The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Labels & Reunions

on June 8, 2012

 As I was driving home from work the other day the radio DJ asked his listeners to call in and tell what label they had in high school that would surprise people who know them today.  I found myself listening with interest.  It probably has something to do with the fact that my 25Year Class Reunion is tonight. I’ve never attended one before but am planning to be there tonight. It’s interesting that the DJ was having this discussion only four days before my reunion. I’ve been thinking about my labels ever since.

I don’t know that I can definitively say what label I had in high school. I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t unpopular.  I had a wildly popular (homecoming king) older brother so that probably garnered some friends I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Well…it at least made people act nice to me. I was fat so I was a school mascot not a cheerleader like my older sister. I got good grades but was not brilliant.  I was a “choir kid”. I didn’t get into trouble nor do anything that would have upset my parents (I waited for college to do that.) so I wasn’t one of “those” kids. I was president of Future Homemakers. I was a solid middle of the road person.  Not much of a label now is it? I wasn’t a jock, prep, druggie, geek, cheerleader or brain. I’m sure I was a dork.  Let’s be honest: we all were. Open your yearbook and look at your clothes and hair if you don’t believe me.  Better yet have your children look at them with you. They’ll assure that you were indeed a dork.  So aside from the dork label, I’m not sure what people considered me to be. I’m unsure of my label.  I’m okay with that.

 Here’s the thing about labels: I hate them.  There are very few things in the world that bother me more than people shoving me into a “category” in their brain and then expecting me to behave in a certain way.  I’ve never been a person who likes it in a tight space.  I’m claustrophobic.  When I get claustrophobic I have to get out of the spot I’m in or I get crazy.  That’s exactly what happens when people shove me into their “pigeon hole” for me: I have to get out. I’ll fight like mad to prove that I don’t belong in the box they’ve made for me.  I’ll act differently around them purposefully just to prove that they haven’t “figured me out.”  Please: I haven’t figured me out yet.

 I’m a church secretary.  If you want to be labeled and categorized quickly I highly recommend it as a job for you.  I find it hilarious that God put me in this position considering how badly I hate the labeling process.  Of course, I didn’t know that I hated it so badly until I became a church secretary.  Perhaps He was trying to show me the danger of labeling and how much I used to do it myself: to other people of course.  The longer I’ve sat in my chair at work, the more I’ve seen the damage a label can cause.  Much like a Pastor or a Pastor’s wife, the church secretary is supposed to be perfect. You don’t get to have a bad day. Your job is to be cheerful and supportive. You most certainly don’t ever get to make a mistake. (Typo in the weekly bulletin and see what I mean.) You must behave in a “Christian manner” (whatever that is) at all times. If someone believes you haven’t, there is a problem, a large problem.  I’ll never forget the person who said to me (in all seriousness): “I can’t believe you would behave that way. You are a STAFF member!!”  I think I had whispered or giggled in church or something to that effect.  At any rate there is a different standard for the person labeled “Church Staff Member.” Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got no problem with having standards and expectations. I just have them for myself now instead of everyone else.   Our youth pastor’s wife (yep – I just used her label!) and I have the running joke that we have perfect marriages, perfectly behaved children, are always happy, never get annoyed with anyone and  we most certainly NEVER POOP.  She’s a pastor’s wife and I am “Church Staff”.  We are no longer human.  

 That’s one of the problems with labels.  They come with a whole set of standards and expectations that may or may not be valid.  Think about the things you expect from the people you have labeled.  “Doctors” never make mistakes.  They know everything and if they can’t fix it they are quacks.  “Lawyers” are shady and not to be trusted.  “Teachers” are always kind and energetic. “Government Officials”…okay…don’t get me started.  We all know where that one is heading.  My point: these are all just people.  Just like you.  Just like me. No two of them are the same, yet they are all shoved under one umbrella of expected behavior. There’s the key: no two of them are the same.  Nobody fits under just one label.  I am a “church secretary.”  I am also a “mom”. And a “wife”… a “daughter”…. a “sister”…. an “aunt”… a “friend”…. a “baker”… a “walker”….a “Christian”….a “reader”….  I’m not the same today as I was yesterday.  I hope to be a little different tomorrow.  I never want to stop learning. I never want to quit maturing and changing.   Just as I didn’t necessarily fit one “label” in high school I still don’t today.  No one does.  We are more than the job we have.  We are more complex than the activities we enjoy.  We are the sum of all those things mixed together and twisted with the bent of our personalities and spiced by the things we have experienced and learned from.  How sad that most people would rather pigeonhole others under a label and leave them there.  It makes us think we can figure out how to deal with them better.  What it actually does is rob us of really knowing them.

 When I attend my reunion tonight will I discover what label I had in high school and find out that people are surprised by what I am today?  I have no idea.  Will my past classmates still have me labeled? Again I don’t know.  If they do I just hope one of the labels is “nice.”  I can live with that.


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