We like orderliness and predictability. We like to categorize things and people and we have a hard time when something or someone doesn't fit neatly into a box.

I don't want to fit in any one's box, not even my own. I don't want to get comfortable with being defined or confined. I want to continue to grow and change and evolve, to become better. I want the same for my children and for my students.

I want that, but sometimes I have a hard time with change. So even as I ask for people to allow me to not be defined/confined, I can have a difficult time allowing the same for them. It's the catch-22 that most of life seems to be.

I think a lot of the time, change is slow enough that it allows people to stretch the box's limits unnoticed, but other times, changes are so cataclysmically rapid that we want to reject them out of hand. And sometimes it pisses us off that change is so great we no longer know how to define someone.

Think about the times you've learned something so out of character about someone you know and care about. Was it really so out of their character or was it just so out of the box you had confined them to? Did they ever really fit there in the first place or did you just decided they did?

As my children grow up, I have to work hard to allow their boxes to shift their contours, grow, shrink, transmogrify. Indeed, I may have to learn how to dispense with the box altogether. It means I won't have a neat and tidy categorization for them but it also means that there's a greater chance they'll be completely free to be themselves openly with me. If I learn to roll with change, especially in them, then I will be helping them learn to be open to other people's change.

Think about it. No boxes might just be awesome. The mystery, the majesty, of the change people are capable of might become something motivating.  What will today bring for me if I refuse to box myself in and refuse to box others in?

Anything could happen. And it would be free and welcome to. Fear of rejection would recede. Acceptance of uniqueness might grow exponentially.

How cool would that be? If you didn't label me? If I didn't label you?


Stephanie said...

I'm not entirely sold on the whole "no labels" thing, honestly. Not being confined by labels is a good thing, I'll grant you. Not being limited by others (or our own) preconceived notions of what we are and are not capable of...

The other side of it, at least for those of us who think it words, is that labels explain, when they are explained accurately, aspects of our reality that then make them understandable.

Autism. Sensory integration disorder. These are labels and others would make them confining. But learning these labels, getting explanations for these labels from multiple sources, and coming to understand (in a growing sense, not a done sense) what they mean has helped me to better understand my children and better understand how to be a parent to my children.

I don't think labels themselves are the problem. I think how we use them is the problem.

K Wombles said...

Words are too malleable--people use them differently, to their own ends.

I actually wasn't thinking about clinical labels when I wrote this or even primarily about my kids. A friend chose to apply a label to me that he/she felt was correct but that I found frustrating as it wasn't accurate. It diminished me, my ideas, my belief system.

Stephanie said...

I agree that words are malleable and defining them is an important part of successful communication, but they are also a major part of communication.

I was using the clinical labels as an example, but not as an exclusive example.

If your friend applied a label to you that you are uncomfortable with, then the idea behind that label was in your friend's mind, applied to you. The use of the label communicates his/her ideas about you, which gives you a chance to assess the accuracy of the label/ideas and respond.

Without the label, we would still form ideas about each other. The labels give us the means to communicate and correct those ideas.

Admittedly, it doesn't always work that way. More people are shut to revising their ideas than are open to it; at least, it often seems that way. But communication still seems like the best way to bridge the gap, and words are a big part of that.