Colouring outside the lines...

How do you define yourself? Is it by the work you do? The family you come from? Your religion, culture, gender? Or do you allow yourself to scatter messily across society's tidy categories and derive your identity from the true mishmash that makes up your life, loves, hates and everything in between?

A couple of years ago, I heard the quote, "Don't define who you are by what you do, define what you do by who you are." I love this. But back then, I thought of it only in terms of my professional work. As time passes, I realise how many more aspects of life this actually extends to.

Does the way you label yourself dictate your behaviours? I've known many women who won't leave home without a full face of makeup (and some who even sleep in it!) simply because they're female and they've been made to feel this is expected of them. I have a couple of friends who are gay but don't want work colleagues to know because it will define who people think they are and the way they should behave based on the labels society attaches to the homosexual community.

I hear that. Truthfully, I prefer for people not to know I was raised as a Muslim so they don't eye me up when I'm enjoying my bacon-laden breakfast. How unfair is it that as soon as we make a personal life choice (or our parents make one for us), we gain automatic mandatory membership to a community with its own rules? (More to come next week on my awkward adjustment to mum's world!).

For the longest time, I was, let's say resistant to the idea (or more accurately scared shitless) of having a family because I thought I would be expected to move to the 'burbs and acquire a dog and a minivan (not really my style). The biggest part of the problem is not even other people and what they expect, but what we're made to believe about the world and the way things "should" be. Many of us think, wife = Martha (although ironically, Martha's single!), family = suburban utopia, good person = does not eat bacon and drink Stella. Whatever the case may be.

Some of us work hard to do what is expected, and some of us work hard not to do what is expected. But why not just do what we want?

Since becoming a mum, I've had people tell me they're surprised I use cloth nappies and make my own purees because I didn't strike them as the "type". Hmm, not sure what that means... "mumsy"? Green? I don't know. Well yes, I'm not particularly mumsy or green. But I love my kid, I want her to be comfy and eat good eats, and anything that's easy on the pocket usually has my vote. If it happens to also be better for the environment, then that's good right?

The moral of my story is, let's not be afraid to colour outside the lines. And let's not insist on it to make a statement either. Let's just be.

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