We all rely on definitions, especially us final-year students. Sometimes you come across a word that you’ve never encountered in your life. It’s like the geek version of seeing an exotic species of wild animal for the first time.
Immediately, you whip out Google, Wikipedia or whatever it is you use to search for the meaning of the word: voila! You now know what the word means, how to use it, and improved your vocabulary all in one go!
Personally though, I’m not fond of definitions.
Sure, they let you quickly understand things that are long, strange or complex. A simple explanation coupled with a few examples can do wonders to lift the veil of conundrum that had you blinded just moments earlier.
Then again, definitions are limiting. They are restrictive and rigid. There’s no flexibility or versatility anymore. If the definition says a word or phrase means A and B, then it only means A and B. No compromise!
If you think about it, definitions aren’t just used on words and phrases, either. In fact, every time you meet someone new or unfamiliar, one of the first things you do is absorb and analyse their first impression. It is human instinct to construct definitions of other people!
Of course, definitions provide a quick point of reference for us to recall people. When I mention terms like snob, genius, metrosexual, or joker, doesn’t it bring images of people you know to mind?
What you’ve really done there is basically putting the people you know into simple categories based on their personality and behavior. You’re not the only one who does this, though; others do it all the time on you, too!
Sometimes, different people place us in the same definition or category. Eventually, it happens often enough that you yourself become convinced that this definition is the perfect one that suits you. To paraphrase Lenin, when something is told often enough, it becomes the truth.
Sadly, not many of us can claim to be able to see ourselves differently from the “truth” that others have defined for us. Being defined according to how someone else sees you prevents you from discovering that your individual potential is limitless.
I’m not saying that definitions are useless and that we should abandon them first chance we get. My point is that you shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into a definition, as defined by others, of who you ought to be. Ultimately, the choice is left to you about who you want to be. Other people don’t write the definition of you; you write your own definition of yourself.
On a positive note, I already know what the dictionary would say about me:
Jared Ee Han Seong:
How would you want the dictionary to define or describe you? 😉