Accepting, Being different, Cultural expectations, Culture, Definitions, Ethnicity, Fitting in, Humanity, Identity, In-between, Labels, Limits, Race, Restrictions, Social rules, Standards, Third-Culture Kid, Who am I, Who are you, World Citizen
This weekend, I was confronted with a conflict of identities.
Aside from Mars entering Cancer this weekend, I’m not really sure why this became such a big deal to me…for this conflict seems to be the essence of my life.
I despise labels…particularly when they are applied to me. So I work rather hard to make certain that no one can categorically box me in…especially therapists. The only times I submit to any label is in order to accomplish some kind of communication and understanding around a particular issue. But, you can be sure that once that understanding is achieved I will no longer desire that label to be attached to me, for it no longer has a purpose or meaning.
The challenge this perspective offers me, then, is a life of constant no-man’s-land. I belong no where, but exist everywhere. I am not specifically or merely one thing…I am many, and usually see at least two perspectives in any given situation. In essence, I live in the in-between places…never fully committed to one way of thinking, living, believing, being.
I’m finally finding a comfort in this reality within myself. And yet, I am noticing that many other people aren’t so comfortable with my nebulousness. They insist that there’s a standard and measure me against that standard, labeling me accordingly. The standard could be a moral one or a professional one or a relationship one or a kindness one or a fashion one or an extroversion one or a weight one or any of the other million and one standards people have for one another. This labeling of others towards me is what really got my attention this weekend…and around two very specific labels I don’t use: race and nationality.
Truthfully, I cannot identify with one particular race or nationality. And while I constantly feel the pressure to do so, I have never understood why I should. It serves no good purpose to me to do so. I’ve always felt that these definitions limit me in ways I have no interest in being limited. I am a part of all I have seen and experienced. I have no desire to deny the British or Australian or Czech or South African or Kenyan or Malawian or German or Ethiopian or Thai or Filipino or Italian or Venezuelan or Chinese sides of me by only acknowledging my American part. Additionally, I have no desire to enter into social protocols that limit my interactions with others solely based on the color of my skin…and, surprisingly, there is plenty of discussion about what race I am. To some I am Latino; to some I am Caucasian; to some I am Middle Eastern; to some I am African.
So which am I? And who is deciding? And why does it matter?
Why can’t I decide who I am and what I identify as? Why does that definition have to include any one else’s opinion? And why does my identity have to be limited to one? Why can’t I be a Middle Eastern Kenyan today and a Latino German tomorrow and still be me? Why must there be such an obsession with nationality and race? Why can’t we all simply be human and look beyond these very limited lenses of humanity and see that we are all much more complex than anything at which the outside could possibly hint.
Maybe…just maybe…if we didn’t have to fight so hard against these definitions that others put on us, there wouldn’t be a need to kill each other…in the name of religion, or nationality, or gender, or sexual orientation, or hair color, or skin pigmentation or eye shape. Maybe…just maybe…if we defined ourselves instead of each other we could see humanity’s richness and love instead of judgement, separation, and hate.
I too have a dream. So please. Don’t limit me with your definitions and labels. Just accept me in whatever ways I reveal myself to you. And hopefully you can then allow me accept you in return.