People have been trying to pin me down for years, smearing words over my eclectic resumé and convincing me they know me.
I’ve been resisting the urge to define myself by those other labels for just as long.
Bragger. Bossy. Overachiever.
It started with silly schoolyard talk. Innocent teasing. Hurtful taunting. Forever ingrained in my memory, with a shade of bright-red blush to match.
My peers thought that by degrading my aptitude for perfection, I could become my own worst enemy — ceding power to my ego and otherwise falling out of line with the rest of the losers.
They were right, for a time, to underestimate my ability to best myself.
Anorexic. Depressed. Anxious.
In high school, identifying my weaknesses gave me strength.
These labels gave the contours of my mouth syllables and sounds to pinpoint my sorrow. I could finally illuminate the haunting shadows in my interior closet, and place myself in a community of others — not alone, not forgotten, seemingly helpless but not hopeless.
I became stronger trying to strangle the alter egos of my wistfully alternate reality.
Journalist. Activist. Anorexic. Storyteller.
After my first semester in journalism school, I bristled at the thought of becoming a journalist. After my second semester in journalism school, I shied away from the label activist — I wasn’t ready to commit to the other end of the communications spectrum.
I have since skirted the label anorexic, in anguish, after making the breakaway from rotting high school halls to college. What once gave me strength seemed only to serve as an epitaph for my own happiness — a label I could never seem to overcome, no matter how hard I shoved down food, fortune, or facts about starving children. It’s more complicated than counting calories.
I resent being seen as just a storyteller — a commonly used phrase to soften the rugged, outer exterior of the infamous ‘journalist’ these days. I wanted to be part of the story I was writing and creating — but what do you call someone who writes and is a story, all to herself, too?
As one can imagine, picking a career trajectory in my final year at university could be my most daunting task yet, for a girl who lives with no labels. How do I see myself in 5 years, if I can’t seem to see what I’ll be doing in 5 months? What new discoveries, new passion projects, new directions I’ll uncover with the compass of a college education?
This is the year where I must ask: Who am I? How do I begin to define myself, if I defy the labels and the boxes boxed up all around me?
I am a cultural chameleon, shaping my own path forward like the curling tides of the sea.
I am a shape-shifter, plastering on makeup and painting on an armor of shadows whenever it suits me — and, maybe, if it suits you, too.
I have rejected the notion of one-degree destiny. I do the work for myself, always have, and yet I don’t want the fruits of my labor to go rotten on the watch of my own rotten ego.
I play the game, when it’s advantageous to sail the ship straight. But I also have a tendency to reject the games, to rock the boat, just to keep everyone guessing.
I create. I write. I sing. I dance. I laugh. I cry. I imagine. I fear. I live. I will die.
I am a multitude of dreams, a magnitude of untold stories, and a magnificent seeker of creativity and inspiration.
Don’t dare define me by human words and human mistakes. Don’t limit yourself, either.
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2 Replies to “The Life of No Label: How a cultural chameleon makes a career choice”
Is it not hypocritical to embolden readers with your last line and say “don’t limit yourself either” but also refer to some of your peers from adolescence as “losers” ? Is that not just playing into the “human words” that they define you by, such as “overachiever” ?
Thank you for reading my blog post; I appreciate your thoughts and reflection. I only meant to refer to my peers, who were deemed ‘losers’ as you pointed out in my writing, using the phrase as so wielded by my other classmates — a phrase used to condemn some of my peers, as well as myself. I do not dare use the word ‘loser’ myself, to classify any other sentient being, because I believe it is a word often said with much disdain. I apologize if my speech in this post seemed to reflect the notion that I feel the same as those of my peers who use words like ‘loser’ — that was not my intention.
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