Keeping up with Kincaid: Do I work to live or live to work?

Managing+Editor%2C+Laken+Kincaid%2C+discusses+their+thoughts+from+the+past+few+weeks

Laken Kincaid

Managing Editor, Laken Kincaid, discusses their thoughts from the past few weeks

Laken Kincaid, Managing Editor

Over the summer, I was asked a personal question that I still am unable to answer out loud. In between shenanigans like driving to Krispy Kreme, putting rubber ducks on my supervisor’s desk while he was on vacation, or photoshopping my coworkers’ faces on Marvel movie posters, a philosophical challenge was posed. What at first started as whispers embedded in conversations about a long-winded personality test or allusions in various cafeteria chats about the future, I was eventually probed directly on a matter that I desperately try to avoid. 

“Do you work to live or live to work?”

Practically everyone in my intern cohort said they resonate most with the former clause in the query; they do what they can to get a paycheck and focus their lives on their experiences outside of all of their work. They do extracurriculars to boost their resume and cordially interact with their higher-ups to maintain a relationship that stays inside their cubicles. They take different classes for the credit they need or to fill a requirement on their degree evaluation, only striving for the grades they do because of how it looks to their potential employers. The five days between Sunday and Saturday are just filler episodes until their big break on the weekend. 

In front of the crowd, I agreed with them, not wanting to feel like an idiosyncratic, high-strung mess. After all, on my drives to and from work, I see quirky signs from car dealerships and dentists all saying “thank god it’s Friday!” as if there is a universal agreement that the 9-to-5 lifestyle is a drag. Everyone hates Mondays and will put it on a coffee mug with a cute picture of a sleeping dog, or maybe Garfield.

With all of this information combined in my brain like a warm stew, I realized I was alone. I, unapologetically, live to work. 

This bleeds over to almost anything I do. I am sure this sounds like masochism, but I currently have four internships, serve on the executive board of eight or so student organizations, have four additional on-campus jobs and still take around 18 credits a semester (if the honors program is feeling merciful, they let me take 20). If you wish to make an argument that classwork does not count as legitimate work, I think you should visit the Academic Success Center where they consistently preach that school comes first. But, even if you do not count school, my schedule is still pretty full. World Section Editor, Patrick Kane, can attest that when I am asked what all I do, I say “let me pull up my LinkedIn account because I forget.”

Let me assure you that this is not a cry for help or a way to boost my ego, it is instead a way to illustrate how much I love not only keeping busy, but the intoxicating feeling of progress. If I am not checking things off of my to-do list, I feel claustrophobic and lost in a field of (what I perceive to be) missed opportunities.

While I do put off a silly, goofy persona both in my classes and at my various jobs, I am extremely business-oriented no matter where I go. Where people see free time I see the potential for cogs to continue turning for the sake of advancement. To go to sleep, I usually have to watch documentaries or else I have a crippling fear that I am not using my time wisely. 

Luckily, the to-do list never shrinks. I constantly have approximately 20 tabs open on my laptop of things that need to be accomplished within the next week. To many, this seems like hell. Personally, it is a dopamine machine. If I am not working for the greater good of myself or an organization I am a part of (therefore making me look better in tandem), I feel like my time is wasted. 

Many strangers look at my schedule and are left in awe. My colleagues and friends shake their heads because they know exactly who I am. Whenever they ask about my day, they know my free time usually comes in sporadic waves or through multitasking. This may seem pitiful but I love every single second of it because of how it makes me feel. When looking at the scale of my work-life balance, work outweighs the feather of life like the boulder it is. After all, my responsibilities serve as my rock every day without fail. 

After coming to terms with how I operate after a few months of reflection (mostly in the car and before my head hits the pillow), I was again forced to reevaluate my approach to life. While there was probably no ill intention to this question, if anything it was an actual peek into the reality I tread through mentally, another inquiry at my internship left me in a state of contemplation.

“Laken, what are your hobbies?”

To many, this is just a throw away, soft ball pitch that anyone can rattle off a response to. For me, it reaffirms what I originally learned when I realized my love for business and progress is an enigma. 

The question itself assumes I both know what hobbies are and that I already have them built into my schedule. I think my lack of response showcased that I do not have enough time to observe any leisure activities and, honestly, I never have in my life. Even in middle school, I was so swamped with choir, the trivia team and even various sports that I never developed any hobbies.

Perhaps that explains why I act the way I do now; I never created the habit of indulging in hobbies at a young age and it crippled my ability to find some later on in my college years. I am sure there are some other psychological roots that cannot be summarized in a school newspaper but some random JCU psychology student can take on that research if they so feel compelled. 

In spite of that, I am not angry that I do not have sideline activities that serve as diversions to my day-to-day life. In all actuality, things like writing and reading, pursuits many people would classify as “hobbies,” I still frame as means of production rather than relaxation. 

Maybe it is not the fact that I do not have hobbies, but it is that I use these enterprises as caveats to do what I love while still satisfying my need for moving forward. At the end of the day, my “live to work” mindset has me reimagining what I do for leisure and the fact that no matter what I do, I always want it to be added to my portfolio in the long run. While I do not want my image to be boiled down to marks on a page, I feel as if this is a rut that I cannot escape and it may not even be worth digging out of.