Updated: May 12, 2022
During my first year of grad school, I got a job as a technician in a retail pharmacy. My FAFSA loan didn’t quite cover all of my expenses, so I needed the job to make ends meet. Fast-forward to my second year. I was taking fewer academic hours and doing more clinical work. This means that I was a lot busier, but my tuition was cheaper. At this point, I no longer needed the job financially, but the money was nice, so I told myself that I would keep the job while also giving myself permission to quit if it got to be too much.
The program specifically encourages students not to work part-time jobs after the first year. This is because clinical work takes a lot of time and effort, especially when you’re just starting out. They were right. In October, I was in the middle of my first two assessment cases, while also seeing therapy clients and attending classes. I also worked an average of 26 hours per week that month and didn’t have a single weekend off.
Wait a second, what happened to “giving myself permission to quit if it got to be too much”? Well, a short-staffed pharmacy happened. In August, the pharmacy lost two technicians, which brought it down to a total of three of us, when we probably needed closer to six. There were days when I would be the only technician during my whole shift (usually there are about 2 to 4 there at one time) because the other girls were already working overtime to cover the rest. We were all drowning; work was a miserable game of running as fast as you possibly can without ever catching up. I thought to myself, “how could I abandon these people and make their jobs even worse?”.
Between school, the clinic, and work, I felt like my limbs had been tied to horses and they were all taking off in different directions, pulling my sanity apart. I broke down sobbing one day in a professor’s office. I needed to quit. My mental health needed me to quit. But I didn’t because they needed me, and I put their needs ahead of my own.
I did eventually cut back on hours, and later resigned altogether, but I compromised my own well-being so much before I was willing to inconvenience others. Why? Something that I really value is being a good person, and that’s what I thought I was doing when I put others first. But by being such a good person to everyone else, I was being a terrible person to myself, and I didn’t deserve that. Once I realized that, it was a lot easier to set those boundaries without feeling guilty. My advice to you is to prioritize yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s healthy. Just because you are able to fit so many tasks into the constraints of time doesn’t mean you should do them all. Take a day off. Do things that make you happy. Be kind to yourself.