The sucky thing about growing up is the way time just slips through your fingers. There are so many changes in lifestyle….there’s no way I could have dreamed my life would be like this. It isn’t a bad thing, not entirely…some of it is a mark of success. But I think we all still wish nap time was a thing for adults in the US. So what are ways that I’ve changed since I was a “kid”? I think about this a lot as I walk home, tired from work.
Let me first define what I mean by being a kid. Everyone grows up at a different pace. The New York Times declared that maturity is no longer at age 18, but age 28. Given that most of my peers (and those who are older) have continued school past undergrad…and not only that, but predominantly didn’t work or intern between the two schools….it makes sense why the age of “maturity” has been pushed back. This isn’t to say that anyone who’s gone to school after getting a bachelor’s doesn’t have life experience. There are many ways to grow up. But I think the marker, to me and for me, of adulthood is when you get your first job and pay your own bill….whether that’s a cellphone bill, student loans, rent, or your own tuition. Obviously this means that you can hit “maturity”, in my definition, as young as 16. In some cases, even 12. It’s true, some kids raise themselves, some people are old before puberty.
I been working since age 17. The most jobs I’ve held at once is 3 jobs:
1. Night shift at a studio, job related to my field of study…never mentioned I was still in school, that way I could get paid (but did offer a severely discounted rate since I was a newbie). 7pm~3am (8 hour shift…don’t remember how often per week. 8 times 3?).
2. Office Temp Job in an accounting department…it was so easy for me to organize things I read the whole Narnia series. Papers on the table to sort, book on my lap to secretly read. Part Time but 9-5, 3 days a week (21 hours a week).
3. Work Study at school….caretaker and question answerer of 2 floors of my school, because all the other workers kept slacking off, plus mandatory TAing….Weekend and non office-temp weekdays, required 20 hours per week at least. Usually I took more shifts from others wanted a day off to actually enjoy the summer. So that means this could go up to 30+.
Completely regret picking up 3 jobs. It was too much…some people at that age don’t seem able to handle 20 hours of work, let alone what…65 to 75 hours of work per week? I made good money, which was my goal. My dad was not helping to pay for college…overall he stopped paying child support early on me. I took out loans, grants, financial aid, my mom helped out, but I had that desperation driving me to work, because I really didn’t want to have high interest loans for the rest of my life. I went to a private college, and that stuff is expensive. By senior year, it became a Catch 22. I worked in order to pay for college, but because I worked I was failing college! Eventually a teacher spoke to me towards the end of Fall Semester, senior year, and told me I need to drop whatever side job I had (just 2 at that point, the studio job and the work study, amounting to a minimum of 28hrs per week).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because of that horrible summer where I filled my days with all work and NO play, barely any sleep…I realized it is seriously not worth it. But I didn’t completely learn my lesson yet. All I learned was that I will never work 7 days a week for more than 2 weeks in a row ever, ever again. That experience taught me that 2 weeks was my limit. It took eventual regretful yet greedy 7 day work weeks to realize that it was almost never okay – FOR MY PERSONAL HEALTH – to do 7 day work weeks. I still sometimes do, though more often it is 6 day work weeks, when there’s desperate need for stuff to get done at work. Or if someone I trust tells me I’m their only hope to get their project done, I’ll pick up their slack over the weekend or after I come home from my day job. But I shouldn’t choose to kill myself with 80 hour work weeks just because I’m afraid I will go poor and die. I treat myself as if I never know when the next paycheck will come….but my miser-dom means I’ve gotten a LITTLE bit of cushion for a few weeks and pay my bills, if I need it desperately.
So that summer was a turning point in my life where I finally felt like I was an adult. I’ve paid for my Japanese classes with my own hard-earned money before, but somehow it was only that summer of killing myself that I felt like I knew how to put my priorities straight. I stopped playing video games, I didn’t rush home after classes anymore to play or watch some anime/TV show. I could stay up 2 nights (3 nights and I start hallucinating) in a row to do work, fueled by determination and desperation. Anytime my hands weren’t moving, there was work not getting done.
It thoroughly confused me how classmates who didn’t work at all, and only had 3 days worth of classes, could barely finish their homework. They really had no excuse. How was it that I was getting stuff done AND working 1 or 2 jobs plus full time school? Slackers! Yes, working during college made me elitist.
“If I can do it, why can’t you?”
My hours nowadays are a lot better since then. I love where I work. But I get up at 8:30am, don’t get home till nearly 8pm. If I go jogging then that takes me to 9pm, at which time I eat dinner and rest til 10pm. And that…is basically bedtime…there’s MAYBE enough time for one or two things to do. I feel like I can only handle having one hobby, and I have to specifically set aside time on THIS day during the week to accomplish it. This last time I did my laundry, it took me THREE WEEKS before I could find the time!!!! I was starting to wear clothes I hadn’t worn in 5 years, stuff that was ugly, but it was easier to do that than find the time to do laundry. And let’s not even talk about the handwashing I have to do….this happens more often and it wears me out. All my underwear must be handwashed cuz the machines here just rip them up, even in the net bags. I have a thing for delicate lacy stuff, so maybe that’s just my fault! And a lot of my tanktops and sweaters nowadays seem to be extremely thin. I hate that clothes are so thin nowadays. So I handwash some of those too, because I don’t want to risk the net bag unzipping in the washing machine. It’s happened before :(
Unfortunately, all of this is just the early history of my working career. It’s not even a complete account. Technically I worked as a shopkeeper/cashier for a bit too, under the table because I was underaged, and technically I did do the typesetting/formatting for some print jobs, plus ran the machines and packaged the end products when I was elementary aged. The printing was my dad’s business. He’d set up the machines, make the plates, adjust levers and knots to get the right pressure and the right ink shade transference. Once that was done, I’d hit all the buttons, pull the levers, pour in the chemical solutions to keep the machines going. Stop them if there’s something jammed and yank it out. My dad was pretty good about scaring me about maiming. He had old machines that didn’t have safety guards or emergency stop buttons…you had to pull and crank like three things at least to get a machine to stop. No guards, so if you wanna grab a sheet and see how the printing’s going…either stop it entirely, or be damn quick about snatching it up so the metal arms wouldn’t drag your hand in and crush you.
As a kid, you think these kinds of things are fun, it doesn’t really seem like work. So I don’t count it as part of my work experience. Plus I didn’t have rigid hours or anything. And I didn’t get paid in money…food doesn’t count and neither do video games…so in a way it’s not a real job.
One thing I am very lucky with….my uncle cooks most of my dinners for me. I cook only once or twice a week, and only more if I haven’t got any jobs booked for that week. Yes, I pay for rent, the family phone plan, etc, but he doesn’t charge me for food despite no longer having any income. Sometimes I feel irritated by him. It’s impossible not to when someone acts as your parent. But I really am grateful and try to buy him things (mostly food, very occasionally clothing) whenever I can. Gotta think of a good Christmas present for him this year. He’s like my substitute dad. It’s also very flattering that when I cook something new, he gets addicted to it and keeps cooking the same dish I made for the next 2 weeks. However he doesn’t care about food quality, so it’s like a ghetto version of the dish I made, and I end up getting sick of it. One detail he often gets wrong – I make a dish with diced onions. He cuts the onion to be 3 inches long. I dislike this, it’s like eating hairs to me!
Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually list some ways I feel like I’ve changed since childhood, in ways I didn’t think I would.
To return to my opening sentiments…
It’s a REALLY weird feeling when I meet someone new who is my age, yet is still in school, has never worked a day in their life, and basically lives like a kid. Supported by parents, plays video games all day, has to responsibilities or worries except for what party to attend that weekend, etc. It’s like…how are we the same age? How is it our lives are so different? I barely recognize you.