>Labels have always been a big part of my life because they have given me worth. Sad, but true. In each stage of our life, we have been given labels. It started with the family labels: daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, neice. Also, as long as I can remember, I was a “Christian.” In school I was a “musician” and “good student.” Those were usually positive labels but came with their own stigmas. Within myself, I was a “worrier” and a “perfectionist.” Enter mental illness. (Well, some don’t believe depression to be a mental illness, but regardless…) Starting as a late teenager, I knew myself as a “depression sufferer.” Into college, along with the depression stigma, I gave myself a lot of other names, a lot of them having to do with Christianity and depression. The funny thing was the expectations I had for myself as a “Christian” and “depression sufferer” didn’t seem to overlap often. I would get quite frustrated that I couldn’t work my way out of my thinking boxes.
In college, I had new labels: “sister-in-law,” “girlfriend”, “youth leader,” “professional”, and “teacher”. I dreamed of others: “aunt,” “wife,” “mom,” (“stay-at-home-mom”), “college graduate” and “depression-survivor.” When some of my “dreams” didn’t come to be, I felt like a failure. I overlooked the fact that I was indeed a college graduate, a practicing teacher, a growing Christian, loving friend and thriving in the aftermath of a wretched illness. Instead I focused on what I was not.
Today, in my personal journal, I reflected not just on my changing labels, but those of people in my life. A few of my friends and my cousin are going to be moms, some have become teachers or missionaries. As a college-graduate, the number one question I get asked is (after they find out that yes, I have graduated), “What do you do?” I used to always say, “I am a Kindergarten teacher.” But even then, I wasn’t too proud. But at least it was something. Now I don’t know what to say. I guess I could say a “teacher in transition.” Because of a new job, I have acquired a label of PCA (personal care attendant). But PCAs aren’t real jobs. They’re transition jobs, usually people do them while they look for their real job, what they went to school for. I am not saying I look down on what I do; I am just saying, this is what society says.
I am learning to hate labels. Maybe some are inevitable such as a job title or the fact that I am a Christian. (That is, I am a “follower of Christ”–the literal meaning of the word, but I don’t always like to associate with Christians). Some labels I am working on changing or “reframing.” Maybe all that takes is to tell myself, “I am healing from depression, but I am not my depression. And not all the decisions in my life have to revolve around this.”
Then there’s the lack of labels, the ones I’d always wished I’d have by now at age 25: “wife” and “mom.” This, I admit has been a struggle as I weekly hear of marriages, pregnancies and births of my friends/family members. (While I truly am happy for them, the Devil likes to come in and lure me away from happiness and towards myself with his lies.) The truth is, my worth is NOT dependent on my marital status. Yeah, yeah, it’s so easy to say but I have to cling to this, looking back at all the wonderful things I have been given and saved from. I used to think “I don’t want Jesus to come back before I have gotten married and have had children.” I have grown so much since then! Life is not about your role in life. I am so selfish to think I deserve to be married and have kids, or whatever. I don’t believe Christ wants me to suffer as I wait, rather he joins me in my suffering. If I grow closer to him because of this wait, then that will be a much greater gift then any other. Because of his mercy and clarity in my life, I am happy to say that I am comfortable being single (unmarried) much of the time.
While I still have dreams, I try not to let the labels that come with these dreams define who I am. I end up only more scarred and empty. The only label I now want is “daughter of the King.”