My mom used to say to me, "Just because someone says it, doesn't make it so." Not, as one would think in response to conspiracy theorist denying the moon landing, but instead usually in response to mean names kids would call me. There have been some doozies. I have been labeled with a lot of bad titles over the course of my life and I remember almost every single one (being called a cunt by an eight year old girl this year has to be a highlight). I also, assumably, have received an almost equal amount of compliments--I have a much harder time recalling any of the those. Although the manicurist the other day told me I had "weak nails but great nail beds," and I'll always cherish that. I know people have told me many lovely things about myself in cards or at birthdays or in the form of whispered sweet nothings while cuddling on the couch, but they allude me. Whereas every time I was called "fat," or "stupid," or "selfish," or "spoiled," is so vivid in my mind it's practically time and date stamped.
Isn't it odd the self-perceptions we form? I associate myself more closely with the combination of the insults than, try as I might, I ever will be able to associate myself with the compliments. I've said before that I think we think of ourselves as we were in high school. This is why there are 45 year old women dancing on tables at nightclubs because they still think of themselves as the hottie patotties, and likewise, there are beautiful, intelligent, well-rounded women that refer to themselves as "ugly ducklings". And who hasn't seen an old man with a pot belly trying to pick up a twenty-somehting in the bar, and maybe, even referencing his illustrious football career which coincidentally ended before the object of his advances was even born. Years of being unexceptional has caused my self-perception to be skewed apparently, because I'll say things like "I'm actually very shy" or "I am terrible at meeting new people," which are outlandish enough to illicit groans of protest from anyone in attendance.
One of the best things about moving to a new city is the ability to start over. The labels and connotations people have hoisted upon you become null and void, and with the help of a "Clueless"-esque makeover montage, you can reinvent yourself into something new. As I contemplate my move to Baltimore, I'm excited about the prospect of taking some of the newfound confidence that comes from living on my own and excelling at a job with me. The question that keeps popping into my head, however, is what if I take the other stuff too? What if I take all the labels and baggage from eighteen years of being the missing puzzle piece stuck under the couch that doesn't really belong anywhere?
I'm slapping labels on all my boxes with bright pink duck tape, "Kitchen," "Living Room," and the catchall "?!," but while some of my bedding might accidentally end up in my kitchen (I really am an appalling packer), the mislabeling that concerns me most of all is the mislabeling I've been known to put upon myself.