There is a bit of madness in trying to flesh out who we really are. I have always tended to feel a sense of urgency to have words on hand to let people know who I am. As if the ability to string together the perfect strand of words would somehow be enough for others to know who I was and what I was about. And yet, those labels I have tried on have not all fit flawlessly, like sweaters made for perfectly trim mannequins those labels have either felt uncomfortably snug here or oddly baggy there, never a perfect fit.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with the label "DANCER" because that is what I truly wished to be. But the problem was, I was not quite a dancer in the way the world thought of dancers. I was not thin. I did not spend hours upon hours in the studio. I often quit my day's dancing before my toes were a mess of blisters and blood, and I could never give up sugar when my directors and coaches challenged me to. The label--like most others--was not quite fitting. The label was a product of something I did, something I aspired to, something I enjoyed, but it was not by any means who I was.
Then I thought maybe who I was could be based on how I often felt, but that did not sit right either. If anything it was much more uncomfortable; it was too revealing. I couldn't introduce myself to people by telling them my name and directly informing them that I was often stupidly optimistic, too trusting, sometimes lonely, and a lot anxious about the insignificant things of this world. I would have then been given the label "WEIRDO", and the label-givers would probably have been right.
Now I am trying to make peace with labels I have taken on through occupation. I am trying to make sense of the "TEACHER" label which often makes me cringe because it feels so off-putting. I also have to deal with the "FIRST YEAR TEACHER" label and the "ENGLISH TEACHER" and "DANCE TEACHER" labels and all the I'm-so-sorrys people dish out to me in response to my having to spend my days with teenagers. These labels carry with them an awkward weight where people assume I have strong feelings about Common Core (or whatever it is) or about standardized testing or about this or that form of pedagogy (which is just a stupid word teachers love to throw around to sound intellectual). I am not yet comfortable with the "TEACHER" label just yet, because I am not so sure what it means for me. I have very few strong feelings regarding educational legislature, which I know is the wrong thing for a teacher to say because we are mandated by law to have strong feelings. The word "pedagogy" makes me want to poke myself in the eyeball, and I hate discussing tests in any and all forms.
As a teacher, I am also supposed to have a real reason for teaching. A philosophy if you will. I still do not have that figured out. I just like it, I guess.
The truth of the matter is, I think I just want to curl up in a good chair with a good light and read Charles Dickens, and maybe talk about it with someone afterward. Does wanting to read Dickens make me an "INTELLECTUAL"? No. I just like the stories and the characters and the tongue-in-cheek writing only Dickens can pull off.
I suppose the thing with all of this is is that I have not quite figured this all out. To say I am a teacher tastes weird in my mouth and sticks in my throat, and it makes people weirdly self-conscious about their grammar around me. Is that who I am supposed to be? Someone who makes others feel self-conscious about their own abilities to speak and write their own language?
Like dancing, I feel like teaching is just something that I do. It is not the end-all-and-be-all of who I am. It is just another thing that I do, like reading Dickens. But this time I get paid for it, which isn't so bad.
As for who I am, I think that is yet to be determined. I do not know how to string it all together from the jumble of nouns of adjectives available to me.
Maybe I will figure that out next year.