The false narrative of working through breaks 

Breaks are an important part of preventing burnout and pacing work throughout the year. Working over break defeats the purpose of having the break in the first place by placing stress on people during an otherwise relaxing weekend. Illustration by Van Nguyen/The Daily Campus.

Hey Huskies, welcome back to campus, and welcome back to another week of printing for The Daily Campus. Hopefully, the break was a much-needed rest for y’all – but who am I kidding, I know this isn’t our reality. I’m sure that, like me, half of you spent the break catching up on work that realistically could not have been done during a week where classes were in session. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how we reached the point where the only long “break” of the fall semester has to function as catch-up time in order to complete every assignment by the end of finals week, but I digress.  

I’ve certainly written about burnout before, and though my columns blend together at this point, I’m also 99% sure I’ve written about the false narrative that Thanksgiving “break” is when there is always work to do during it. There’s no point in rewriting those columns when nothing has changed, but I will risk beating a dead horse to at least reiterate that a break that requires you to do work is not a true break.  

On a tangential note, while we are all completing this mad-dash to the finish line that is the end of the semester, sacrificing sleep and leisure time for additional assignments, final projects and cramming for final exams, we are also tasked with figuring out when we’re leaving campus and how to spend our month between semesters. I don’t know about you all, but I am wasting away, waiting for the day that I can get the hell out of cow-town. Jokes aside, while I love Storrs and my friends in it, I cannot stress enough the benefits of getting away from it. 

In doing so, I am working on deciding if I should go back to my classic, hometown restaurant job. This in itself means weighing the pros and cons of dealing with older individuals wanting their meal to be perfect, thus being downright cruel, and wanting to make tips from the millennials that feel guilty that they even walked into the restaurant. On the other hand, I could try to work at the newspaper I interned at this summer, where I would gain experience in the career field I plan on pursuing post-graduation. You know, graduation? Also known as the thing my mom keeps asking me about that I can only ever respond with “Just la la la la la la shhhhh living my life?” I am going to graduate eventually – a terrifying thought – and I will, in fact, have to face the dreaded real world and find some kind of a job. 

So in trying to explain this dilemma of where to work over winter break to one of my roommates I was hit with utter despair for the state of the world – typical Monday vibes of course. Let’s face it, I need to work somewhere next month if I want to keep being able to afford college. But the existence of this decision between the familiar selling-of-my-soul for tips versus doing something fulfilling for once is upsetting to say the least. 

Obviously, both choices have their downsides. The restaurant industry is no joke, and having worked in it since I was 16 years old, I can safely say it is exhausting. Yes, I could certainly work 60 hours a week and make decent money in tips if people are feeling particularly generous this lovely holiday season. But the horror stories of restaurant jobs are a mere Google search away – or you can ask any of your friends who currently work in restaurants; we’ve seen it all. And yes, if you work in a bar or restaurant that is expensive enough, higher bills and tabs mean on average, tips will be higher and you can make decent money. But it’s an inherently unstable income to rely on variable tips rather than set wages. It can be hard to leave a job that lets you walk away cash-in-hand at the end of the day. But it’s also hard to say the downsides of unpredictable and often low income, just-in-time scheduling, rampant substance abuse throughout the industry and long, exhausting shifts with few (if any) breaks can outweigh that one-in-a-million chance of getting a beautiful tip.  

But at the newspaper, I might not have as many hours available to me and might not make as much money. Yes, I need the experience if I want to be qualified for a job in the future. But it’s ridiculous in the first place that our workplace expectations have an unspoken rule requiring you to complete an internship or two to gain experience while still in school. This is that fabled “higher education” that you pay for, mind you, and many internships are unpaid or low-paying. Even then, if you want to do that internship for credit, over the summer or winter session between classes when you are on “break” and have more time, you often have to pay your university the intersession class fees. At its core, this is an unspoken expectation of students to pay for field experience. This is frustrating at its mildest, but it’s also elitist and classist to assume all students can afford to do so. 

This is a long-winded and probably too personally-specific way of saying that while I’m not sure if I have the exact answers, something has to change here. We could start by paying both our interns and long-term employees livable wages. We could reform the restaurant industry. We could societally value entry-level work without making it impossible to get one’s foot in the door. And with the immediate future in mind, I have no idea what I’m going to do this winter – assuming I make it through these last few weeks of the semester. On that depressing note, good luck Huskies; I’m sure we all need it.  

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