Two months ago I was invited to speak at the upcoming TEDxBerkeley 2020 event in February. After finalizing my bio, I had to describe myself in a few words for the byline. This turned out to be a very difficult task.
Researcher? Too academic for my M.A. degree.
Consultant? Yes but I also do other things.
Lecturer? Not currently.
Mom? I’m more than that.
Writer? I haven’t published my book yet.
Amateur writer? Lacks confidence.
Storyteller? People would expect more drama.
Yemeni-American? Why would I define myself based on nationality?
World citizen? Too privileged.
Disillusioned activist? Too pessimistic.
Activist? My current activism looks very different than years ago.
Gender expert? I hate the word expert, almost as much as pundit.
Yemen expert? I’m not a white male who doesn’t speak Arabic (and as I said, I hate the word expert).
This isn’t fake humility, maybe a little insecurity, but mostly I feel extremely uncomfortable limiting who I am to just one label because it excludes all the other parts of myself. This is why I have a hard time writing a byline on Medium, Twitter, or Instagram.
I do lots of different things — sometimes nothing at all — but the most meaningful to me are those that don’t bring money into my bank account, like writing. Even though I’ve written a lot, and been published online, I can’t seem to embrace the label/identity of a ‘writer’.
Is it because I live in today’s capitalist world, where we’re expected to describe who we are based on our income-generating professions. Can I say that I’m a writer even if I’m not living off my writing?
I got sick of overthinking the byline and ended up writing: “a human who enjoys writing.”