Today I posted a question on my Facebook: What word would you choose to identify yourself, to express something important about who you are?
The question was inspired by the publication of the book 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See the World. This book offers up photos of famous women and asks them to identify themselves with a word. While I admit that I have not paid close attention to the actual book, I’ve been pondering the concept for the past couple of weeks.
What would I choose for a word? I considered a humble approach: “critical,” “self-righteous,” “vain,” “frivolous,” maybe just plain “self-obsessed?” Then I considered a positive, empowering approach: “worthy,” “enough,” “growing.” The problem was that on their own none of these words felt very defining for me overall. They might all be true in some capacity, but they were also very limiting and reductive. Maybe any single word would be?
I wanted to know and honor what my friends would say about themselves. As their responses popped up, I looked at their words and thought about them as people. It was illuminating and lovely to consider these people in tandem with their chosen words. The outside world is quick to tell us who we are, and while listening to others is often useful, when they want to define you, they’ve pushed past the boundary. It’s not fair. So I chose my word deliberately.
My word is “passion.” It follows me at my best and worst. It is not inherently good or bad on its own, neither self-deprecating nor self-aggrandizing. It’s about big, combustible emotions. They are the emotions that lead me to cry every time I listen to Willie Nelson sing “Always on My Mind,” stare in awe at mountains, oceans, the first daffodils of Spring. It is the word that guides how I feel when I turn to those that I love most and am terrified of a world that can’t and won’t protect them, a job I’m not qualified for and haven’t been ask to do. It sits on me when I write my novel and it clings to me when I read Rumi, Emily Bronte, so many others. You might call it “sensitive,” but you’d miss all the fire, the ways that it pushes and determines me. It’s the piece of me that fights back despite battling seasonal depression every damn winter in Michigan. It’s the piece that is unwilling to give it up.
So, there you have it. My word. What’s yours?