While my sister became a nanny, my roommate went home to the same summer retail job, and my friend moved to work at a summer camp, I decided not to get an actual job this summer. The decision wasn't made easily. I hadn't been accepted to an internship and accidentally packed my passport in a storage unit in a different state after planning to teach English overseas. My sister needed out shared car for her job and so I agreed to be the one to stay home and help with family things.
Several members of my family have chronic health issues that suck up their time and energy. Being home for the summer without a job demanding my schedule meant that I could help with house cleaning, grocery store runs, cooking, pet care, and general companionship. Knowing I was a helpful, important member of my family didn't mean everything was peaches and cream though.
When I signed up for a payment plan for the fall semester, I practically had heart palpitations. I couldn't afford this! My work study job caps my hours at 18 and I'd already done the math for both what I would make and what I would spend during my fall semester. The payment plan made me agree to spend money I didn't even have yet!
But I could spend the night with my grandmother after she had a procedure on her legs without worrying about clocking in on time the next day. I could go to the grocery store when my mom was at the doctor. I could start dinner when my parents were busy at the social security office for a family member. I could stay up late when our dog was sick because I knew my parents needed their rest for their own work while I, jobless, could sleep in.
All of that, of course, was work. It required mental, physical, and emotional energy. It required time. I could set my own schedule and sleep in and I didn't make a cent doing it, but it was still work.
I did other unpaid work too. While work study isn't an option in the summer, my college requires community service hours that can be completed at any time, so my boss sent me work that I put towards those hours. I read and wrote and researched all summer, complete with book launch party planning at the end. No money was made, but experience was gained and work done. I'm glad I was able to say yes to the opportunity of continuing to work for an awesome professor and author, even if it didn't add to my bank account.
Not working for a paycheck also gave me time to work on myself. I started being mentored by a fantastic professor and woman of God and I was glad to have a free enough schedule that I could work around hers. While I worry a little about the money I probably lost to that free schedule, no amount of money can make up for the things I learned on those phone calls: to view myself as a resource that requires good management, to balance my schedule between myself and others, to start to-do lists, to not lose myself in my service to others, to draw boundaries in my personal life, to focus on the intentions behind my actions instead of only on the actions themselves, and so on.
By not going to a job every day, I was able to pursue other passions, which did result in some money, although not a lot. Being president of my college's Odyssey community pays a little, but instead of focusing on my finances, I was able to focus on my community. I had more conversations with my creators. I had more time to help with problems. I made a flyer and advertised my community across social media. I wrote emails, answered questions, offered prayer, ran an Instagram, and got better at hitting goals set by those above me because I had the time to do those things. Odyssey could become a higher priority because I had fewer priorities.
One of the other priorities I still had was writing outside of Odyssey. After taking a writing class that taught me how to pitch articles to publications, I knew I wanted to try to write for a platform other than Odyssey. I developed pitches and emailed them out, grateful to be available during normal business hours instead of away at a job, and had the time to develop an article when one of those pitches was accepted. For the first time in my life, writing became paid work, although again it wasn't a lot. The amount didn't matter though. I became a professional writer!
So to those who worked paying jobs this summer: I'm proud of you! It's hard to jump from school to work and back to school with little breaks. I'm genuinely glad you found something to help your finances, whatever state they may be in, and I hope you enjoyed the job you worked.
Please don't look down on me for not getting a paid job this summer, though. The help I was able to give to my family, the experience I gained from my professor/boss, the personal growth God helped me achieve with my mentor, and the passions I was able to pursue were worth it.
I'm still a little stressed about money, I think everyone is, but I trust that God will take care of me and that I made the right choice. I hope this summer you did the same.