Tuesday, 20 April 2010

When Labels are a Good Thing

I’m a dabbler, a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.  It keeps life interesting, having no fixed vocation, but sometimes I envy people with specific expertise.  Am I avoiding depth by not cultivating one interest?  Or am I just mercurial by nature?  There’s always that moment of anxiety when someone asks, “what do you do?”  For while I can do many things, some of them quite well, (and yes, I know that we are human beings, not human doings) there is a part of me that desperately wants a label.

“Nice to meet you.  My name is Tricia and I’m a _____!”

I trained as a counsellor but I only work as a volunteer, so can I say it's my profession?  I have played  bass guitar in rock bands, but I can’t read music and have never earned a cent doing it, so can I call myself a musician?  And I write this blog, but does that make me a writer?  Or am I just a housewife with a few hobbies?  How does one cross the bridge from doing something to being something?  And is it even necessary?

To adopt a label could be both scary and liberating.  If I dare to plant my flag in the fertile soil of “writer” (the leader of the pack at the moment) then what expectations will be heaped upon me?  If I never publish one word other than what I write here can I still call myself a writer?  Or must I justify my claim by cultivating some kind of success? That’s the scary part.  The liberating part might be that by declaring myself a writer I ‘own my power’ and commit fully my talent and intention.  (Oh God, that’s scary too!)

In 'A Return To Love' (1992) Marianne Williamson wrote,  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It seems that in our culture if we get paid to do something, we are that something.  Without the money we are simply enthusiasts and dare not “claim our brilliance” as Marianne puts it.  It may feel incredibly risky to declare a title for ourselves, but I sense that the loss of not doing so is far greater.  I don’t want to play small anymore.  Self-deprecation is over-rated!

Some people might think I’m a second-rate regurgitater of other people’s ideas - and they might be right.  But then again, like a fingerprint, there is no one else on the whole planet who can do anything exactly like me – not write a sentence, play a bass line, talk to a client or load the dishwasher just so. 

What do you do that you have not had the courage to claim as your own?  Whatever it is, it's nice to meet you.  My name is Tricia and I’m a writer.  


  1. Nice to meet you too, Tricia, I'm Gabriela, a Peruvian, a proud(est) aunt, a mostly annoying daughter, a lawyer,... and also a blogger.
    Thanks for the introspection!

  2. "Hi, I'm Tricia and I am effin' brilliant!" Love reading your blog!

  3. AnonymousMay 05, 2010

    -Brilliant Tricia, so pin point for a lot of us. I now reply to people (who ask me "what do you do?") "What do you want me to do or be? I can be/do anything I want to be/do. I am a multi tasker. (Just like you wrote). In this world/reality it is what we DO that counts. Being has no value and that is very tragic. Just fex look at the stress many children/students start to adopt not knowing what to "do" after school to earn enough money as adults. Many people "hit the wall because they feel stuk and bored in their work/life. I'm a mother of 2 teenagers have tried many things in life (occasionally paid, proud to say) and still haven't decided what I want to "do" when I grow up. I still feel like 22 so how can I have a clue what I want to "stick to" (Monday to Friday, 9-5) when there is so much I desire to explore in the world!!! To do one thing is a limitation. To be is/means all sorts of possibillities!
    Ooooh, Tricia, that feels so much better to have written that. What a great start to my day! How does it get any better than that? What else is possible?
    Birgitta, a multi tasker, a being loving life! -