In high school, I worked at Panera for 35 hours a week for $9 an hour. I was a straight A student with a 3.9 GPA at the time, but everyone told me that since I was 16, I needed a job.
People told me I was lazy for not working, from my friends to my relatives.
After I got the job, I started to struggle in my classes. Going home at midnight and waking up at 6 a.m. wasn’t healthy for four months straight.
I started to bring my grades down to C’s as I was falling asleep in class and falling behind in assignments since I had no energy to do homework.
The worst part was that the people who pressured me to get a job at the time weren’t proud of me. They treated it like I was doing the bare minimum.
After I quit, I was told that I was making up excuses to be lazy and not work hard. I had undiagnosed ADHD, which I now know is the reason I quit. But I was told that my experiences weren’t a good enough excuse and that I needed to be working a job.
A lot of people act like I had it easy. “35 hours a week? I worked 40 hours and still made it work while being in school!”
But the thing is, it doesn’t matter how much more you worked or how little you were paid. No student should be working that much for that little. We both struggled.
I know people who work 50 hours a week, people who work two or more jobs, or people who get almost no pay. They still get told that they’re lazy and shouldn’t complain and just work harder.
At this point, laziness feels like a myth. If you work all night and fall asleep in class because you’re tired, you’re lazy because you should be able to keep yourself awake but won’t. If you do homework when you’re working because you have no other time to do it, you’re lazy because you aren’t focused on your job. It feels like there’s no winning.
I’m not saying that students shouldn’t work. I think that it benefits a lot of people. But if someone’s working that much while being in school, I think they’re hard workers by default.
Everyone has different limits and abilities, and I don’t think that telling a sixteen year old that they’re being lazy because you worked 20 more hours than them is fair by any means. I don’t think we can afford to be pitting ourselves against each other in our society where we’re all at a disadvantage.
We should try and support each other and lift each other up instead of pulling people down. Everyone has something to contribute, and we’re only suppressing people by telling them they aren’t good enough for something.
Ian Stobaugh is a freshman German major. He can be contacted at 581-1812 or [email protected]