Runner, writer, nurse…but what if I’m not?
Yesterday I re-read my last blog post. I do that sometimes. I like to see how it looks when I just Google the site and read it. At the bottom is the brief bio about me. It starts off saying Runner, Writer, Nurse. But what if I’m no longer those things? I stared at those three simple words and felt the ground slip away. I could easily have fallen down the rabbit hole of an identity crisis, but I was standing in line at Starbucks and needed to keep it together to order my much needed coffee. Why is that specific identity so important to me? How do those words have such an effect? And why is that who I am?
I haven’t run in weeks, maybe months and if I’m honest my body is happier, healthier and surprisingly, pain free. My hamstrings no longer feel like an overstretched elastic band ready to snap and I can touch my toes again. But I miss it. I miss the feeling of my feet on the trails, my breath coming faster to match my growing need and the sweat on my face and neck. I’ve been running for years. Miles and miles every week. Three or four half marathons every year, plus the 10 Ks and the triathlons. Yet I’m not sure I can still call myself a runner. I haven’t run in weeks, maybe months. My running shoes now neglected in the bottom of my closet will back me up.
I remember an old friend calling me an “athlete”. I immediately dismissed this label, I was NOT an athlete. I didn’t identify that way, but it did give me a secret rush of pleasure to be called that. And I was honoured that he thought of me that way.
Was it an identity crisis that I was having? Or was it more about the label? Was I having a label crisis? Perhaps I need to replace that label with something else, one that flows as easily and I would settle back into my comfort zone knowing how to identify or rather, label myself.
We like labels. And we experience unprecedented levels of discomfort when we don’t have them or are unable to label something. Relationships, who we are, race, culture, the list goes on. We need the labels. There is comfort in being able to label. Then the world makes sense, being categorized. But what if we are unable to categorize, or if something or someone doesn’t fit into a check box?
Attempting to write an online dating profile brings great anxiety to me and my girlfriends. How do we categorize ourselves? Am I a Hiker? Sometimes. Am I a cyclist? Sometimes. It seems more complex than the checkboxes allow. Yet more simple too. We are made up of likes, dislikes and activities that bring us joy and those we dread. I’m a sometimes runner, more often writer and always a nurse. But I’m also a reader, a beer drinker, a wine sipper, a football fan, a music lover, a nap lover, an animal rescue volunteer, a sometimes hiker and camper and roadtripper. I’m a bundle of identities and labels that, thankfully, can’t be summarized or wrapped up with a few simple labels, regardless of my innate “need” to check a box. I’m dynamic not static, multifaceted not linear and I reserve the right to change my mind.
I’m going to challenge the desire to label. To find the perfect tag lines or hashtags to identify myself. I’m going to lean into the discomfort of not fitting into a checkbox. I want to relish in my perfect imperfections and if I still identify as a runner than that’s what and who I am.