My generation is obsessed with labels. Maybe that sounds inaccurate considering that dating nowadays requires a 3 month courtship called “talking”, then another few months of “hanging out casually”, followed by a weird period of time spent acting like a couple but avoiding the word Relationship. This confusing process finally gains traction after you’ve been together for 6+ months, your Instagram feed now has a new star– this particular individual that you currently spend most of your time with–and you finally just admit to your friends that you and this person are officially “seeing each other”… but it’s still totally casual and there will be absolutely no change in relationship status on Facebook– that would be far too intimate and gross.
Still, even though the average millennial is notoriously regarded as a “commitment phobe” and would rather live in label-ship ambiguity for months on end when it comes to their romantic partners, we do, however, thoroughly enjoy labeling our personalities. We’re addicted to the meaningless, time-sucking BuzzFeed quizzes that claim to guess our Zodiac signs based on which latte design we find most aesthetically appealing.
Figuring out who exactly you are and personalizing nearly everything under the sun to align with your preferences has reached beyond just those late nights spent wandering through the BuzzFeed Rabbit Hole. There are now subscription services that require a simple (and actually kind of fun, if I’m being honest here) mini quiz to figure out the perfect wine, cat food, skin care products– you name– to be delivered to your door every month. These millennial-geared companies are nothing short of instantly intriguing and ego boosting. This company is actually taking the time to get to know me. For example: Care Of vitamins knows I don’t smoke but I also have an iron deficiency and don’t eat much fish unless I’m on a beach vacation. Therabox knows that I’m anxious as hell 6 out of 7 days a week and Blind Date with a Book understands that my favorite genre is anything with “Girl” in the title and wrestles with the question, “Is she crazy or are THEY?” (Think Gone Girl— okay, she was definitely crazy– and Girl on the Train–okay, maybe she wasn’t the most reliable either…) Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore subscription services and throw my money at 2 to 50 of them each month. My only hope is that someone will one way invent a Cat Box subscription and give me a basket of adorable kittens which suit my lifestyle, color preferences, and mood each month. I digress. My point here is that, as a society, we are kinda obsessed with ourselves, or rather, “getting to know ourselves” through product exploration, quizzes and computer generated algorithms.
I actually find that there’s quite a bit of pressure to thoroughly label myself against a variety of personality types and have a distinctive opinion on even the most trivial of matters. If I can’t say with absolute certainty that “I am an INFJ, my color palette is Spring, and I prefer pinot noir which means I have a slightly mysterious demeanor and therefore I’m inherently socially awkward” then I just don’t know my place in this world. And yet, even after taking the time to stick a glossy label on yourself, you may– like me– realize that you’re not comfortable with that label or that your entire disposition has changed.
Who even was that person that scored 10/10 on the “How Extroverted Are You?” quiz five days ago? All I want to do now is eat a Hawaiian pizza in bed and watch Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightly version, of course).
As I’m exiting my wide-eyed “young adulthood” years and entering “just plain old adulthood”, I’m realizing (with a mix of delighted curiosity and sickening fear) that I’m not the person I used to be. Sure, I was a painfully shy child, but once I discovered theatre in my teens, I began to open up in a big way. There was a time when I would feel completely and utterly comfortable in a group of brand new faces. It was a thrill to meet people for the first time– I was obsessed with the concept of a first impression and nailing it. Every. Time. I didn’t even have a problem with opening up about myself almost instantly. Give me five minutes and I’ll tell you my life story! These were opportunities to make new potential life-long friends. But now– even with people I know– I find myself engaging in conversation only to a polite degree and as soon as it’s socially acceptable, scurrying away to alone with my thoughts (and second guess/analyze every word of said conversation). Social interaction requires a lot of effort now and I’m valuing alone time or time spent one-on-one with others more and more. This brings me to the big questions… are you ready? This is some existential shit…
Am I an Anna or an Elsa?
When I first saw the movie, Frozen (yes, at the age of 21), I sat at the theatre staring up at the big screen with tears in my eyes. (Let’s get one thing straight– I’m a complete and total pile of nerdy Disney trash and I won’t ever claim to be anything else.) I so identified with Anna’s fierce optimism and her quest to mend her relationships at all cost. She’s awkward and quirky, she needs to feel needed, she’s a textbook extrovert who gets energy by being around others, and she’s a little (okay, a lot) too quick to fall in love because she’s just so eager to bond with another person. Yup. That sounded basically spot on for where I was in my life. Bubbly, romantic, and a bit of a weirdo. I even thought, “Damn, this Elsa chick is a little dramatic. If she had just talked her issues out with her sister, everything would have been okay”. Fast forward a few years later and I more identify with the brooding and emotionally damaged Elsa who just wants to be left alone to look fabulous in her ice palace. It makes me wonder, which version of myself is the real me? Have I just been wearing some mask the last several years and pretending to be extroverted, optimistic and fun? It’s perplexing and a little sad. I’m completely fine with being alone. In fact, I prefer it. And yet, I feel a sense of loss for the Eager to Please and Excited to Entertain Gina who was the social glue holding together a lot of my friend groups. But then again… I like who I am now. Maybe I’m more isolated and selective, but I’m also a survivor of all the trauma and hardship I’ve been through and I’m a product of all that I’ve learned. I should be proud of that rather than wishing back a more naive version of myself.
Another question that keeps me up at night (despite the fact that I’m now sporting a lavender-scented sleep mask– thanks Therabox!)…
Why Don’t I Like Other Hufflepuffs?
I’ve taken the Pottermore quiz more times than is technically allowed by creating new profiles with different corresponding email addresses… and after an embarrassing amount of time spent answering the same questions over and over again and praying for different results… it’s always the same. A resounding “Hufflepuff”. Loyal and patient. Well, I’m one of those things. The sorting hat should really watch my reactions to rush hour traffic… And while I’m willing to accept that I belong to a house of loyal misfit weirdos, another part of me just can’t get over the fact that I generally dislike every other Hufflepuff I’ve ever met. I can’t pinpoint an exact quality that I find so unappealing in these individuals, but it causes me great distress to know that I don’t enjoy the company of “my own kind”, so to speak. Maybe it’s because I’ve always imagined Hufflepuffs as gentle, kind souls who are incredibly generous while patiently waiting to see what life has in store for them, and therefore– weaklings. I don’t want to be weak and sometimes I don’t feel so kind or generous… and I’m anything but patient.
I just don’t know. Maybe that’s a cop-out, or maybe it’s a profound admission that I still haven’t completely figured myself out yet and I’m still trying to find “my people”. Maybe it’s the acceptance that we’re constantly growing and evolving and part of that means surprising even yourself with what you continue to carry with you and what you let go. A good friend of mine recently told me to look at my goals and aspirations and ask myself, “am I swimming upstream on this?” Am I going against what feels intuitive while stubbornly pursuing something I once told myself was important? I feel that when it comes to this existential life crisis, I am swimming upstream. I’m fretting about who I used to be and why I’m not that person anymore… I’m worried that now that I’m an adult, am I a good adult? Am I kind and loyal and generous? Am I actually? Do I even have the ability to practice patience and accept what is? I can’t answer all of those questions and even if I tried, I’m willing to bet that answers would be different day by day. The only answer that is clear to me now is that I need to be like Elsa and