I didn’t know I was a label until you told me
We barely reach puberty before we are burdened with labels. But who do they really belong to?
Are we Entitled? Are we Millennials? Kids of the digital age? Maybe Generation Z? As if the date and time we are born makes us only one thing; a certain type to society, one thing to the future, one thing to be judged and unworthy of the time of those in a different ‘them’; born in a different time, a different location on the map.
We don’t know that we’re labels until we’re told what they are. And, we’re supposed to fit so many of them that they choke us, like a room full of thickened smoke. Then, we’re supposed to act in a certain way just to meet the expectations of our them. We are our age, our gender, our sexuality, we are the wealth or poverty of our family, we are the colour of our skin, the street we live on, our school, the grades we get or don’t, the slang we use, the trainers we wear, the friends we keep, our name. All of this even before we’re just a beating heart or curious mind – just like everyone else.
So, what are our chances? We have so much to carry, it’s a wonder we don’t collapse under the weight. But there’s a reason that we don’t. Whether we see it or not, in each and every moment, we can choose. And with choice, we are empowered. And no, we don’t choose our age, our family, our race, our sexuality, our gender, or the street we live on. But we can choose whether these things are all we are. We can choose whether or not these things make us a certain category; whether they define us. We are not defined by our circumstances. And we don’t have to carry these labels.
Because categories and labels are only there for the ones looking and drawing their own conclusions. They are put there so that other people can make judgements, whether they are truth or perception – the labels are there only for the eyes of others. The burden of our labels lives only with those who assign them to us.
So what if we are generation Z or generation A,B,C-entitled-social-media-millennial-kid-of-the-digital-age? Young, old, living with a disability, gay, straight, black, white – while these things are a part of our identity, we are not simply the labels we are asked to carry. We are the kindness we give; we are the times we laugh with our friends, or cry with them – or alone, the times we are humble in success and determined in defeat. We are the choices we make and the lessons we learn from them.
We are the way we treat others. We are the way we treat ourselves. So, the next time you’re uncomfortable, standing next to or talking with that ‘other’ someone because of the labels you are giving them and the ones they’re giving you in return – just think: both of you were born, both of you cried and relied on the people around you to feed and change you. Your differences will be through circumstance and perhaps opportunity. But each of you have beating hearts, curious minds and, therefore, common ground.
And neither of you have to be the labels people expect you to be.