Ok. It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. Why? Because I suck at writing blog posts. I think lots of things throughout the course of the day, very few of which make it to this point. Some of it is that I don’t always know how to say what I want to say properly. Tough situation for someone who writes, right? Part of it, though, is because sometimes I forget I have a voice and I can use it.
So anyhow – I read a post last week that said something that struck a note with me. It wasn’t immediately good or bad, but it resonated and it made me think a lot. It was the generic, highly assumptive statement that ‘we all hate labels.’
I used to. When I was confused and struggling to self-identify I think I spent about a week going through a very brief ‘OMG don’t you label me’ phase. Maybe it was, like, two weeks. I didn’t like the idea of someone else looking at me and immediately assuming they KNEW me just because they’d filed me safely in their little box under a certain label of their choosing.
Then, months later, after wallowing through a mire of self-doubt and fear and completely uncertain territory, I began to accept myself. I found a label. And the relief I felt over it made me cry, because for so long I had been feeling completely alone. I was worried that no one was made like me and I would be by myself forever, having to hide and never allowed to say the things about myself I wanted to say.
That label gave me freedom. It gave me relief. It made me feel slightly less alone. It didn’t feel entirely right, though, which led to more self-doubt. More questions. More worry that I had it wrong, that I was maybe crazy, a whole slew of nightmares I hadn’t even opened up yet.
I read more. I researched more. I opened myself up to learning about more and more people. Yeah, I found some haters. I found some people that wouldn’t accept me because of the label I chose for myself, but I found some who did. And, eureka, I found some people who used more than one label. I wasn’t stuck with one? OMG I can have ALL THE LABELS.
It was a ‘light bulb’ moment for me, realizing that labels aren’t always good or always bad. Some people might hate applying labels, period. But don’t tell me ‘don’t we just all hate labels’ when those labels I chose for myself helped keep my ass alive. When I sat in the dark wondering if I should bother living because I was never going to fit in anywhere, those labels I chose for myself made me feel like I fit in with someone, somewhere. When someone shyly said to me, “Do you feel like this too?” Well, I was able to nod, and say yes, and maybe there were only two of us. Maybe in the whole world full of round people we were the only two triangle people – but I wasn’t the only triangle person and that was the whole point!
So gimme the labels. I’ll take ’em. I’m not handing them out because I don’t think that’s anyone’s business but their own. It’s not my job to label you, but it’s also not yours to label me. If you ask me who I am and I reply with a laundry list of labels that makes your head spin, you don’t have to do anything but nod and smile.
My labels might not even mean the same thing to me that they mean to you. And that’s okay too. Talk to me about them. Have a discussion about what they mean to us both. That’s cool; we can discuss our labels like rational adults and then settle our disagreements like rational adults – with water guns and nerf battle gear.
Just don’t tell me to hate labels when they gave me nothing but relief from all the fear I felt. I’m going to wear my labels with pride, because for a while there I was floating in no-label-land and it was a pretty scary place. When it comes down to it, knowing I had a label at all was what saved me.
~Arin, the Labeled.