In my 18 years, I've spent a lot of time exploring different diets. For 51 weeks during 2012, I was a vegetarian. I even experimented with veganism during a sad week in July I can now only describe as "malnourished." In the beginning of 2013, I started eating meat again (only white meat, though), telling anyone who would ask: "It was my New Year's resolution for 2012 to be vegetarian." I passed off my white-meat-only lifestyle as concern for my body's ability to digest meat after a year without practice, but honestly? I just wanted to be finicky. I didn't care about the health benefits, and, even though I followed PETA on Twitter, I didn't care about the cows. Actually, I distinctly remember, after I started eating beef again, tweeting PETA every single time I ate a hamburger. I thought it was hilarious. For me, vegetarianism was a label I could wear and a box I could put myself in. It was a cross I could bear. I don't know why it mattered that at the age of 16 I should have such a definable characteristic, but, by God, everyone knew I was a vegetarian. I made sure of it. I also made sure that everyone knew when I started eating meat again.
Twitter has been a preponderant force in my adolescence, and in my early stages of Twitter usage, I enjoyed utilizing hashtags in my biography. You're right, dear reader -- my Twitter bio spent all of 2012 in the company of #vegetarian. There were others, too: #musician, #photographer and more. Looking back, I'm embarrassed. At the enlightened age of 18, I know that I wasn't truly a musician when I was a sophomore in high school. I was a kid who knew how to play the piano. I definitely wasn't a photographer; I just asked Santa Claus for a Canon Rebel T2i and learned what the terms "bokeh" and "aperture" meant. And all the times throughout 2012 that I ate my grandmother's broccoli casserole made with chicken broth would argue fervently that I was not, in fact, a strict vegetarian.
If we label ourselves, we think that people who belong to the same label will accept us. Honestly, I find myself wondering about that notion: Would a person living with Celiac's disease accept that I'm currently just "trying out" gluten-free living? Or would I be berated for willingly giving up bread and chocolate cake when those with Celiac's are not privileged with the opportunity to choose? The funny thing about this experience is that I don't care about the gluten-free box. I'm genuinely curious to observe my body's reaction to abstaining from bread and other grains. Two years ago, I would've chosen this diet because I wanted to belong to the same box as Lady Gaga. (I'm pretty sure one of the websites I found a recipe on mentioned she isn't Gaga for gluten.)
Even still, I think that some part of us will always be happy to stuff ourselves inside a box. And if we aren't accepted with open arms by the other people in the box, we can rationalize a potential scenario where acceptance is inevitable. I'm not making any claims. I don't plan on changing, because I categorize myself almost subconsciously. I'm a labeler through and through, and it's part of who I am. But I am going to try to label myself a little more wisely in the future.
I enjoy listening to One Direction, Miley Cyrus and even occasionally Taylor Swift, but I am absolutely not a Directioner, Smiler or Swiftie. I spend a lot of time writing, but I don't think I'm a writer. Lately, I've been trying to avoid foods with gluten, but I'm not gluten-free. I really, really love Tyler Oakley, but I'm not a YouTube fanboy across the board. I read a lot, but I'm not a literary critic. I love my camera and I love my piano, but I'm not a real photographer, nor am I a real musician. These are all just things I enjoy or things that I hope to pursue doing, and I'm trying to make an effort to realize that I can enjoy certain things without feeling obligated to press on with such a full force that I'm incessantly devoted to each individual joy or pursuit.
I'm going to save my labels for things that are the most important to me: things that are even more specific than "vegetarian," "photographer" or "musician." At one point, I would gladly jump into a box if it had a pretty name. Now, I do the reverse. I enjoy the things that life has to give me, and then sometimes I realize that I've found a new realm I belong to. I've been blogging for HuffPost Teen for nearly a year now, and I've made some great friends through it: I can now say without reservation that I'm thoroughly involved in HuffPost Teen. I have a steadfast love for eating: I'm totally a foodie. I have a passion for Instagram and Twitter, which basically has an irrefutable meaning: I'm a social butterfly. These nonchalant labels are liberating; I don't feel expected to be seriously invested in them, but instead I get to enjoy each of my labels how I want to enjoy them.
People air their frustrations about stereotypes all the time, but I think that some of the biggest culprits of stereotyping can be ourselves. I'm going to try and stop putting myself into boxes I've imagined to be glorious. Sure, labels are easy, and it's great to be able to narrow yourself down to 140 characters worth of hashtags. But, I think I'll stick to being my own unique person, with my own unique standards and appreciations; a person who enjoys not being fully committed to any kind of predetermined, manufactured or synthetic lifestyle.