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Brenda Rudolph found a rusty bracket in her daughter's sweatshirt, making her think about the different worlds she belongs to. Brenda Rudolph / Special to Agweek

The problem with keeping ourselves in boxes

This last year I began struggling with my identity. The idea that my identity needed to fit in just one box hindered my creativity.

As people, it is our natural way to be always wanting or striving to be able to place each other in boxes. We want to be part of boxes. We want to know how we relate to each other with our own commonalities. We think being put in a box will somehow make us feel like we belong somewhere thus supporting our identity.

Not fitting into a box, I began to feel lost. I began to question my "why." I have never felt like I fit into just one box. I couldn't understand my need to fit into just one box. I have always felt like I am stuck between two worlds. A world of being a farmer and a world of being a consumer.

I have felt stuck between living rural and seeing value in urban areas. I have felt stuck between conventional vs. organic. I felt lost asking myself, "what is the definition of a farmer?" What makes a farmer? Who can be a farmer? Who gives authority to the social license to farm?

One of the boxes I don't feel like I belong in a good chunk of the time is agriculture.

At times I didn't belong in the agriculture box because my husband was the farmer and I was just the farmer's wife. I didn't fit in the agriculture box because I didn't grow up on a farm. I didn't fit in agriculture because I didn't dress like a man. I had too much of an opinion to fit in. I didn't fit in agriculture because — fill in the blank, the list is endless.

There have been times I am left questioning myself. Why do I want to be in this box when I am always having to prove I belong?

The moment I realized I needed to stop putting myself in a box was in the hallway of Vivian's dance class. As my 4-year-old put her ballet shoes on for dance class, I picked up her pink hooded sweatshirt. I wondered what was so heavy in it. So I searched her pockets to find a rusty bracket. I wondered, "what box would a ballet-loving girl who carries around farm supplies in her pockets fit in?"

When we put ourselves and others in boxes, we start drawing lines between each other. We stop listening to each other. We exclude each other. We don't support each other.

We miss out on some amazing people and ideas because we box people out. We don't allow ourselves to grow.

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