What neat little “box” do I fit in? This question has followed me here from Montana. Am I a city girl? I was born in Chicago, after all. But I lived in Montana longer; am I from a rural community? Is there really such a thing as the best of both worlds? I feel like I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Every day, teenagers and adults alike struggle with our identity.
Who am I? It’s the resounding question hanging over our heads, telling us: “No, you can’t wear that, that’s not you.” It’s the voice of your best friend saying, “Hannah’s… Hannah,” when someone asks them to describe you. And it’s not always about appearance, although that’s oftentimes the case: race, gender, sexuality, personality, so-called “attractiveness”… All around, people are trying to put other people into “boxes”. “Everyone fits in somewhere,” they say. But they’re wrong. No one perfectly fits into a category; you can’t just assign people labels. The truth is, everyone so desperately wants to fit people into “boxes” that when someone who doesn’t fit in, people don’t know what to do. Come into school with purple hair? “Thats….. Interesting?” Show up to work with a new tattoo? “Umm..” And so on. People are so bent upon silently putting you on a labeled shelf that they are uncomfortable even discussing people who are different. How many teachers in a public school system do you think would be comfortable discussing not just racial slurs, but why they’re degrading, with students?
Most of them wouldn’t. That’s just it. Society has made it a taboo to talk about race or sexuality. It’s inappropriate to ask someone what gender they identify with, because you might offend them. But why? We have been taught to put things together since kindergarten: the red blocks go in the red pile, the blue in the blue pile, and so on. We were taught the history of the european world, but I can’t remember one single time when the history of, say, Africa, was brought up, except to remind us that they were shipped off to become slaves. We silently bias, and if anyone complains? “It’s not part of the curriculum.”
I guess my point is that I’m sick of all the perfect boxes; the government categories. I’m sick of adults being “cautious”, trying not to offend someone. I mean, I appreciate the gesture, but I asked a question to get an answer, and I don’t appreciate my education being snubbed because “That could be a dangerous topic”. I don’t have time to come see you after class, and I think the whole class would benefit from whatever it was I asked. I’m sick of people being told “Be yourself!” Because what if you don’t know who you are? What if you’re afraid of being judged? What if you don’t fit in a “box”? What are people going to do with you? We try to sort people; male or female, black, white, asian, or mixed race, straight, homosexual, transgender, the list goes on and on.
Why do I care so much about this? you may ask. And my answer is this: as Christians, we are called to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”(John 13:35) And I’ll admit, I have done my share of not-loving. God says to love one another. That’s it. No “Love everyone, except people who fit into categories x, y, or z.” Just love. Is it very loving of us to try and put people into categories, so we can “see them in a better light”? Yeah, people say things like “Well you know, you have to know that that person is *insert category here* to understand them better” Yeah right! Knowing someone has done this or said this shouldnt change your perspective of who they are as a person. We need to stop putting people in “boxes”
That’s a lot of opinion coming from a 14 year old, so if you made it this far, I congratulate you. To answer my question at the beginning, well, I just don’t know. I don’t know who I am, or who I’m going to be. I don’t know what boxes I fit in. And I don’t care, either. People can put me in boxes- go ahead. But ask yourselves this: Does it really matter in the long run? Will your peception of me really change all that much because you’ve labeled me as a nerd and not a high end dressy fancy socialite? I hope your answers to those are no, but if they aren’t- maybe you need to rethink your priorities.