26 August 2013

labeling. boo.

When I meet someone new, one question is bound to come up: "So what do you do?" The answer shapes my perception of that person, but often in inaccurate and unhelpful ways. For example: if someone says that he is a cashier at the dollar store I mentally stick him into my "not a potential friend" category. Ashamed to admit that, but it's true. I have only started to realize that in the past couple of years.

HELLO. My name is.
I think it is an unfortunate component of human nature to label people. Personally, by making assumptions according to stereotypes, I have missed out on a lot. More than once the cashier has turned out to be a thoughtful lover of Robert Frost. And I found myself saying, oh . . . you're not what I thought!

I want to be known for my whole self. I am not "just" a mother or a teacher or a conservative or anything else. I am a person. That's a complicated thing to be.

If you ask me what I do, I could say that I'm a stay at home mom, but that doesn't tell you much; it doesn't describe how I actually spend my time. It doesn't tell you that I read big books, plant nasturtiums in the spring, listen to sermons while I wash the dishes, or make a mean Greek salad. That I teach kids all over the country how to write. That I have this blog. Asking such a narrow question does not tell you who I am. 

Let's start looking at the person, not the label. It takes longer and it requires more thought, but won't it be worthwhile?


Honestly, I wish that the question of employment wasn't be so central to an American's identity. By introducing ourselves as "an engineer" or "a librarian" we imply that our job is all we ever do and that without it, our central selves would disappear. Which is not the case for me. My life is made up of many, many things, a large percentage of which-- perhaps, in the end, the most significant percentage-- does not involve a job title or any kind of financial remuneration.

I imagine it's the same for most of us.


  1. I like this post. I like it alot. :)

  2. Agreed. I think it's a natural habit for us as Americans to think what we do is connected to our jobs or *gasp* the first question is our marital status. I think and hope I've grown in the area of not judging or writing someone off who asks that question of me. typically, I have started recently to talk about my interests or something i just did. it would be fascinating to have a table discussion on how to improve in conversation in getting to know people, not just what they do.

  3. True that. I'm finding that it's going to be hard to explain why I want a master's degree, because I don't have a career in mind. I just want to do it. It will make me a better mom.
    Job? Psh.