Labels and Dreams
by Laura McBride, MSW
I have test anxiety. But I am more than the overwhelming fear that grips my heart in a vice when a teacher hands out a test or anyone mentions the word “licensure.” I am more than the sleepless nights I’ve spent struggling, studying for exams I knew, knew, I would fail the next day. I am more than my lack of self-confidence.
I am “not smart enough.” But I am more than the words of a teacher that didn’t really know me: of a teacher that wanted to label me as not worthy of her time. I am more than an invented grade on a report card that merely compares me to others in my class. I am incomparable. I am the one and only me. I am more than the words you wish to label me with.
None of these labels defines me. None of them truly explain who I really am.
We constantly define ourselves with labels, as if that presents an accurate picture. I lived too much of my life buying into the labels others ascribed to me: not smart enough, not good enough, JUST athlete, untalented, dreamer.
Labels are meant to constrict, to bind us to someone else’s way of seeing. I refuse to live by anyone else’s standards anymore.
Tell me I’m not smart enough, not good enough, and I won’t bother with the report card; I’ll just prove you wrong in a battle of wits.
Tell me I’m just an athlete; I’ll beat you first on the court, then in the classroom.
Tell me I’m untalented; I’ll ask what you want to see first.
Tell me I’m a dreamer; I’ll respond, “Yes, I am.”
What’s so wrong about being a dreamer?
The world has seen amazing dreamers. And we have praised them. Why do we talk down to children who dream big by calling them dreamers and telling them they’ll never make it?
Dream. Do. Envision a world where labels belong only on clothing or boxes. Where people are defined by their actions and how they lived their life.
I am ME. I am a graduate student balancing work, internship, school, and life. I am a daughter, sister, and aunt, constantly trying to find more free time for my family. I am a friend, who seldom gets to see my friends. I am a reformed pessimist who constantly relapses. I see the beauty in nature but sometimes struggle to see it in the people around me.
I am a dreamer.
I dream of a world where everyone is treated equally. I dream of a day when petty arguments stop and honest discussions begin.
I dream of a day without labels. A day when I stop remembering the words of a teacher from long ago that didn’t know me and listen to myself.
I dream of a day when I can stare down a test and not be afraid; a day when I believe in myself and my ability.
I dream of the day when I hold my doctoral diploma and I prove doubters wrong. I dream of the day I step back into a classroom—not as a student, but as a professor. A day when I can tell my students labels don’t exist in my classroom but we have more dreams than we can count, and we are going to chase them.
So you can tell me I’m just not good enough or not smart enough. Tell me I’m not talented or tell me I’m just a dreamer. I’ll tell you I am just. Just amazing. And I don’t need your labels anymore.
Laura McBride, MSW, is a recent graduate of Spalding University in Louisville, KY, where she earned her Master of Social Work degree. She works for her local community mental health center as a mental health outreach case manager.