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Keeping up with Kincaid: what is the solution to independence?

Laken Kincaid
Editor-in-Chief, Laken Kincaid, reflects on their thoughts from the past week.

One word that has been used consistently to categorize my personality from an outside perspective, from both friends, family and mere acquaintances alike, is “independent.” While still a sensitive soul and an extrovert on paper, I feel comfortable taking on journeys alone even when the path is foggy. When looking at my favorite personality test, the Myers-Briggs, the last question of the assessment asks if you “feel confident that things will work out for you.” Every time, I answer that I strongly agree.

I have to move to a college in a town I’ve never heard of before with absolutely no friends? No worries, I will figure it out. I have to run a news department that was completely decimated by the pandemic? No worries, I will figure it out. All of this boils down to the pride I take in my own ability to act as a compass amidst unfamiliar territory. I find myself relying on my wit to weasel my way in and out of complexities. When faced with uncertainty, while at first I am a little anxious, I always resort back to this mentality.

However, there is a portion of that ideology that could be damaging. “No worries, I will figure it out.” It’s not that my team, my friends, my department will figure it out. I am the lone party on which I impart the responsibility of “figuring things out.” Not only am I a control freak who likes to approach tasks in a rather specific fashion, but I despise imparting my needs on those I am close with. One of the common phrases I repeat to my confidants when they ask if I need to vent is “I don’t do the sympathy stuff.”

There is probably some commentary interlaced in this column on the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” dogma and how harmful it can be for a person still growing into who they want to be. As a child, my mother has always said she has a “suck it up, buttercup” thought process; I cannot help but connect the dots that suggest that this reflects how I approach my own work and internal dealings. Especially when you’re relatively clever and you can find solutions at a decent pace, it becomes easy to take struggles on the chin and isolate them as your issues and no one else’s.

This mindset can get so exhausting. Eventually, when you continuously show how capable you are, even under high-stress situations, others just assume you have everything all together and wrapped in a pretty bow. Sometimes, this means people may hoist new responsibilities onto your back and expect you to “figure things out” just as you always do, like a sadistic sink-or-swim test. Other times, this reality suggests that you can never disclose when you are drowning lest others see you as incapable and pitiful. I know that is such a large leap in logic but that is the double bind that independence brings. You flounder once and suddenly your aptitude plummets.

While being independent appears to be freeing, it can create a cage around your mind and the key is lost somewhere in your own pockets. This dual-edged sword is incredibly sharp and pride often acts as a muzzle to calling for help. It is in the dark depths of one’s own thoughts that it is imperative to find a resource to unbind your shackles, even temporarily.

For me, these resources take the form of mentorship. I will be the first to say that, from my internship to John Carroll, I have been beyond blessed with the best mentors to ever grace this earth. I often feel like I take advantage of their kindness and patience with my stubborn sense of self-righteousness.

As mentioned before, I tend to get caught within crippling anxieties, tied between a fear that I am an imposter barely getting by and the pressure of not letting a soul know how scary that can be. These individuals, many of whom have seen me mature alongside these struggles that are baying like a hound, can view my worries from a bird’s-eye view without the filter of forced resilience. They peer beyond the facade and know how to dissect my rampaging notions while also forcing me to take accountability as needed; they force me to hold myself to standards that I disregard either because of my arrogance or my overwhelming demureness, depending on the situation.

It has been difficult for me to accept being mentored because I do not want to be another responsibility on someone’s docket. Yet, these people do not see me as a burden or a charity case, they see me as a person that they can love and nurture. I am still struggling to grapple with this which can be seen in my fleeting texts that say “I am so sorry for spamming you. This means a lot to me. Thank you for listening…” and so on.

I think those messages were cultivated in a lab brandished by the possibility of abandonment. I don’t want to be “too much” for these guides because I do not want to push them away. I would rather figure it out myself than chain someone to my own, potentially trivial, problems because I know how exhausting it– no, I– can be.

But they stick around despite my dread, showing that I am worth lending an ear to. I am worth providing a crutch to. I am worth figuring it out right beside, not all alone. They prove that my headstrong independence is only preservation, not the mark of success, and true freedom lies in releasing your anxieties to people who care and can help.


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About the Contributor
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].

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