According to my friends, I am the 'cute' girl.
Okay, so it's not always the 'cute' girl. There are in fact many variations on what I am labeled. Sometimes it's 'adorable' or 'a ray of sunshine'. Sometimes it's even 'the epitome of a Hufflepuff' or 'a cupcake in human form'. During the Christmas season, I was deemed 'an elf' roughly seven times, and on Valentine's Day, my friends called me 'cute' approximately eight times. Even before coming to Emory, I was deemed "the nice girl" by my confused classmates (true story: one of my classmates, after exclaiming that she had no clue what to write for me in my yearbook, wrote nice three times in her comment). But whether by friends, acquaintances or interested boys, the label placed on me remains consistent. 'Cute'. Not 'beautiful'. Rarely 'intelligent'. Just 'cute' and 'sweet' and 'nice', until I have a reputation sweeter than a candy shop.
Although it genuinely warms my heart whenever someone calls me as 'cute', being labeled the same attribute, day in and day out, often becomes redundant. With some of the people that I know, I feel that every single one of personality traits is overridden by "adorable" I am. In their eyes, I feel I am no longer a multi-faceted human being, full of dreams and interests and thoughts that have the potential to set the world on fire. I feel like I am a one-dimensional piece of paper with all of my being and potential boiled down to one singular character trait. Yes, I am cute (thanks, we get it). But I am also a writer who expresses her emotions in late-night poetry that she rarely lets a single soul see. I am also a traveler who has a whole world behind her in Europe and who has many more adventures to come. I am also someone who listens to Dutch rap, who loves Sartre and World War II films, and who desperately holds onto the hope that time travel is true (thank you, Doctor Who). I am also so, so much more.
But my frustration at being labeled myself is put aside when I look at other people. You see, even though I'm irritated as being viewed as a one-dimensional being, I join those around me in viewing others the same way. People in class, in the cafeteria and walking past us are summarized with a snap-judgment, described with a declaration, and belittled with a blanket statement. Loud. Slow-walkers. Know-it-all. We ourselves hate being labeled, so why do each of us label others? Is it because it is easier to reduce each person's personality to a single word? Is it because it is less of an effort to assume we know everything about a person rather than take time to get to know them as an individual? Our insights may be true (or they may fall utterly short), but they can never encompass the world of meaning and beauty that exists inside each person's soul. No person can be reduced to an adjective, a passion or an attribute. Each person exists far beyond the time and space that we interact with them to fill a colorful life full of dreams and interests and thoughts that can never be summarized. Every single one is so, so much more.
College has taught me that to restrain from labeling other people, because I will never be able to know their full story. It has opened my eyes to the fact that each person, regardless of how they are viewed, is worthy of being known. Being part of an organization named Bread Coffeehouse, a campus ministry that focuses on loving and accepting each individual, has encouraged me to engage with other people rather than judging them. Being a tutor at a primary school for Emory Reads has allowed me to pour into peoples' lives patiently with the knowledge that they are worthy of being taught. And dealing with the incessant variety of individuals all over campus and beyond has shown me that each person has a beautifully unique story and soul that can never be encompassed by a single snap-judgment.
For me, every day is a struggle between leaning towards acceptance and curiosity about those around me, rather than dismissal or rejection. This struggle isn't easy, but I have a lot of inspiration to live up to. I am inspired by those around me, especially at Bread Coffeehouse, who treat individuals with love for who they are. I am inspired by my friends, who love me unconditionally despite my brokenness. And most of all, I am constantly inspired by Jesus, who died for each and every one of us, no matter our backgrounds or quirks. Thanks to Him, we are all the same in the playing field of Heaven, regardless of our prejudices and judgments. If He loves each of us equally, should we all then not decide that each person around us deserves the same worthiness of friendship and acceptance?
To each person reading this – you are worthy of being known. You are more important than labels and you are bigger than prejudices. And you, too, can make the change. In a world full of stressed college students, maybe it is up to us to view others through the eyes of compassion rather than the narrow confines of a label. Rather than pass judgment, we should acknowledge that each one of us is made of so, so much more.