As the sunsets on another amazing day in Paris, I realize that I struggle with labels every day. Who am I in the world? To my friends, I’m just Michelle — crazy, overplanning, lovable Michelle. Yet, I often feel that the world is looking for clearer label to give me.
One of the hardest questions for me to answer is “what do you do?” People want to hear you say something easy like doctor, lawyer, consultant, or cable guy. They want something that easily explains to them who you are. Of course we all know that answer to that question can do that, but that’s what people are looking for. I include myself with these people. Labels give us an idea about your personality, values and priorities, or so we think. So when I fail to give them one of those quick obvious responses, the conversation stalls. Some people begin to ask more questions, while other people just become uninterested in me.
Sorry, I do wish that I could easily label myself for you.
This need for labels popped in my mind today as I spent the day wandering the streets of Paris. I began to wonder if I was a tourist or traveler. Those two different people approach travel in a different way. A tourist is usually more interested in just seeing all the sights. He (or she) might move quickly between one large city attraction to another. The tourist is always concerned about “not seeing everything.” The traveler, by contrast, has a more laid-back approach to a given city. She (or he) might spend an afternoon sitting at a cafe watching people or walking through a more residential neighborhood. The traveler’s goal includes understand the local culture and blending in with it.
This morning I did something that I consider very touristy…I went to the Eiffel Tower. Now, I have never been and was looking forward to it. It was also wonderful to experience it with someone who was facing a fear of heights. Does that make me a tourist?
This afternoon I spent time wandering the streets of Paris. There was no goal of seeing any specific site or shopping. I merely want to feel the energy of the city. Does that make me a traveler?
I don’t know. Here’s what I do know. I’m Michelle. I don’t have everything figured out about my life. I do know the things that I am passionate about and I have figured out the people who can make my dreams a reality. For right now, I’m going to give myself the label of a happy and peaceful woman.