I've heard the saying that life is a dance, but sometimes I look around, and feel like I am stuck playing a game at a sleepover party. Remember the game, "Would You Rather"? It started out as which boy would you rather have to be partners with, or which of two cute teachers would you rather marry? That was back when boys your own age still had cooties, but of course grown up men had gotten rid of their cooties. But I digress.
I feel like, in many ways, life is still a competition of dichotomies. We live in a society structured by the opposing labels by which we define ourselves. Would you rather be a virgin or a slut? A nerd or a cool kid? Are you gay or straight? Republican or Democrat? Will you end up with a clock from Flav, or are you out of the mansion? Or, for you Project Runway watchers, "you're either in or you're out."
I think the tendency to fit ourselves into labels limits what we are capable of. We feel limited by the boundaries of such boxes and thus refuse to challenge or break out of said boundaries. But why do we refuse? Is it the desire to conform to society's expectations? Or is it the fear of residing outside of the labels, the uncertainty which comes from the lack of a socially constructed identifying marker?
I think life should be lived as a game of "What If" as opposed to "Would You Rather." Think of all the things that exist in your life that are a result of taking a chance. The greatest things and people in our lives are there because someone was not afraid to cross the boundary of fear. You got your first kiss because one of you took a chance to pucker up. You attend Richmond because you took a chance on filling out that application. Heck, you exist because your father took a chance on asking your mother out.
Here at Richmond, we often live in a bubble. We forget there's a world outside of the library or the Cellar, or even the lodges. It is so safe, so busy, who needs to take a risk greater than waiting until the night before to do a paper?
But the world is out there, and people are challenging themselves. It is only through playing "What If" and challenging ourselves that we are able to grow.
The biggest problem I see on this campus is not apathy, as I frequently have heard said. I think its socially conditioned fear -- people are afraid to leave their labels behind, afraid to define who they are without a pre-made little sticky label to attach to themselves.
How do you define yourself? If you are anything like me, the things you remember most brilliantly, or the things you think about at night before you sleep, are the things that happened because you took a risk. You might not be proud of some of those memories, but they stand out for a reason. Memories are memorable because they impacted your life. That person or event that you think about at night stands out because of a "what if" moment.
Maybe your first "what if" moment was cutting your own hair when you were little, or stealing a cookie against Mom's orders. I know someone that, as a child, poured red Kool-aid all over her dog on the 4th of July, wanting Rover to be festive. What does all of this have to do with labels? I'm sure you are wondering.
I think, maybe, that we are not afraid to leave the labels because we are inherently weak or are cowards. In our society, we are given conflicting messages. Mom and Dad told you that you could be anything you want. But I think what comes across through social conditioning is that you can be anything you want, except for unique. Even when you are little, as you tried new things or tried to form your identity, you were often punished for your efforts. Why? Because it was not what someone else thought you should do. You should not color on the walls becomes you should not get lots of piercings, or should not disagree with a professor, or should not diverge from social norms of behavior. For if you do diverge, you fear the risk of punishment or ridicule.
Think of one thing, that you have always secretly wanted to do. I dare you to do it! Or come as close to doing it as you possibly can. Have a "what if" moment, and tear off that social label. The only thing that is left on the outside of that label is conformity. And who really needs that? Besides, isn't it time to outgrow that belief in cooties?