Work vs. Play: Do I Even Call This Work?


Building LEGO Mario, The Strong, Rochester, New York

An interesting dynamic exists between work and play. In my last blog, I discussed how domestic chores can be play. The work versus play issue came to mind recently since so much of what I do in my current job is playing (just don’t tell my boss that).

When it comes to a career, I never thought I would be someone who liked their job. It was called work for a reason. Before I knew any better, I envisioned finding something I was good at and would generate a decent paycheck. Loving it wasn’t a requirement. However, as I navigated my higher education and early career, I soon found that I had to love my job. I spend so much of my life at work, so that time should be spent being happy. I found happiness in museums. I connect with the important role that museums play in society, making me feel extra fortunate to land a job at The Strong this past March. As a bonus, The Strong isn’t just any museum, it’s an institution devoted to exploring and preserving the importance of play. Museum + playing = win for me!

One of my responsibilities as the Young Bethany with constructed Mega Bloks Dinobloks Brontosaurus, courtesy Bethany Mosher, Rochester, New York Collections Researcher is to catalog objects that The Strong acquires for its collection. Many of the newest acquisitions will be used in the Build, Drive, Go exhibition opening soon. As the exhibit’s name suggests, some of the toys that will be displayed are construction and building sets, types of playthings I’ve always loved. As I child, I gravitated toward playing with LEGO bricks and jigsaw puzzles. Even as an adult, I get a strange sense of gratification when assembling IKEA-type furniture. So I instantly volunteered my services to build anything needed for Build, Drive, Go. As a result, I have assembled everything from a giant Tinkertoy windmill to a 30-inch-tall Super Mario made from LEGO bricks. These building projects have kept me busy, but I have enjoyed every second of it.

As a methodical person, I thrive in situations with structure, efficiency, and instructions. Conversely, I find creative tasks and blank pages challenging. This applies to both my career and my leisure time. The reason I love constructing LEGO sets or assembling IKEA furniture is because I can follow instructions and work toward a specified result. I love the process that goes into the construction. If you dumped a bag of loose blocks in front of me and said to make something up, I would struggle. In that case, something that is play to someone else feels like work to me. I don’t enjoy creative play, further proving that play is subjective. Bethany with a constructed Erector Set windmill, The Strong, Rochester, New York

I have learned more about myself working (playing) at The Strong than in any other environment. I had an epiphany—how I like to play exactly matches how I like to work. The underlying themes I enjoy from both are the same. So it should be no surprise that I love my job. Of course it doesn’t hurt that my job involves toys.

Whether you find building projects fulfilling or frustrating, come examine some of my handiwork and many other toy constructions in The Strong’s Build, Drive, Go exhibit opening December 5, 2015 on the second floor of the museum.


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