortage of willing applicants. So get ready for the smell of french fries hanging around every article of clothing you own, because it never leaves and that’s the only kind of job that’s willing to take you on.
No one ever says how much worse working is than high school, because if they did, the unemployment rate would skyrocket. You think Regina George is bad? Try the lady who thinks you overcharged her on her Big Mac during the lunch rush. It doesn’t matter if you’re with another customer; she wants you focused on her now. But you have to put up with the Regina Georges of the world while you work, because you need money for graduation and college, and spoiler alert– that’s not cheap, and it makes you want to cry a little inside.
A lot of times when people talk to you about school, they mention “making the most!” and “joining clubs!”, but that sort of thing has no direct effect on your school life. To you, making the most could mean actually going out and experiencing life instead of spending seven hours in a classroom, and joining clubs could be terrifying to someone too shy, and so what good is that advice?
The best advice comes from people who actually experienced school in a time more recent than your mom, who graduated in the class of ‘89. The best advice comes from people who are almost done or just finished with school and get what it’s like. The best advice comes from people like me.
First, forget what you’re being told. Shut off the noise in your head from your father’s pleas to take engineering like he did, and ignore your mother’s passionate arguments about Why Cheerleading is the Best Ever!, and think about you. If you do not 100% want that class, why are you signing up for it? The worst mistakes I ever made in high school have to do with classes I didn’t want to take, but was pressured into taking anyway. It ended with a failing grade and hatred of myself, and that class/teacher/school year. When I learned to stop listening to others and instead focus on me, I took classes that intrigued and surprised me and taught me so much about what I wanted out of the world than anything. After all, it’s not your mom who has to use what she learns from Graphic Design in the real world– it’s you.
Second, there will be people you like, and people you date, and because they don’t overlap, neither should your class schedules. Basing a class off of the significant other you’re currently dating is right up there with taking a class because your mother said so. It’s messy, it’s complicated, there’s no guarantee you’ll even have it the same period– and if you do, and the relationship goes south, there’s nothing you can do to avoid the seats you chose next to each other and a full schedule that matches the other’s.
So good luck with that, then.
Balancing the both jobs and school is like smacking yourself in the head and the feet repeatedly until you’re too tired to see and your feet are too swollen to walk around. You go from school to work to homework to school to work to homework to school to work to homework all the way until Friday when it becomes work to homework to work to homework before settling back into the same rhythm as before.
And it’s not like you have infinite energy either, so when you come home from work (ostensibly at nine pm, but more like ten thirty pm), the only thing you’d want to do is sleep, but you have a project due the next day with partners who refuse to help, and the next thing you know, you’re zombie-shuffling your way through two years of school because all the naps in the world don’t help you sleep now. You become cranky because of lack of sleep, and all the rude customers, and taking a class you don’t like during this time period will ruin the GPA that you needed for all those scholarships because even working two jobs somehow isn’t enough for college tuition, but, as a bonus, if you like the classes that you’re in, the information will stick with you, and, hopefully, maybe, someday be useful.