Living To Work Isn't As Bad As It Sounds

Living To Work Isn't As Bad As It Sounds

Working to live might give you all the money you've ever wanted, but it won't fulfill your soul.
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There are two kinds of people in the world, those who work to live and those who live to work. Before I looked up the latter, I pictured the elderly men and women often seen working until they pass away, their lives meaning no more than the amount of time they were on the job.

I wasn't aware living to work had more of a positive connotation because of the reality shows I've compared it with.

The people on The Real Housewives, Chrisley Knows Best and other actors and actress on reality TV all seem to have a job only to accommodate for their high-end lifestyles, but never because it was their passion.

Mark Kolakowski from The Balance defined the two categories as:

1) "These people view their work or careers largely as toil whose purpose is to earn the money necessary to support themselves and their dependents."

2) "Their lives center on their work or careers and that achievement in their professions is a major source of satisfaction and meaning in their lives."

The way Kolakowski explained why there are people who live to work was the same idea my college roommate had. She's a natural science major and wants to work as a doctor in the medical field.

Even though I see her working with children, she's keeping her options open which is another reason why I love her.

Navya is one of the most down-to-earth and insightful people I've ever met. She's one of those intellectuals who makes you shut up and listen because you know what she's about to say is going to be good.

Last night when she inspired me to write about this topic, she found herself relating more to the living to work category. Her reason was her passion for the medical field and all that it has contributed and continues to contribute to society.

In spite of the fact that I'm working at a job solely for the purpose of paying for my existence at UT Austin, I aspire to have a future job where I live to work.

I want to have a career that fulfills my hopes and dreams, even if it sounds a little cheesy saying it out loud.

Although it's easier said than done, those of us who haven't reached our goals yet, we must remind ourselves that it's only a means to an end.

At first, I was okay with working to live because at least I'd have money, but my roommate has inspired me to find that job where I focus less on the money and more on the feeling it gives me.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Corken

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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Being Unemployed For A Whole Year Gave Me The Break I Needed To Focus On Myself

This is the formula I need for personal gain from the time I lost working part-time retail.

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So, it's official: according to Facebook, by last week, it has been exactly a year since I posted a message about leaving my second (and hopefully my last) part-time retail job at Staples, where I worked for up to six months right after my first job at Stop & Shop, where I worked for a little over two years. Suffice it to say, I have had enough with retail at that point (at any place other than my dream store Barnes & Noble) among other reasons.

I have been out of work since then for a whole year!

Now, don't take that last statement as one of pure excitement from being out of a job for a whole year, which was not my original plan, mind you. Over time, it has proven to be a double-edged sword for me personally.

At the time when I quit Staples, it was mostly because I didn't have to do any more mundane tasks that working retail (and customer service) required me to do, which all grew to be more tiring and grueling to me. Though I knew I wasn't going to be there forever, I still felt empty and unsatisfied and needed to get out.

That was the same feeling I had while working at Stop & Shop, but at that time, I used the opportunity to work at Staples as my excuse to bolt out of there, thinking that it might get me closer to my chance to work at Barnes & Noble (just across the street) and would somehow get better, since I would mainly be working with office supplies and not with food. However, it only proved to be more of the same.

This time around, my excuse for quitting Staples was that it gave me the opportunity to devote more time to my studies and my family. Although I partially benefitted from this reasoning, I still felt restless with myself and hopeless in my job search that didn't involve retail. While I thought that an internship at a major publishing company would have been great for an English major like me, and to get some cash rolling in after months of coming up nothing, because of frantic prepping for final papers, I missed out on the early deadlines for those internships.

And like hell I'm going back to retail.

So, that left last summer completely wide open, void of any work, which just a few years earlier would have been awesome for me, but the constant reminders from my family (as well as deep down inside) to get out and work as an adult would do kept looming over me and sucking most of any joy that I tried to get out of it. While I did apply (again) to Barnes & Noble and actually got an interview at the end of that summer, I was turned down for someone else, someone with 10 years of retail experience, a fraction of which I had and for which I mostly suffered.

After all this time, I realized that while it was nice not stressing about how my work schedule won't conflict with my school schedule and all the personal time in-between, as well as the menial tasks that didn't do me any personal service won't conflict with my schoolwork, I still needed to keep myself busy but with a job/internship that I actually enjoy and to which I can give my all. This is the formula I need to gain back all the life I lost working part-time retail.

So, now it's exactly a year since I quit my last job (and got my last paycheck) and this time, I will be taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself to me: I went along with SBU's Career Center team to an on-site event at Penguin Random House, where I learned about the different jobs within the publishing business as well as the different deadlines for the different internship programs offered there. I couldn't be more psyched for a working position that couldn't be more perfect for me!

My state of unemployment and restlessness will soon be over!

This long job journey of mine has been a bumpy one, but my perfect fit job is just around the corner and this time, I am not afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve to get it. Though there are definitely some things I would've liked to have done differently, while it did take me a long time to reach this point, I needed at least some time to reflect on what I did wrong in my past jobs, as well as my breaks in-between and afterward, so that I'll be more careful with myself next time.

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