To be more than a title

It's something I should have known about myself by the time I was in first grade. It's something I should have embraced readily and declared proudly.

I'm a writer.

I was six years old, with a first grade teacher who bent over backwards to challenge my young little mind and provide endlessly creative ways for me to grow and excel. There was a tray on her desk, right next to the rug where all of my tiny classmates and I would gather, criss-cross-applesauce, to listen to a story. I visited that tray often, probably more than any other student.

That tray was where we could turn in our own stories. And I did, by the bundle. I wrote them on that soft, tall paper, the kind that was half blank space for illustrations and half lines for writing, the lines with two solids sandwiching one dotted. I wrote and wrote and wrote, filling that tray up with the haphazardly stapled bunches of paper that held my words and plots.

I remember countless afternoons on the floor of my bedroom, pen in hand, creating bios of members of families I had dreamt up in my six-year-old mind. I would list their names, all of their favorite things, their nicknames, everything. I grouped them together by family, and then I would start to write their stories.

It was in my blood from the very beginning-- I'm a writer.

Thanks to the awesome photographers of  The Yellow Conference  for this photo!

Thanks to the awesome photographers of The Yellow Conference for this photo!

But yet, it's still hard to accept that. It's still hard to say that. To speak the words out loud, to say that I, Rachel Dawson, am a writer, like that's all I am, doesn't feel quite right. It should have been something I should have embraced readily and declared proudly, but here I am, so many years after my six-year-old self poured her heart out in words on elementary school paper, and I'm still working on that.

At a conference this past week, I met incredible women with these beautiful passions oozing out of their very cores. The question invariably would come up as the introductions started-- what do you do?

I was sure every woman would have their answer down pat. I'm a wedding photographer. I'm an author. I'm an entrepreneur. But they didn't. Each woman I spoke with had the same sort of response that I had. They had big picture nouns, titles that fit them into a certain creative arena, but then they had a wavy, loose list of qualifiers that painted a picture more beautiful than one word could have.

I'm into photography, but I love telling people's stories and I want to shoot women and show them their beauty and worth in a picture they can keep forever. I started a blog that features incredible fashion organizations that are using their work for good in the world, and I want to highlight and feature the causes I believe in. The descriptions continued like this.

I realized as I talked to each one that the title isn't the end of it all. It isn't about accepting that this singular thing, this noun, this role, is my ultimate and complete identity. I think it's about tapping in to the things that make our spirits soar and our hearts race and our palms sweat and embracing those things wholeheartedly. I think it's about realizing that yes, this thing makes me come alive, but this one thing doesn't sum my whole being up. 

I don't need to attach this title to my name with a comma to link them as one. I don't need to put all that I am on this one defining word. I do want to embrace it, declare it, own it. But I want to give myself the space to live outside of that title. I am not just Rachel Dawson, writer. 

I want to feel just as much myself in the seasons where the words are elusive and the blog ideas are few and far between as I do in the seasons where I post every day and my journals fill up faster than my hand can scribble. When I'm writing, I'm me. When I'm not writing, I'm still me.

Let's give ourselves a healthy dose of grace to be more than the thing we think wholly defines us. Let's give ourselves room to breathe, space to grow, opportunities to delve into things outside of the arenas we've been stuck in. 

I'm more than just a writer. I'm a daughter, a sister, a best friend. I'm a honest truth-teller, a social media addict, a doodler, an avid reader, a stubborn fighter. I'm a wanderer and an explorer, I'm a babysitter and a big believer in justice, I'm an artist and a harmonizer when I sing. I'm more than just a writer. Let's let ourselves have long and messy lists of who we are and what we do, adding on and taking away as we grow over time. 

You are more than your job title. You are more than the thing the world puts after a comma with your name. That degree that's attached to your identity like the grand finale of your existence is not the best thing about you. Give yourself a big heaping of grace to be more than just those things. Throw those things aside for a bit and run wild into the possibility that today, you can dive into new waters and taste new flavors of life.