19 09 2012

We all use them.  They’re just useful.  It tells me that there’s milk in a plastic jug, chicken noodle soup in a tin (or is it steel?) can, gas at a random store on the side of the road.  Sometimes, labels are useful for warning people of hazardous things.  Labels tell me what my t-shirt is made of (and it itches!), what scent my candle is, and the contents of a box.  Labels are useful for things, because they describe things, and give us a sense of understanding about whatever it is that the label is labeling.  Whatever the label is labeling rarely changes form and rarely decides to be something else.  Once placed, the labeled objects do not change until an exterior force messes with it.

Human beings, however, are not things.  Remember this.

We like to label people.  We like to label people in the same way that we label boxes in our attic.  If we fill a box with Christmas decorations and write on the outside of the box, “Christmas decorations”, we know that it contains ornaments and tree trimmings.  We know to get it down in November when we are decorating the house.  It is useful to label boxes of decorations, because it saves us the time from having to look inside the box and discover what it holds.   We like to label people like this, probably because it saves us the time from getting to actually know the person inside and beyond the label.  I don’t know if this approach is very accurate.

I hate labeling when we’re talking about people.  The thing is, the labels you put on people do not entirely encompass that person behind the label.  There are tons of other things about me other than just a label.  If you label me according to my job, a cashier, you miss out on tons of other perspectives of me, and you deduce several things about me, and put me in this category of people, whether that is good or bad.  If I play golf, you would also deduce a very different set of characteristics from me.  Being a cashier is only 8 or 9 hours of my day, it is not my whole life.  On a day like yesterday, it is one of the 3 dozen roles that I played in a given 24 hour period.  Even if you call me a lover or people (which is what I most aspire to do), there are days where I do not love people well, and I am selfish and mean just for the heck of it.  I can fit many different labels.  I am a dreamer, a cashier, a lover, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a victim, an actor, a dancer, a driver, a reader, a blogger, a facebook-er, an eater, a sleeper, a speaker, an entertainer, a joker, a cuddler, a movie buff…the list goes on an on.  Any one of those given labels are not enough to identify me as a person.  I have so much more in my life going on for me than I can care to label.

But once you label me, much like the box in the attic with the label, you don’t have to look inside of me to figure out what I’m about.  If you label me as a theatre person, you suddenly think you know everything I think about everything.  I’m suddenly a leftist who is also an environmentalist freak and I probably think Andrew Lloyd Webber is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  (Everyone in the theatre world that I’ve ever met, thinks that Cats sucks…just by the way)  Or If I say that I am a believer in Jesus, you automatically assume I’m a republican, voting for Romney and I’m against homosexuals and those who are pro-choice.  A label to a human has far-reaching affects than just that of the label.

Labels are useful, but for humans, they are not true.  There are more perspectives.  I don’t always fit all of the labels, and I bet, if you examined your life too, you’d realize you don’t always fit one of your labels.

As if our fascination with labels for individuals is not enough, we seem really fascinated with making sure that every single relationship has its own label.  People cannot just be friends anymore.  There has to be a label.  If I hang out with someone a few times, it doesn’t take long before I am asked if me and another person are dating, or people assume that I’m seeing them.  They’re so fascinated with that label, that it completely pressures the two people!  But that’s another rant.  Anyways, with the label thing, people always introduce people by that label.  I have a sister.  There, I’ve just used a label.  If I were to introduce you to her, I would say “this is Grace, she is my sister.”  I’ve labeled her.  But, the title of “sister” is not enough.  In many ways, she is a close friend and someone that I know I can be angry with and mean as all get out, but her love and adoration for me is unconditional.  I’ve tried it, I know.  But she can also be my worst enemy at the same time.  If I introduce you to my friend, I would say “this is so-and-so and I know them from ____________(insert meaningful location here).”   And they have just been labeled.  But…the fact that I’ve kept up with them since 1999 means that they’re more meaningful than just that label.
For example, the “friend” label, doesn’t really mean anything, because it can encompass any relationship just about.  But someone who is simply a friend is probably much more to you than a friend.  Take my friend Kayla.  Kayla was much more than a friend.  She was a mentor, a hero, a spiritual guide.  Her life with me was wonderful, and I loved her so much.  When she died, so much of me was lost because it was my first real experience with death.  To label her as “just a friend” really misses out on all of the wonderness of who she was and is.

If people and relationships do not fit labels, why do we insist on them?  The answer is probably something on the lines of making it easy for others to understand the type of relationship that we share with certain people. In some sense, it is a way for us to make “more special” the specific relationship that we may find ourselves in.  I strongly disagree with that.  The older I get, the more I realize that these titles are pointless, because I create a life with people, I don’t create a label.  I don’t subscribed to a prescribed understanding of the course of the relationship that I take with a person, or the set up perimeters that a certain labeled relationship is supposed to take.

Live a life of extraordinary.  Life with labels is ordinary.  Extraordinary means that we are busting the norms.  Bust the norms, live a life of extraordinary, don’t let some prescribed label or notion put you in this little box.  Don’t claim labels at all.  But if you must, claim all the labels and allow the mixture of them all to personify who you are to the world.  Don’t be trapped in the labels other people put on you.  I dare you to live a life without that label.




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