“Hi, my name’s Kellie/Kel/Sister George, and I – what?” What comes next? In the past month I’ve had to write a bio paragraph and introduce myself to three different groups. Each situation was far from simple or easy. Sure, some parts were fairly constant. Like my name. The fact that I have kids is usually mentioned. But mostly, what else is included is subject to change without notice.
Because really – what IS in a name? Not just the name that our parents decide to saddle, gift or burden us with, but all the other names we give ourselves, or accept, or can’t seem to shake off. Names, or labels, put us in certain categories and out of others, and frankly some distinctions I refuse to add to my list.
Case in point – when asked, or required, I state that I am a sole parent, and not a single Mum. Some may see it as splitting hairs, but I identify much more with being the sole parent of my sons than in being a Mum who is single. Which leads to the classification looming on my horizon – in 4 days, when my divorce becomes final, I am not adding “divorced” to my own personal list of labels.
I’m not adding “single” either, but “divorced” has no relevance to who I am as a person. Does it? Does it have to apply? Particularly considering I don’t like the connotations and baggage associated with the term, even though it is a classification that I can’t dodge. Why does THAT term have to carry such weight, in the sum of who I am?
I know that I am more than the total of my summarized past experiences, but the importance we give to words are difficult to cast off. The word associations that hang off names and categories are stubborn (and often illogical). Unborn children are not called Helen because “I went to school with a Helen and she was fat and mean.” Who would you rather be compared to in conversation – a Ruth or a Jezebel? Redheads have a temper, blondes are dumb, brunettes are needed for the joke’s punch line – yes and no and maybe only sometimes or often. Military personnel (past or present) have assumptions made about them, based on nothing other than a uniform, a hair cut or a news bulletin. The examples are endless.
I may not be able to alter which words others use about me, but I want to choose the words that define who I am. I read the words that are used in the scriptures, and it’s clear that words and names convey important qualities of people. Just as the many names of Christ – Wonderful, Prince of Peace and Savior – give more depth and understanding, so do the words we choose to use to describe ourselves (and each other) add to how we see ourselves (and each other).
I am more than random, planned, or unexpected events in my past. I am more than my genes, or my location. Telling you that I’m a redhead, an Australian and nearly completely finished with the divorce process gives you some idea of what I may look like, or sound like, and tell you what sort of things we could talk about. But doesn’t the fact that I’m a woman who doesn’t like having sticky fingers and inhales science-fiction, tell you just as much – or more?
What are words, names or labels you use to describe yourself? What are words, labels or phrases you don’t use, or use instead – and why? Are there names that others/society gives you that you refuse to accept? What is a fact about you that is a peek into who you really are? Do you have word associations that affect what you do/think/say?