Summer job hell

Working 50 hours during the summer is a rollercoaster of emotions

Some students feel pressured to dedicate their entire summer to their seasonal jobs. Graphic courtesy of Joey Bruce.

If you are like me, a student paying for your tuition and other bills, summer is not the time to relax. Instead, you have to make sure you have enough savings for the fall semester and the winter semester, and the ones after that.

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance we may be in the same predicament. Here are my tips on how to hustle your way through a successful summer, while staying on top of your social life, among other things.

At least, that’s what I thought I would write about. That was before I started this essay Monday evening, exhausted and depressed after working non-stop job to job twelve days in a row with no rest in between. In truth, my experience working many jobs at once has been to the detriment of my mental health, my physical health, and spending time with my loved ones. 

Since the beginning of May,  I have been working two jobs, one online from home and the other in person, while also trying to write for student-run newspapers, which is unpaid work. I work full-time as an intern at a PPE company and part-time at my local library. My average work week during the month was roughly 47.5 hours, and that's excluding unpaid overtime. 

My month started off well. It’s almost as if I had this adrenaline rush when going about my days. I would get work done at one job, then rush to the next one. I had enough energy to go out at night and party or work out at the gym until early morning. I’d do all of this and still be up at 7 a.m. the next day ready to clock in and repeat the whole process. Hell, I even managed to punch in an article for The Link writing in the cracks of time I had in the evenings and weekends. 

This didn’t last very long of course. 

By week four I was drained. I was becoming unproductive at both jobs, tired, and not seeing people in my social circle all that much.  I was mostly sitting in my room, working from home. I had to set up a desk in my tiny living space since the company sent me a monitor and laptop to use for the job. Problem was that I didn't have enough outlets for all my devices. I ended up sacrificing my lamp for my new makeshift office, typing away in the dark—dust continually gathering in my room as the weeks passed by. I was quickly becoming isolated from everything outside of work. 

Some students have this misconception that working excessive hours throughout the summer is the right thing to do. I remember thinking like this back when I was 18. I had immense social pressure to find a job to make use of my time. It took me maybe two months to find a stable place to work. The anxiety throughout that period of my life was terrible. Every waking moment that I wasn’t actively applying for a job I felt was time wasted. This mindset was isolating and toxic. This awful mentality would consume my thoughts for silly reasons. For example, I’d watch a YouTube video in my bedroom during the day but by evening I’d become miserable.  In my head, I wasn't being productive enough. It felt as if I was wasting valuable time because I wasn’t hopping on my bicycle and riding in town

This mindset was isolating and toxic. This awful mentality would consume my thoughts. Burnout, anxiety, depression. The summer should not be a source of these feelings after two long semesters of doing a full-time course load. No matter their financial situation, students deserve to rest easy during the summer and recharge their batteries for the next semester. It shouldn’t have to be a race to make sure you can afford to rest or not. Tuition is cheaper in Quebec (only if you’re from the province of course), but it’s far from free and life isn’t getting easier with ever-growing inflation. I think that’s the best reason why everyone should have access to free and public education. 

Of course, those working a part-time job in their field of study is a valid thing to do. But for most of us, our long-term ambitions won’t be helped by working a series of odd jobs just to save money. 

There’s this quote from Marx that I keep thinking about, regarding workers and the alienation that comes with our relationship to capital and work. 

“The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theater or to balls, or to the public house [Br., pub], and the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you will be able to save and the greater will become your treasure which neither moth nor rust will corrupt—your capital. The less you are, the less you express your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the greater is the saving of your alienated being. (…) Thus all passions and activities must be submerged in avarice. The worker must have just what is necessary for him to want to live, and he must want to live only to have this.”

A perfect encapsulation of many situations for students in Canada.

We are isolated from the joys that come with pursuing our dreams, all in the name of acquiring and saving capital just to barely buy our needs, sacrificing our youth, and the things that matter most to us.