So. My presentation went moderately well, and things went more or less as I predicted (although I also stopped at the supermarket on the way home). I dozed on the couch for a few hours until I finally dragged myself up to bed, and slipped into a 10-hour coma. Unfortunately, since I slept late (9 am--woo!), I had to promptly roll out of bed and do some translations due today before I even had time for coffee, but that was quickly dealt with, thankfully.

I also got back my two major assignments for Theory class, and got some excellent feedback. I love this professor--who also happens to be my advisor--and the way she handles correcting: not only does she give lots of helpful tips on improving the writing with her notes throughout the paper, she also includes a separate page with her typewritten comments on the paper as a whole. Her remarks are always incredibly helpful, and I learn so much from them every time. She's the reason I wanted to come here, specifically to work with her, and I know that I made the right choice. Since she was also the outside reader for my master's thesis, she said my writing has improved since then, which was nice to hear. (I have, um, had a lot of practice writing essays in the meantime. Nice to know there have been practical benefits! Heh.)

I was going to spend today working on our research project, which is due Sunday (and will officially mark the really real end of the semester), but since the day is mostly over and I've accomplished very little, I may just write it off as a moment of decompression and do it all tomorrow.

Which actually brings me to something I've been thinking about a lot, lately: the labels that follow us around through life. I think I've written about this before, actually, but I'm too lazy to go through the archives and check.

Mulling this over, I've decided there are two kinds of labels: the kind that follow you around because they were given to you as a child and you can never really escape them (at least in your head), and the kind that follow you around because, well, they're true.

The first kind of label can lead to insecurities (or, conversely, self-confidence) because they affect how you see the world, how you interpret things people say to you, and even how you behave. For instance, ever since I was a kid I was known to be a dreamer, completely impractical, with no common sense. As I grew older, the corollary to this became that I was not really capable of taking care of myself on an everyday basis.

There is plenty of evidence to support this label, so I can't claim that it's entirely unfounded. I do tend to get engrossed in my thoughts and not pay much attention to what's going on around me. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life due to carelessness and inability to care overmuch about certain practical details. How much of that was because I have the weakness as labeled, though, and how much of that was me knowing that nobody really expected me to do that stuff, so why bother? Not that I can really justify that sort of attitude, either, but when you're young and kind of dumb, it happens. It's the stuff of which self-fulfilling prophecies are made. You live up or down to expectations, to a certain degree, right? If people expect you to be a ditz and unable to handle mundanities such as paying the bills, well, hey.

Of course, you can also take the opposite approach and set out to prove them wrong. That's harder to do when a) everyone around you agrees on the label in question, and b) you occasionally do screw up, which kind of negates anything you might have accomplished in the meantime and serves mainly to reinforce the label. After a while, you tend to just kind of accept that the label is right. It wins.

I want to point out that labels aren't always negative, either. When I was a kid people were always telling me I was smart. I'm not entirely sure that's true, or even what it means, but it has definitely influenced the way I've approached pretty much everything in life, the challenges I've willingly taken on, how I interpret certain things people say, etc. Someone like, say, my nephew, who has been consistently labeled as "dumb" (again, whether or not that is true, and regardless of what it may actually mean) sees the world in a completely different way, and will probably not even be aware of certain opportunities that are out there, simply because he'd never see himself as capable of handling them.

The second kind of label is, I think, more interesting. Lots of things that may have been true when we were kids may not continue to be true forever. If you stay in the same environment throughout your life, then I guess there's no way to tell the difference between the two kinds. But if you move around, and people continually see you the same way, does it mean that the label is true? Or does it simply mean that you've bought into it to the point where you behave as though it were, in any environment? And if that's the case, then doesn't that bring us around to saying that it is, indeed, accurate? (Uh-oh... I'm slipping into fantasy vs. reality territory again. Time to pull back.)

Anyway. My point is, I've recently found myself being characterized in ways that are familiar, but by people who've only known me a short time. Dario found both of these examples hilarious when I told him about them; you'll probably be less amused, but I still think they're kind of striking. In a good way. Mostly.

Case 1: My hairdresser. Bill, which is such an un-hairdressy name, so prosaic and guy-like. (I dearly miss Rocco and Biagio, and will definitely be paying them a visit next month.) Bill is originally from South Philly, and although he's traveled extensively and is quite smart, he definitely plays up the überguy persona. He is a playah, with an ex to suit any storytelling need. He cracks me up, and he does a fabulous job with color, so I plan to keep going to him.

Last week, he told me that I am "walking chaos."

Now, Bill has seen me a total of three times, spaced a couple of months apart. We can hardly be said to have an intense or close relationship. So I was a little taken aback when he came up with the same label for me that my husband has been using for years. Worded exactly the same, even--well, in a different language, but still. Identical. I may have goggled a bit. And done a little gaping. There was definitely surprise involved.

Noting my astonishment, Bill hastened to reassure me. He had an ex (of course!) who was the same, and he "loved her to death." He just couldn't keep up with her in the end, that's all. Given that I'm hardly the social butterfly or party girl type, I have a hard time imagining that I'd be hard to keep up with. Apparently so, though, on some level. Dario was obviously feeling validated when I told him this story, his judgment proved exact. Or maybe it's just a guy thing.

Case 2: Not a label, exactly, but it seems I've developed something of a reputation among my classmates. At our "end of classes if not exactly the semester" party Tuesday night, they were grilling me about how much I sleep. When our professor announced that someone had actually written 18-20 single-spaced pages instead of the more typical 18-20 double-spaced pages for our major paper, several people turned their eyes toward me (it wasn't! really). And without going into boring detail, I received all kinds of effusive (and undeserved) praise for some work I did on the previous stage of our project, which was mainly the result of being willing to stay up working until the wee hours to finish something, even though I could have done it more simply and gone to bed earlier.

If you've known me for any amount of time, in real life or online, you know that I've had lots of years of practice doing things this way. Especially back in my PR days, I would do whatever it took to get things done, to the best of my ability, even if it meant meeting crazy deadlines. Among my translating clients, for years I've been the go-to girl for impossible deadlines.

Dario says that there is no stopping me when I care about something, that I become a force of nature (and boy, has he ever fought hard against that at times). He says that once my mind is set on something, once I decide it's necessary even if I hate it (see: translating), I'll go forth like a bulldozer and flatten anything standing in my way. (This is actually why he started occasionally putting the "super" in front of the "Plin," as a term of encouragement and praise on top of the endearment.) I worry instead that maybe it's just another manifestation of my tendency to be too eager to please, wanting too much to be the one who saves the day and helps everything work out well. Wanting people to like and respect me. Willing to take on any task or deadline, no matter how unreasonable, and wanting to shine, do it perfectly, be a star.

So we're back to the question: is it me, or is it Memorex?

Both of these are characterizations that have followed me around my whole life, really, since I was a kid. Does this mean I'm typecasting myself as I move from place to place? Playing the same role over and over again? Or am I just wired this way, and there's no fighting it?

I don't know. I do know that today has been just what I needed, with no writing or reading or deadline panicking. I guess I'll go back to being the go-to girl tomorrow, simultaneously strewing chaos in my wake.