Hello Hope College!
I hope all of you are keeping sane and staying alive (just remember, you’ve made it four weeks). Today, I want to talk about defying categories. During the college years, as we struggle to define ourselves and find our place, it is easy to feel confined by set boundaries. For example, if you begin to define yourself as a “sports person,” yet happen to also feel passionately about, say, writing poetry, it can often feel like some outside force (or your peers) are forcing you to choose between one or the other. I know this topic may seem a bit high school, and I’m sure we’d all like to think we are very much past this, yet surprisingly, even amongst middle-aged adults, this mindset is pervasive.
This is something I feel pressed to discuss largely because I personally am constantly struggling to cultivate myself as an individual while also trying to find where I fit in on a larger scale. Assimilation into a group often happens naturally, and in the beginning, can even be incredibly encouraging of growth. For example, in high school, when I first stumbled upon alternative/punk-rock music, I was quite genuinely enthralled by its surrounding culture and began defining every aspect of myself with this lens. If any of you are familiar with this culture, you can picture the skinny jeans, graphic t-shirts, beanies, and comb over bangs (only slightly in my case, thank god). After awhile, I found myself interested by other things – it started with music taste. While I still enjoyed alternative music, I started to also explore a softer, heartier sound: indie, folk, bluegrass, etc. As my music taste shifted, I began to grow in other ways as well. My style was evolving, as were my interests, my opinions, etc. However, each transition I made was met with inner conflict over what I thought were contradictory identities/people groups/cultures. Although it began with a genuine passion, my identity as “punk-rock girl” wound up constricting me because I believed that every aspect of my life had to be done in a “punk-rock girl” way.
As I evolved, I began to realize that I did not need to fit into categories – that I could like punk-rock music and bluegrass at the same, wear a bright dress one day and a baggy t-shirt with dark skinny jeans the next. This is all to say that people don’t naturally fit into categories. By nature, as individuals, we are each wildly unique. As much as it can feel wonderful to commune with others about a shared interest, I encourage you not to let yourself be restrained by that. Develop a friend-group with a wide range of interests; explore different types of music, food, areas of study, etc. You are allowed to like whatever you like, whether it falls in or outside of your “category.” Become defined as yourself. In my case, my category is Grace. That means I listen to punk-rock music, as well as folk, bluegrass, indie, rap, instrumental, etc. It is impossible to contradict yourself, so embrace your variety.
Opus Poetry Editor