“That’s a dog.” “That’s a cat.” “That’s a car.”
We have names for everything or should I say, we have labels for them. And I get it. Can you imagine how chaotic this world would be without categorization? Why should I talk about the heavy metal work that is raised by four round tyres when I could simply say a car? Even so, it is funny how I still had to name parts of a car, aka labelling, before you knew what I was talking about.
Labels are an easier form of communication; a more adept way of allowing people to understand things you are describing. For inanimate objects that won’t get up one day and switch up on us (I hope at least), classification is fine. Because the car I label today, would be the same car I label in a couple of years to come. Alright, it may become worn down and have gone through some colour changes, but you get what I mean. It is not going to transition from a Mercedes to a BMW (once again, I hope it won’t).
My irk comes in when we try to typecast humans because we are not as static as inanimate objects. We are constantly changing, acquiring new experiences, shedding old ideologies, forming new friends…we are in a perpetual fluid motion. And it makes no sense to me to term someone as one thing when in a single heartbeat, the person can metamorphose into another. That to me is tiresome.
Now, I am not wary of labels as if I am an outsider alien to its use. Heck, the subheading of my blog tries to condense me into three labels, “Non-Conformist, Ghanaian, and Activist.” Nonetheless, that does not limit me from seeing how frustrating these terms can be, including the ones I have taken on.
Once I walk with a particular tag around my neck, there is pressure for me to act a certain way and live up to that standard. For example, if I say I am a non-conformist, does that mean every action I take must be a stance against the status quo? I’m sorry but that is just not realistic for me. However, does taking uniform actions on more than one occasion then negate the title of being non-conformist? Does it make me hypocritical? And this applies to any label you may have. And do we act a particular way because of a label or have we always been that way hence the label? I greatly believe that labels influence our decisions, and I don’t want my actions to become limited based on an artificial structure of who I should and should not be.
Moreover, there is the problematic notion that some labels need to be mutually exclusive. For instance, if I was to consistently exude overt sexual energy, there seems to be a preconceived idea for some that I cannot be interested in academia or anything regarding intellect. Crap. Sometimes, we see a person unable to participate in activities because it would hurt a “brand” they have built: like enjoying two divergent “brands” cannot co-exist in the same space. That to me just does not make any sense. Can I be feminist and conservative? Can I want to save animals and be a meat eater? Can a person claim to be pro-life and support the death sentence?
Then, there is also the problem of labels being awfully simplistic. It is a lazy and generalized way to encapsulate a dynamic and complex being into a word, phrase, or sentence. Asking me to define who I am should not be confined to a couple of words or phrases. However, the world is fast-paced and does not have time to look intently and see that we are more than what labels can offer. We are more than what can be defined in a single breath. We are more. If my whole existence can be stripped to just that, a label, then I do not want it because the complexity of my being is not being appreciated.
So, then, who am I? I AM. I am not inclined to go further than I AM because no words are enough to describe me. Who I am today can change drastically but the world would be slow to accept it because I wore the string of labels around my neck for so long. But then again, is the phrase I AM a label? Maybe, maybe not but it certainly is a wider speculation of who I have been, I am, and will become as compared to any other label I can think of. So, for now, I’m simply, I AM, regardless of it being a more encompassing label or not.