It has become politically incorrect to put labels on people and for some good reasons. In the past and still today unfortunately, many of these labels, black, gay, etc., are used to demean and repress those seen as Other. Yet labels have their place. Humans work better with a frame of reference. It gives us a jumping off point for our journey into the world outside ourselves. As long as we don’t make the labels more important that the people we are applying them to, they are a handy tool our brains use to cope with all the input we receive.
And while labeling the world around us is important, the most important labels are the ones we give ourselves. Some are simple: brunette, short, Greek, thirty-four. Others are a little more complex: funny, friendly, smart, forgetful. Then there are the ones we use to define ourselves, the ones that shape the decisions we make and the life we lead. They can come in a variety of categories. Career: Writer, Teacher, Librarian. Talents: Writing, Knitting, Photography. Family: Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother. Throughout our lives as we grow, they change. Some disappear, others are added. The level of importance of each always morphing along a sliding scale.
Some people have shining label that glow and drive them. They become not just a label but a definition of our core selves. Actress, Athlete, Reporter, Engineer, Professor, Artist, Volunteer, Activist. Especially in our youthful adulthood the career labels often are the ones of most important or at least daily focus. The family ones obviously grow in import if you choose to start a family with a significant other and perhaps children.
I never felt the pull of a Career. I had jobs I liked, that I worked hard at, but while they were labels, they were never definitions. I always felt my family connections more even at the time of my life when they are often more in the background. I have always been the most proud of being a good daughter and sister and then wife. And when I became a mother, I found my definition. I know it is the one label I was meant to carry and turn into a definition of my self. It is hard. It is exhausting. It is my natural state of being. That is an awesome understanding, and I love the truth of that statement. Yet I worry just a little. It is a definition that is fundamentally about others, one in which I can easily lose myself to the fulfillment of my children. Other parents I know still have careers and talents that are definitions, not just labels. They are of an import in their lives that they go to extraordinary lengths to juggle all the parts of their cores. I juggle diapers and toys, laundry and a vacuum, a part-time job and workouts. And I am very content. I wonder if I should be. Is it enough to have one definition and many labels? Will labels be enough when my kids no longer need constant attention? Maybe a label or two will then change to a definition. Who knows? Maybe I’m worrying for nothing. I am glad it is just a tiny worry, a rumination, really. I wonder if I am the only one who has it.
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