Something I’ve been thinking about lately is labels. I used to enjoy labeling things (YES labelmaker) but I also loved thinking about all of the labels that apply to me—daughter, sister, friend, Indian, Muslim, Ismaili, Indian, American, writer, human, dancer and so many others that could apply.
Recently, some of these same labels feel suffocating. They feel too small or too divisive, too restrictive…
I don’t know if the meanings of these labels have changed for me or it’s because I really want to reject the idea of labels. The more I learn about labels that don’t apply to me and the harm they can do, the more I dislike labels and the more I wish I could leave all of them behind.
But then I think who am I without these labels? I can choose the ones that I adhere to and the ones that I WANT to adhere to me, but am I boxing myself in?
If I say with pride that I’m Indian, am I supporting the divide between Pakistan and India—a fight that I could never join and would never want to join. If I say with pride that I’m American, am I rejecting my Indian heritage and culture that I love? If I say I’m Indian, are there those that are laughing thinking this chick hasn’t been in India for 20 years, what does she know about India? If I say, I’m Muslim, am I leaving out my Ismaili heritage? If I say, I’m Ismaili, are there people that are thinking you’re not a real Muslim?
I don’t know what or if there’s an answer to this dilemma for me, but the pendulum of my mind goes back and forth.
I then realized that rejecting these labels would just be another extreme that I don’t want to live my life in. I love living life in nuances.
Who decided what any of these labels had to mean for ME? They’re mine to define.
For example, take the labels between people: friends, sisters, partners, etc. These labels are yours to do with what you will. You choose the definitions of each relationship. You choose the expectations that each label carries—you and of course, the other person in the relationship.
I choose my labels, but I also choose what they mean. And I celebrate that.