In a public radio interview, Al Gore was asked how he self-identifies these days. “A recovering politician? An environmental activist? A business man?” the reporter suggested.
The former vice-president laughed and said that you can’t really pigeonhole people, assign them just one label.
He’s right. We all have numerous labels. I’m a daughter, boss, executive director, friend… the list goes on.
But of all these labels my current favorite is the newest: reader/writer.
Being a reader isn’t actually new. I’ve been a reader all my life.
But I’ve never been a book club person and I’m not the sort to hang out in the local bookstores or library. So people didn’t necessarily know I was a reader.
And while some of my friends read a lot, I never had a community whose common bond was books and reading.
Through online resources like Good Reads, the Books on the Nightstand podcast and the Booktopia weekends, I have found that community and now I’m quicker to self-identify as a reader.
Writing is newer to my life so that particular label is especially novel, no pun intended.
It’s not just the newness, though. I also enjoy identifying as a reader/writer because I can control my participation in those communities.
As an introvert (yet another label) being able to socialize only when I want to is important.
I love that I can turn off the computer if I don’t feel like “taking” about a book.
And I can attend writing workshops once a week, once a month or once a year. It doesn’t matter. I’m always welcome when I show up and never pressured to participate more often.
In college and for years after “theater person” was my biggest label. I participated in at least three or four productions a year, backstage at first and then as a director.
While I loved those shows, or most of them anyway, and wouldn’t trade away those experiences, theater is all or nothing. You either had rehearsals every single night or, when the show was over, had no contact with the cast and crew members at all.
There were some nights that I would have preferred to stay home instead of going to rehearsal, but that wasn’t an option.
And if I felt like skipping a cast party because I needed a break from all the socializing, people thought I was crazy.
Whether it’s online or in person, my connections with other readers and writers are on my terms and there are no judgments.
Lastly, I enjoy being labeled a reader and writer so much because most of the people who know me as those things often don’t know me any other way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love running the performing arts center, but it’s consuming and sometimes I feel that people think that’s all there is to me.
Once in a while I like to just leave that behind, not think about it and not talk about it.
Most of the people in the writing workshops or online reading communities don’t even know what I do for a living. When we introduce ourselves to the group, we talk about what we are reading or our writing, not our jobs.
It’s strangely freeing, that anonymity. Knowing that no one is going to ask me if there are tickets left to Friday night’s concert or how the latest fundraising campaign is going makes me feel more like Heather and like The Executive Director.
Yeah, I’m proud of all my titles. But right now I’m happiest when I’m being a reader and writer.