I was reading a couple of posts over at Learning as we go... about the labels we place on ourselves and others. I find it interesting that labeling can be somewhat useful, while at the very same time completely useless.
Let me explain. The use of a label such as "artist" or "writer" can be helpful in identifying someone by their occupation, but how much does the label actually say about the person or even their work? To further define the person as a "cartoonist" or "author of children's books" can be clarifying but also limiting.
If I say I'm a "homeschooler," I'm sure an immediate image comes to mind (Bible-thumpers and denim jumpers, anyone?) for some of you who know a little, but not a lot, about homeschooling. If I define myself further as an "unschooler" or a "Charlotte Mason homeschooler," further images appear--for those of you who do know a lot about homeschooling. But if I label myself in such a way, and then I choose to do something that perhaps doesn't jibe with the tenets of that particular methodology, I can find myself quickly ostracized. I'm not saying this has happened to me, and I'm not pointing a finger at homeschoolers, not at all--it's just that we all like to put people in boxes, and we find it unsettling when someone tries to chisel a hole or two in their respective box.
I guess this is why I take refuge in the word "eclectic." It really does seem to apply to me and to my family. But again, how useful is such a term? It means something, yet it means nothing. It simply means that I don't decorate in one style, teach my children just one way, or eat just one type of food.
Labels are convenient, no doubt about it, and I find myself searching for them when I read a blog or when I meet someone. We all do this. But I need to remind myself to look further, to go beyond my own frame of reference and my initial assumptions.
I'm not trying to make a grand statement, or anything. And don't worry--I'm not heading out to buy business cards with my name and then the words "human being" on them. That's just silly. But I do hope to be more mindful in the future of how I label myself and others. Maybe you'll join me.