Introduction

“So…what’s your availability like…?”

“So…what’s your availability like…?”

* …I really wanted to do a post about food, but my grandfather is downstairs doing something to a fish….and I don’t know what exactly it involves….but it smells strong and horrible and it makes me never eat again/die. So there will be no mention of food from me this week. At all. So! Wage earning shall be our topic!*

………………………..

“So, school’s going to be starting soon, what will your availability be like? When are your classes going to be?”

As far as tragic memories go, this one seems quite benign at first, doesn’t it?

Oh, but it is tragic.

This little question is what my boss asked me at the start of my first year at U of T. My end of the conversation was pretty normal– I didn’t think twice about my response, and bought myself a ticket on a passage to emotional hell.

You see, I, like so many other optimistic first year university students, answered him honestly, and told him when every class began, and every class ended. He scheduled me accordingly, and I had almost no free time for friends, for clubs, for activities, or for myself.

”I’ll read on the bus, I’ll read on my dinner break, I’ll read after work, heck, I’ll read at work!” These are the things I told myself, but that last option doesn’t work well. If you work in retail (like I did) you’ll know that customers are pesky things, and co-workers generally don’t take well to being ignored while you learn about the physiological basis of opponent processes (hello, PSY100Y1).

When the school year started and I had seen my schedule on rosi, it looked pretty well spaced-out.

I assumed I would be flooded with free time.

Yes, yes, we all know that this was foolish.

“Didn’t you live?” They might say, “Isn’t getting money to pay for tuition and avoid debt important?” they might add, “You didn’t fail first year at all, did you?” If I say yes and no in the right places, you might be convinced that working as much as possible during the school year is a responsible and pragmatic choice.

I got through first year with a sweet GPA, and I’d paid off that year’s tuition by June.

I’d been lucky in that I hadn’t made any close friends, joined any clubs, or snared a boyfriend. But, um, when I say that out loud, it doesn’t really sound like luck.

The thing about university is that there is more than just your readings to do.

Your best friend will break up with the love of her life at 4:00 on a Thursday, and if you don’t have time to console her, you are horrible. You will read the Toike Oike and think it’s hilarious and want to contribute, but if you can’t make any meetings, then really there is no point. Your essays will demand sources. You will have to read these sources. You pay fees for the gym in your tuition, you just might want to go to one of them…but….if your boss knows when all your free time is, you just might end up with no free time at all.

And so it is that perhaps your parents and the morals they fed you in childhood are wrong.
Fibbing is good, and it will save your life.

When your boss asks that availability question, you really have to remember that the week has to have room for assignments, for clubs, for events, and also for whatever family/friend/romantic crises might happen to you—and over the course of the year there might be several.

So if your employer asks you what your schedule is like… say that you will “get back to them”. Spare yourself a day or two, and consider your days carefully–you have to plan this thing out.

*The fish smell is still as strong as ever…I knew I should have moved out this semester! This is like punishment for living at home!*

– Heather

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