Illustration: Hunky-Dunky Studio

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Each of us walks the earth wearing invisible labels on our chests. If we’re lucky, the ones bestowed upon us feel comfortably correct, and we never chafe against their limitations. If we’re not, we may spend years of agony (and countless hard-earned dollars) trying to escape the way we’re classified— to outrun what the world thinks it knows. Of course, not all those labels are applied to us by outside forces; we’re hardwired to categorize ourselves, too. It’s an oddly satisfying process: Even if you’re the one to blame for a particular hair shirt, at least it’s something you stitched yourself.

But what if we could shed our ill-fitting identities and embrace the idea of uncertainty? Because as much as you think you’ve got yourself—or anyone around you—pegged, what you know yourself to be is only a fraction of the full you.

Being born poor, or loud, or with a nose that could be optimistically described as “having character” doesn’t determine your existence, just as a thick layer of cumulonimbus clouds today doesn’t necessarily prohibit you from sunbathing tomorrow. As Walt Whitman well knew, we contain multitudes, and it’s your prerogative—maybe even your duty—to take a look behind the classifications you’ve given yourself and others, and examine them with an unblinking eye. In this, O’s Year of Big Questions, we want to ask: What defines you?