Being essential and a college student

As the semester began, I was just like any other student. Ready to see what the new semester brought with classes and other students. I began my final part of senior year and after five years of education, this was the final step. I was one semester away from graduation and saying that I was excited would be a massive understatement. I had also been working at a grocery store since my sophomore year, so I had plenty of experience balancing both a school and workload. And then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

While everyone in the world has been affected by the outbreak, my plan flipped on its head. I went from working a little more than 20 hours a week to working almost 40, while still having schoolwork to do. I’ve had nights where I’ll get off work and come home, just to do papers and homework until 3 a.m. and have to be at work at 7 a.m. the next day. I recently did a final paper that a professor said would take multiple days to finish in five hours because of a hectic work schedule last week. And it’s not just me either, as some of my coworkers are in the same boat.

“My school schedule is fully dependent on my work schedule now,” said Dominic Gamiero, a senior at Cleveland State University. “I’ve had to tell professors that I won’t be able to attend Zoom sessions because of it. I’ve found myself cramming multiple assignments on my off days just to keep up with everything I need to.”

One of my coworkers has started using the phrase “better days ahead.” While this is true and that will be the case, to say that working these shifts has caused a lot of extra anxiety and stress than my regular workload would be an understatement. All the days blur together into one big mash-up and I am barely able to keep up with assignments, just hoping that I sign into Blackboard at the right time to see when something is due. But at this point, my grades are the farthest thing from my mind.

My biggest concern with this pandemic isn’t catching the disease itself, but rather passing it to my coworkers. I’m the youngest person working in the department and others have underlying medical conditions and other issues that make them more susceptible to catching the coronavirus. They have been with me through my entire college journey, have been there to see me almost drop out twice, and were super excited that I would be graduating this semester.

Every single day that I punch in for work, I just think another day and then I am one step closer to being able to relax and decompress. But that day has yet to come and I am still working like crazy. 

Whether it’s being at work or doing schoolwork, I am constantly busy with stuff to do. That really eats at you and breaks you down, and every single college kid who is an essential worker right now is in the same boat. We are trying to keep our heads above water with our grades while keeping our jobs in these businesses.