I am Not a Label
used to believe I was nothing special. I wasn’t set apart growing up. But I started to consider what “nothing” is. “Nothing” is not the absence of being, instead “nothing” refers to the presence of something, but it is something other than what is being sought. The concept of “nothing” refers to a something that is not the object of our attention. It is similar to when we say “this is not what I am looking for” and this nothing refers to an expressed disappointment, we feel the absent presence and mourn the fact that we are not something “more.” Something may be negated, but that does not mean that absolutely nothing is there. I think this concept of “nothingness” also goes for feelings. Feelings subside, change, morph into other things or they dissipate into nothing but that doesn’t mean that there was nothing to begin with. “Nothingness” is also tied to our core selves and what we want our identity to encapsulate. Who is it that I want to be? What do I wish for my future? These questions plagued me in university.
Although I can say that I believe in surrendering and that order is destructive to our spirit, I know that I would be lying. Surrendering is very similar to diving into cold water, it is unpredictable of what sensations we will feel. Will it be euphoria and adrenaline or will the water feel like daggers that pierce our skin and numb our ability to swim to shore? Order ties our identity to a norm that grounds who we are. If we do not believe in certain systems and routine, it leaves us with the hard task of defining who we are without the help of the activities and people we are associated with.
The reason I find that I need to be branded as “something” is because from my birth I have been defined as “something”. Our names, our religion, heritage and sex also brand us. We desire to be branded because we want to have purpose and have a legacy so that others can witness who we have become. The irony of it all is that we spend so much time becoming “something” that we end up achieving nothing of substance as we have not lived our life to total fruition. We have become lost in emails, schedules, assignments and obligations.
I believe that the desire for belonging also coincides with order because we have to make ourselves believe we are useful as a form of comfort and assurance that our role on Earth does have meaning. However, the acceptance of being nothing and free equates with surrendering and honesty. It shows the reality that there are 7 billion people on earth and we are just a speck of dust among them. I find it inspiring to read about the saints and the meek lives that they lived. St. Therese of Lisieux lived a life of humility to the point where she accepted her weaknesses and also lifted up her humanness to God as an offering. By choosing to offer up all the little things and small sacrifices in her life, she lived a life of total freedom because she was not burdened with the desire to please anyone else but God. Since she did not feel pressure to be approved or live a life of pleasure, she achieved spiritual enlightenment that opened up a transcending communication with Jesus.
Like most, I sized up myself and others by their ethnicity, purpose and occupation. I commodified people and weighed them based on their inferiority or superiority towards me. But I met Jesus who changed everything. He showed me a different way of life. I was given an option to savour life and take pleasure in its beauty and different intricacies. However, I was so tired and crippled by fear of surrendering my love of order. Command, schedules, and discipline crippled my freedom. St. Therese discovered a way of relishing life in a way that gives her purpose and hope. I wanted that so badly! I could not fathom hope because it is an entity that cannot routinely occur in a specific uniformed fashion. I used to deny hope or enjoyment because I felt that it was fleeting and will not return, unlike order and discipline which is something that can be learned and always practiced. The difference lies in the fact that enjoyment of life is an experience that needs to be smelled, heard and felt. However, I did not want to feel, I was numb, I wanted to practice experiences without actually experiencing them. I was acting out of desperation, I so desired a life that was not mine.
Order and the fear of having no purpose consumed me and almost led to my destruction. I used to feel remorse for the missed chances at life and relationships and to hide or numb these feelings, I would lie to myself and find a means to drown my feelings in busyness and work. We all want to leave meaning on Earth and we want to have witnesses to our lives. That desire stems from a need for recognition and dignity. I desired peace of mind but I could not have that with the endless lists, papers, and chores I had to accomplish. For a long time, I could not experience conversion because I was so disillusioned by the isolation and loneliness hidden within me. I put up brave fronts and walls to protect myself from ever feeling rejected again. I would reject love before others can reject me and I would cling to what I know and have been conditioned to, order. I was so distrustful of others and plagued with pain. I could not be free or open to life because I was living to die and survive. I was not living to thrive. By becoming a stranger to others and to myself, I broke ties with others and avoided emotional ties. I wanted to uphold this false invincibility and never lose it. By living under the illusion that man IS an island, by rebuking the fact that men are dependent and need companionship to live in harmony, I destroyed my capacity to love. Life conquers death by I could not embrace life because I spent my whole life rejecting it.
I needed to start over. Without lists, without perfect punctuation, without obligations and expectation. I had to figure out who I was. I had to re-learn my quirks, humor, personality, eccentricities. It was a very long process, sometimes painful but mostly healing. I was finally awake, no longer walking through life like a mindless zombie. The process continues. I am never going to fully be able to live carefree without the need for order and discipline because we need and thrive on order. Order is good but I will never let it consume me again. Diverging from my plan for the day, or doing something that will divert me from my goals is okay once in a while. I am okay, and I will be okay. The love of God has brought me through this time of anxiety and He continues to show me the beauty of life in the most unplanned moments. Although I am defined by my skills, race, and other’s opinions, I am defined by who Christ is, my identity lies in the fact that I am a child of God.
I am captivating. I am set apart. I am worthy of Love.