My Life Is One Big –Ish

“I don’t like being put in boxes.  Boy, girl, dork, popular – those are boxes.”

“Sorry.  But…”  I wanted to know something.  “How old are you?”

“Age is a box.”

~ From the pages of What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci.


Boxes confine.  Boxes limit.  Boxes keep things in and boxes keep things out.  The only boxes I like are the ones that I put in storage because I have no use for what I’ve put in them and probably won’t for a long time.  Like my high school yearbooks, my first lock of hair, hospital bracelet – stuff like that.

Labels are just like boxes.  Slap a label on a box and we’ve got a perfectly, pin-pointable, predictable product.  What happens when said product doesn’t perform in the manner the label on the box specifies?  We send it back and get a full refund.  In our eyes, it didn’t fit into our basket of expectations, and it gets the big, red Reject stamp across the front.

Same as putting labels on people.  We label them, expecting certain characteristics and we are surprised and sometimes angry when prim and proper Mary Jane is caught dancing on the tables at a seedy bar, or the virtuous Mrs. Goody-Goody is caught washing down pills with a vodka tonic.   How about Miss America showing some skin in pictures taken eons ago?

Society loves doing that – putting people in boxes and writing labels on them in big permanent markers.  It’s easier to keep track of us that way.  It keeps us in line.  But that makes us feel like we have to live up to someone’s expectation – a heavy burden to carry.

One of the many problems with boxes, though, is that they create a finite atmosphere from which we can take our next breath.  How can we be one way when we are supposed to act another?

I find it difficult to label myself, so normally I don’t even try, but as part of a workshop headed up by Kristen Lamb, we were asked to make a list of words to describe ourselves or how others would describe us.  It was eye-opening, to say the least.

After I had written the word “calm,” I immediately wrote “explosive.”  “Cautious” was followed by “impetuous.”  “Focused” fused with “scattered.”  One hundred words later, I was still not able to get a very clear picture of who I was – it was blurry at best.

Taking the time to write those words was a wonderful exercise because it made me realize I am all of those words, yet none of them, or maybe a bit of each, in a very –ish sort of way.

That probably explains why I could never hold down a traditional job.  Most jobs have very specific boundaries in which to perform.  I don’t do boundaries.  Guidelines maybe.  Boundaries never.  Abiding by leases, contracts, rules, and regulations makes me break out in hives.

The same goes with time.  Clocks are too regimented and too confining.  I rarely give an exact time for when I will be somewhere.  I know myself too well.  It’s always 1:00-ish, noon-ish, or afternoon-ish.   I’m often teased about it, but it’s an expected and accepted part of me.

"A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to." Photo:

So there you have it – the nuts and bolts of who I am – or who I’m not.

How about you?  Do you fit into a mold?  Can you identify yourself with just a few words?  Where is your comfort zone?  Let me know!  I’d love to compare our lists!


About Diana Murdock

California-grown, writer of contemporary and YA paranormal with enough energy to write, raise two boys, run, and dream.

Posted on August 19, 2011, in Labels, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Tough one. I think there are some core basics that make up who I am (optimistic, enthusiastic etc) but then there are parts of me that are always growing and changing as I go through life experiences. As I also recognize aspects of myself I like and want to develop and aspects of myself that perhaps don’t work so well for me and therefore, I want to change. I think who we are is a constant evolution.

  2. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos

    I think my life is one big ish too. I’m never on time, always say, I’ll be there around tenish. I know if I say ten, I’ll be there at ten minutes after. I always procrastinate, but I can also be highly organized. Must be those creative minds of ours!!

  3. I think labels are so tempting because they’re a good communication short-cut. It’s helpful to have a term to use as a jumping off point . . . but we get in trouble when we forget that people aren’t like cans of tuna. The label is more like a hint, a clue, than a cut-and-dried absolute.

    I think labels, like adverbs, can be useful when used appropriately, but most of us have trouble understand what appropriate use is. I include myself in “most of us”.

  4. Love the quote from Gandalf. Someone I once knew called herself “ADD-ish”, which I quite liked. I think I’m rather ADD-ish myself, because I get bored rather easily (unless I’m reading a great book or watching a great movie or kayaking!), am very easily distracted (“Mom, you’ve got to watch this really funny youtube video!”), and tend to jump around to various projects. And, most people don’t know that inside me lurks a wild woman who likes to break out occasionally I agree with Michelle that labels can be useful but we also have to look beyond them to the complex person each of us is.

  5. It sounds like quite a few of us must be wizards, according to Gandalf. I like that!

  6. I think people use labels because it helps them understand the world around them. Having lived my life, I know that labels are nothing more than illusions. I’ve had friends for over fifteen years that never knew I had tattoos. When they learned I did, they reaction was humorous, to say the least. I’m sure their world view of me changed and yet I was still the same person as before.

    Kind of makes me laugh. The time thing? Oh, I’m rarely late and not an ‘ish’ sort of person at all. You ishy people give me hives. ; ) But I adore all my ishy friends, and I seem to have them in spades!

    I couldn’t agree more that even after 100 words I still was befuddled who I really am. I’m all of those words and none of them on any given day. Which I love about myself.

  7. I used to hate those personality tests because I felt they were always -ish right. The only mold I think I fit into is quiet and reserved, but even that’s an evolution of who I used to be. People gawk and sputter when I tell them I used to dance hip hop, lol. It’s fun defying expectations sometimes. 😀

  8. I agree with Tamerie. I think we do use boxes on ourself- sometime to confine sometime for support. If you box yourself as kind or considerate it might help you(one) from flaming your way into oblivion.

    However I like to carry a boxcutter– except on airplanes, of course– to free myself of labels from time to time. Writer’s can do that through their work. Kind and gentle writer slaughters entire village with the flick of a pen and a diabolical fiend.

    Another great post, Diana.

  9. Artistic. Creative. Spiritual. Emotional. Sensitive. Caring. Passionate. Tree Hugger. Animal Activist. Vegetarian. Pure Source Energy. Happily Just Me.

    Great blog cousin. These are labels that I put on myself with pride. I had to strip layers of labels that I either tried to be, or allowed others to put on me, until I found the True Me underneath. It took lots of time, and hurt to do it, but the end result was amazing! It was like finding a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk, or digging into the middle of a hot fudge lava cake! 🙂

    You…Beautiful. Free. Spiritual. Sister. Love. Power. Strength. Creative. Funny. Athletic. Wondrous. Soulful. True. Trusting. Rebellious. Fearless!

  10. Well, actually…it was like finding a million dollars on the sidewalk and far more delicious than hot fudge lave cake!

  11. There is no easy way to describe yourself. I would have to rely on my friends’ and family’s opinion. I can only say that I strive to be patient, open-minded, friendly, warm, honest and helpful. I try very hard NOT to be opinionated, irrational and unhappy. So far I’m succeeding! 🙂

  12. You’ve seen mine Diana, so you know my box is labeled “Southern Comfort” but that’s only part of me. I’m in sales management, and I choose to have short hair. Last week a customer called someone in our office to place an order and afterwards he asked our guy if he knew me. John said yes, and then the customer told him that I taught him to weld years back. John got with me and said, “YOU used to be a welder?” It was in a meeting, and everyone around the table laughed. Then I told them that not only had I been a welder, but a certified welder, had hair down my back, and a Grizzly Adams beard. Now that was 20 years ago, but it’s a part of who I am. I wish there had been a camera handy to catch the expressions on their faces. Of course, now I have three projects that people want me to help them with on the weekends. 😉 On the time thing, I’m with Tameri. I’d rather be 30 minutes early than 30 seconds late. You “artsy” types drive me nuts. LOL :^P Great post Diana.

  13. I don’t think there’s an easy way to describe myself. That list was very difficult for me too.

    One thing that I do get over and over is that people are suprised when I speak up for myself. It’s either greeted with laughter or a nod like “you go girl” I think it’s because I’m quiet and laid back and they’ve put me in a box and are suprised that I’m not reacting the way they thought I would. Interesting post Diana!

  14. Hi, Diana. I’m afraid that boxes don’t work very well for me either. I write horror fiction, but don’t really watch very many scary movies. In fact, you are more likely to catch me sitting in front of Notting Hill or Love Actually than Halloween or Friday the 13th.
    Sad, isn’t it? Please don’t tell the Horror Writers of America that I told you that…


  15. Thanks for the good post. Lots to think about here, especially as writers approaching the marketplace.

    When I was busy pursuing acting, it was convenient to be put into some kind of box, an extremely frustrating position for an actor. I was cast once as a victim, who ended up being dragged by some guy who had (in the show) murdered my son,well, wouldn’t you know it, the next part I was asked to audition for, was another victim, this time from an attack by dogs. I said no, not going out for that one.

    I, like you, have resisted labels. I think that explains why my career path is so checkered. I’ve tried on many hats.

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