Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Contemplating Labels – What Do You Choose?

This is a long winded and not entirely necessary introduction to my thought of the day (which is actually about choosing to call oneself an artist), so skip a few paragraphs if you're not so easily amused.

Heather Armstrong (the famous Dooce) has a running joke about how the only thing she ever got from being high school valedictorian was being able to list it in her biography. Otherwise, it hasn't done anything for her, so she recommends "aiming low."

Jon, her husband, pokes fun at her continuing perfectionism and desire to be the very best at home repairs, or whatever they're doing. Yesterday, she wrote about her fury when the life insurance company rejected her application but accepted Jon's. In response to her tirade, he teased, "Deep down it burns you, IT TEARS YOU APART to know that I am the Valedictorian of Life Insurance and you aren't."

We all wear so many labels. Daughter, wife, sister, mother, student, teacher, graduate, employee, home-ow(n)er, feminist, caregiver, dancer, director, voter, owner of weird eating habits, voracious reader, and so on.

Some you choose, some you earn, others you are born into. Which ones are useful? Which ones hold you back?

For instance, practically everyone I knew in college was a valedictorian. The work that it represented had value – knowledge gained, work ethic developed. However, the label became meaningless, once we'd actually gotten into school, and could be left behind.

Are you "a good girl?" Are you the shy one? The chick with a legendary temper? The person who is always responsible? "Always" late or early? Is it time to drop some of the labels and free oneself?

Which labels do you want to embrace?

Are you a writer? If you're writing, call yourself a writer. After a lot of thought, I do. When you ask a group of young children whether they can sing, draw, or dance, they all say they can. When you ask a group of adults the same question, how many will say yes? A lot fewer, that's for sure, and I think that's a shame. Too many of us identify ourselves as only our jobs, whether that is business development manager or home-maker.

Since I became a mother, I've been more conscious of the separation of the different parts of me. Family member, high tech professional, artist, and all the things that are important. Like being a sleeper, for instance.

Speaking of that, even though this is probably the most incoherent thing I've written, it's really time to get some sleep. I promise to think about this some more though, especially the part about choosing to call oneself an artist.


YF said...

i love the post and the photo....

Kristen said...

This wasn't incoherent at all! I think you bring up some good points. I also think our "labels" change as we get older, and I don't know that we recognized that when we were younger. I used to be "organized" - before I had kids. Now? Not so much. It's depressing, but true. And once I accepted it, it stopped bothering me as much. I'd like to think more about this too...

Mamacita! said...

Lady M - I've enjoyed your blog for a while. I think you're right on target. I actually describe myself, in my blogger profile, as one who chooses to embrace the labels that define me. Labels are just that - and mean different things to different people.

Havinc a child dramatically changed the way I view myself and my roles.

Just like your example with children who can dance, sing, etc...When asked if they can sing, adults are more likely to say no, I don't sing - but then discover they're a much better singer than the next person who volunteers.

I'm learning to speak up.

Lady M said...

yf - thank you!

kristin - it's true how getting over an old label can be really freeing.

mamacita - thanks for visiting! I will drop by to see your labels. :)

Mamacita Tina said...

I tend to not think about labels. I do what needs to be done or what I want for fun. You're right, we adults tend to limit what we think we are capable of. I wonder when and why our thinking changes?

Anonymous said...

A lot of people hate labels on principle. Me, I love 'em. Nothing gives me a nice, comfy sensation like being able to fit myself into a label. My favourite, of course, is INFJ (especially since the Myers-Briggs enables me to label everyone else as well - especially fun with the P's, who hate labels, which allows me to tell them, "I knew you'd say that - because you're a P).

Other labels - mommyblogger (no problems with that one), prof/teacher (okay, that one fits a little uncomfortably), good girl, and bookish one (like Julia from Major Bedhead).

Girl con Queso said...

I never feel comfortable calling myself an artist. Although if someone else called me that, it would be the highest compliment.

And I can tell, if only by the photos on this post, that you're definitely an artist!