The first instance of a thought sticks to your shoe like a piece of gum someone threw on the road. You don’t realise it’s there until you feel something pull you back while walking. The pull isn’t a strong one; it’s barely a nudge, but you feel it. Slowly, however, given that you continue to walk, all your mind starts to incline towards an investigation of your foot. Until, you cannot take it anymore, and you stop walking to check what’s underneath. That’s how the last couple of months have been with a train of thought for me.
The more I ignored it, the more it made itself felt. Until I had to stop and sit and understand what it was that was making my walk so awry. This is my third attempt at trying to put it down into words.
Before we begin though, I’d like to point out an observation I’ve had about my naivety at the age when I started this website. It took me roughly half a decade to understand that you don’t declare yourself a polymath; you get acknowledged for it which is a rare achievement. In fact, that stands for anything.
At about fifteen years old, I didn’t realise or even begin to think about the ramifications the word, ‘polymath’ might have on the next eight years that were to follow. However, life has that about its nature. It’s easy to understand in hindsight. Although the word stopped being significant enough to me, some simple tenets took hold – learning, individualism, and fluidity.
Over the past eight years, I’ve moved through different past times, domains, and even habits and lifestyle choices. It is not a new event when I meet a friend after some time and I hear the casual, “When did you start doing that?”
Nothing is set in stone, and each day I wake up is practically one more day to be better than I was yesterday. That’s exactly how I look at it. Some time back, while randomly playing football and realising how my lifestyle went from sedentary up until some five years ago to extremely active today, it hit me that the only thing holding me back from physical activity was the label that was unknowingly put on me – that of an introvert.
I feel each one of us moves about the spectrum daily, especially on labels with specific dichotomies like introversion and extroversion. I’d find myself enjoying extremely extroverted activities for weeks, and then, I’d shut myself for weeks again, limiting social interaction to the minimum.
Yet, social definitions and passive clustering put me in the “does not play sports” label quite early on. Once I started indulging in regular physical activity, I started enjoying it, not to mention the trickle-down effect of it into other habits and things I do.
I realised I had unknowingly stopped myself from something I enjoyed just because it was expected of my archetype. I realised later that there is no archetype if I don’t want there to be one.
Even the good parts of our personalities such as selflessness, in my opinion, are also selfish acts in themselves because they make us feel good, and so there is an incentive involved, although intangible. That is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to admit. The admittance was, however, incredibly freeing, and in fact, increased my nature to go out of my way for other people in my life.
I believe people hold too firmly to their labels which hinders the potential each person can achieve to maximise. We’re born with labels plastered over our foreheads – genders, orientations, religions, nationalities – to name a few. Even the culture we’re born in starts to take hold so strongly, it starts to define how we understand anything about the world. We forget to learn to look at something from multiple views.
Lately, I’ve started to reject every label put on me, irrespective of how noble the intention or connotation of it. I firmly believe people put so much focus on who they are, they lose the picture of who they can be, and this is irrespective of everything good that they are too. It does not matter what colour the label is, as long as there is one, we’re stuck in that little cluster.
I’ve realised that I’m an individual first and a part of society second. I don’t feel my connection to any social structure as the primary piece of my existence.
I don’t believe in there being a higher power so most religion is out the window. I don’t even feel a sense of camaraderie with those who call themselves atheists. It’s not rebellion; it’s just my rejection to be labelled as anything. The same stands for my political position or lack thereof. This may not be true for everyone, but I don’t concern myself with that as well anymore. I have an actively evolving moral code that has been iterated over since I was about eight years old. With every experience or mistake, it changes and grows.
The only thing that has mattered to me over the last decade of my life is individual growth in every sense of the word. I look at every day as an opportunity to do something new or do something I already do better. I don’t shy away from the fact that money is essential, and a fluffy financial cushion effectively grants an individual the freedom to take necessary risks. So, I make sure I work towards that too. It is a practical approach to idealism through individualism.
All that said, for growing as an individual, I believe we do need people around, and robust social support is critical to the individual. This is precisely why I said I don’t see it as a primary piece of my existence. It is second but a vital second. So, I have my tribe. I know the people who I would willingly go out of my way for, and for them, I’d run to hell and back.
Beyond them, however, I do not care much.
I do not care unless it is a cause that is larger, and knows no social context, and is justifiable by hard, scientific facts only. For example, I genuinely care about the environment and do my best to reduce my effects on pollution. I almost readily sacrificed my meat-based diet because it had facts and not opinion behind it. As long as its speculation and belief, I cannot relate to something, and hence, I find it difficult to care.
As I’ve said earlier in the paragraphs before, I feel people stick too closely to the labels assigned to them. The faith they follow, their jobs, their last names, the families they are born into, the activities they indulge in, the place they were born in – anything that groups them with other people. I also feel that people try to please others too much that they outright lie for either a sense of affirmation or a faux social support system.
My personal experience has, however, taught me that honesty goes far longer and establishes stronger relationships.
There is a slight nuance here, though. The fact is that no matter how much a person tries, they will be put into groups. It’s a known fact that humans always generalise. It is in fact, one of our cognitive advantages as a species. The flipside is to not cling to the labels assigned to us, and if required, break out of them actively.
Based on my unique human experience, and even the smallest events that have led me here through the years, I know for a fact that I have almost no labels assigned to me in my head anymore. In fact, when I first had this thought some months back, I regularly took a label commonly attached to myself by those I know, and I questioned myself about it.
If I am not said label, then who am I?
I did this for countless things. ‘Writing’ was the first and the most difficult one. If I’m not a writer, I asked myself, then who am I? It took me a long time to do it but even that, I could eventually let go. Therefore, the lack of no pieces until there was a need for one. The need is controlled by nothing but my own desire to get a thought out. No deadlines, no need for affirmation. As I’ve written previously, my writing is a truly selfish one.
I’m still not there yet, but I believe there is an infinite possibility to what we can do as humans.
We may not ever be good at everything ourselves, but we can get significantly good at some things. To do that, we need to try to go beyond our limited identities, and continuously seek and enjoy change. I believe that the order of focus should always be first on ourselves as better individuals, and then our communities, even the noble ones.
I might not even stand by this view in some years, and I think, that would be the testament to it, not its contradiction. While that might just happen, I’d instead want to be like I have chosen to title this piece – untitled.
Although, even that is a label in itself if I was to let it get to my head.