If I confine you to a label, I’m diminishing the role you played in my life. Labels can harm us more than they can help us.
For instance, the label of a boyfriend comes with a ton of expectations. If those expectations fail us, then we devalue the label that we once valued, and now the person who was tied to that label is also devalued. Think of what we gain when we lose labels.
When we rip a person of his or her title, we see them for who they are: A man was more than a boyfriend. He was a man who walked this life with you. This person was more than a friend. They laughed with you when you couldn’t take life anymore. They shared Chipotle with you and lit up that little restaurant like no one else.
See, when we strip the label, we’re adding more to not only the person but our quality of life with them. Losing the label allows us to hold onto everything that can get dropped when the person is no longer a part of your life. They are the memories, the feelings, the moments you shared — not just a single thing.
We have to hold onto the person — all that came with them and all that they are, not their title.
If I confine you to a label, I’m minimizing the impact you had on my life. I don’t look to people for the role they played in my life rather I look to people for all the ways they influenced me and made me better. I look to people and see the sweetest, most lighthearted moments I had with them as well as the times when they added wisdom or golden nuggets to my bowl of life.
If we only defined someone by their “label,” our lives would be incredibly limited.
Take my dad. Many may say that he didn’t fulfill his role as a father because he’s not here with me now, and struggled to be at times when I was younger due to his addiction. The term dad is initially associated with the duties that come with fatherhood… Once I start looking at this man in terms of his label, I may find shortages. However, if I look at him in terms of his soul, his influence, his heart, and all the beautiful additions he brought to my life then and even now, I see so much more. I have so much more. I am so much more.
Take an ex-boyfriend. If we put a boyfriend or ex in a box and say, “I only see you this way now because you’re an ex.” Or, “You’re no longer my boyfriend so now I discount you and every good part you gave me,” then we are limiting not the person himself but the impact he made on our life. If a man failed at being my boyfriend but became an incredible memory-maker with me, made me laugh endlessly, and got me like no one else, I can chose one of two things:
a) I can choose to look to him as the man who didn’t make the cut and move on, or
b) I can look to him as the man who walked through this short, beautiful journey of life with me and allowed me to soak up moments of bliss. I can look to him as a person who truly helped me live in the moment. When I put a label on him, my ability to see him for all he really is does not remain. With that, I choose to shatter labels.
Introspectively, I look to myself and see Felicia. I’m not Felicia the writer. I’m not the big girl. I’m not the over-eater. I’m not the interpreter. I’m not the 30-year-old. I’m not the Lebanese girl.
Well, okay, I’m all of these things. But I’m really just Felicia. Period.
When I start to define myself by my labels, I become limited.
What if I fail at writing (and I do)? What if I’m also part Italian and Irish? What if I continue to grow older and am not forever 20 or 30? What does this age really mean? What if I’m so much more than my struggles with eating? And I am.
What if I drop all of these labels and just be and see how much more fulfilling this life of mine becomes?