How I live with my label

I don’t like labels.

I don’t think I ever have liked them.

But it seems like we have some compulsion as a whole to use them in some way.

And when we don’t fit into one…well, life can feel tough.

There are the basic ones like wife, husband, father, mother, grandparent, widowed, divorced…these, of course, pertain more to our identity. We can also include our occupations.

Then there are other labels that are more revealing and not as appealing, so to speak, such as labeling a sickness (mental or physical) or by the colour of our skin or nationality or based on our income or even what demographic we live in a certain town or city. Another one is by our physical size or social ability.

I could go on…

But I will go back to the one I know the best and one I haven’t mentioned yet.

It is through living with mine that I’ve paid more attention to how we do this in general as a society.

It is as though we have a need to label, so we can categorize someone first before actually getting to know them and form our own opinion.

Back to me. Well, I’m single. No big deal, just means I do not currently have a partner.

But, here’s the other thing. I’m in my mid-forties and I’ve never been married. I’ve also been living in the same small town for more than a decade and have not had a serious relationship in this town to speak about. So, I could be viewed as either that desperate old spinster who has never had a date or possibly that strong, independent woman who no one wants to touch.

To be honest, I have no idea how I am viewed in my town.

But, I do know I have been known to view myself pretty critically at times based on my self-given label.

I do not fit in, so at this stage, why would anyone want me/like me/see me as normal?

When I am logical, which can happen from time to time, I know there is nothing more wrong with me than the next person. In fact, I have friends, a decent reputation, lots of interests, and even lots of dating experience (it just gets a little further away the older I get).

As my singlehood became longer, I started to become more aware of the conversations around me. When someone would find out I did not have children or a partner, suddenly there would be nothing to talk about.

At the same time, I felt there was always something I wanted to talk about. I am interested in so many things and always curious about getting to know another person.

I felt there was much more to me outside of being single; or perhaps I wanted to be valued for more than my label identity no matter what it was. For example, if I was a mother, I like to think there is more to talk about with me besides my child’s latest new craze.

I took it on as a mini project to start asking people different questions and to avoid others. I would stay away from those status quo questions such as do you have kids, do you have a partner, what do you do…

It was hard to think of things on first meeting a person, but often circumstances would dictate the direction somewhat. I would ask about interests or comment on a very general topic in the beginning in order to generate other more specific questions.

I no longer felt I had a problem. In fact, I would be so focused on my mission of getting to know the actual person, that I would forget about what they thought about me. I would make my decision about how much more I wanted to get to know about the person based on this interaction and my own opinion versus an overused label dictated by social norms.

For me, this also allowed me to view myself differently. It did not matter as much to me what others were saying or what I thought they might be saying. By accepting my situation for what it was and allowing myself to be more than that was also allowing others to see more of me.

How could I place all the responsibility of my label on others? I needed to take some of this on and help others to see more of me (or at least the ones I wanted to see more).

This became another step on my road of self-evolution. Whether I have a partner, children, lots of money, or major career in my life does not change the fact that I am me and am the only one on my journey for the whole ride. I better like my company.

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