We, as humans, label ourselves. It’s a fact of life, though we often insist that labels are detrimental. But, if you think about it, all nouns are just…well…labels. They’re words that apply to some person, place, or thing, and those words enable us to identify persons, places, and things.
The part that people dislike about labels is the fact that a lot of implications can ride piggyback to a noun, and those implications aren’t how we want to be considered.
I am a wife.
Wife: n. a married woman considered in relation to her husband.
But, when I say that phrase, a thousand other associations flash into the mind.
Wife: n. a woman who married someone because she loved him enough to want to spend the rest of his life together. A woman who is probably willing to pick up her husband’s dirty clothes and cook the occasional meal for him. A woman who is no longer available on the “dating market”.
Depending on the person, the culture, the religion, etc., a thousand other associations could materialize with the single word “Wife.” It is a label (and one I’m proud to wear).
Lately, I’ve been considering other labels I desperately want to squeeze myself into, but can’t. Namely, the term writer.
Boy oh boy, do I wish I could say with ease and pride, “I am writer.” And yet, because of those obnoxious implication that fly through my mind, I can’t…
Writer: n. a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.
Ahem — don’t I do that? I write full-time (and some overtime, too). I devote all my energy and passion to crafting sentences that tell a story. I love everything about writing, from the first draft to the query letter.
But… I have all these associations that keep me from that label.
Writer: n. a person who writes books, stories, or articles that people pay to read. A person who writes stories worth telling with deep, literary value. A person who can create magic with a pen or keyboard. A person who makes enough money from his/her writing to sustain his/her family.
And the list continues on and on, offering me no relief because the list excludes me. Isn’t that ridiculous? Other parts of my life are the same. I run three times a week or more (and have been for years), and yet because I’m not very fast, I don’t go very far, and I’ve only run a few races, I don’t qualify myself as a runner.
No doubt many people suffer from this label-affliction. Ridiculous.
It’s easy to see why we do this to ourselves, though — why we exclude ourselves from labels we want to fit into. It’s because we are afraid, and it’s easier to hover at the edge than to throw ourselves in. If I call myself a runner, than I fear people’s expectations — they will expect me to run a certain speed, distance, etc. If I call myself a writer, then I fear I the commitment to myself and my craft that it entails — a commitment I might ultimately fail to maintain.
But these are all my own fears. No one else puts these expectations on me — they are my own ridiculous ideas. No one else has the same associations with the label that I do, and even if they did, I AM NOT DOING WHAT I LOVE TO PLEASE SOMEONE ELSE. I don’t need to listen to them, and I choose not to.
So, it’s time for a change. You and me. We are letting go of the labels that limit and embracing the labels that truly define. If I take pleasure from what I do, if I devote my time to honing that skill, if always do the best that I can, then that is enough.
I am a writer. I am a runner. I am a wife. I am a dog-owner. I am a reader. I am a singer. I am a cookie-fanatic. I am a video-gamer. I am a cyclist. I am a marine biologist. I am a music-lover. I am me.
And you know what?
That is exactly who I want to be.