I’ve had a part-time job since I was 17. I spent grades 10 through 12 working evenings and weekends at my local Shoppers Drug Mart. In my teens, my parents encouraged me to work. They believed working would help me gain some responsibility and financial independence by using the money I earned to pay for my own phone bill. Quickly, I became used to the cash flow and became hungry for more. That hunger pushed me to work more shifts, work longer shifts, and even work a second job. I picked up a little gig at the mall selling shoes for a few months just to try something new and get in a few extra hours of work. I liked working, it was something to get me out of the house. At work, I could learn new things and meet new people.
When I started at UTM I assumed that I would have no issues continuing my existing routine, and that the flexibility of a university schedule would allow me to work an extra day and make some more money. For the first couple of months I went to my classes and worked during the evenings and on most of my days off.
I’ll be honest, the routine got really difficult on some nights when I would end work late and had assignments due or tests coming up, but I kept reminding myself “This is just the hustle.” I kept going.
My decision to prioritize work caught up with me by the end of first year. While I had managed to scrape by on quizzes and assignments, I completely messed up on two out of five of my first year exams. At that point, I knew I needed to make some sort of change. I tried focusing more on school and working fewer hours to allow for real studying. But something didn’t feel right. I just could not sit at home reading and writing notes when I knew I could be making money.
I started really struggling with schoolwork, my weight, my relationship, and my family. Again, I realized my routine wasn’t right. My social life was strained and my skin was out of control. I took the summer break and just mindlessly worked. When September rolled around again, I decided to take a lighter course load because I was in such a broken-down state. I took about a 75% course load. This provided me some relief and I was still able to work a sustainable amount for my lifestyle. I ended up with the best sessional GPA I had ever achieved in my time at UTM.
Unfortunately, my choice to take a reduced course load has extended my time until graduation but I wouldn’t go back to the way I was doing things before. Now, I’ve started to get my health back on track, I am able to work and obtain good experience for my resume, and I still have enough time to put into my relationship while achieving the grades I want and always knew I was capable of.
It’s not easy to find an appropriate balance, and the one that works for me might not work at all for someone else. But that’s the beauty in balance, by definition it is the distribution of weight that allows one to remain upright, which is all we are really trying to do.