one word.

i think a lot about branding. not in the skeevy marketing sense where i wonder if you’d buy more chicken nuggets if just the right charming cartoon chicken came along to sing the praises of eating her, piece by tiny form-pressed piece. for me, branding is just walking around with clothes on, the bits of yourself you project and trail around behind you. it’s what people think of when they think of you. it’s a conversation you contribute to but don’t control. but i believe it’s a conversation you should BE in.

hence this post. at BlissdomCanada, the closing keynote asked us all, what one word describes you? what’s your presence in the world?

i’m up to my ears in the theory and practice of personal branding and digital identities every day, these days. i’m doing a Ph.D in this stuff. and yet. and yet.

i still couldn’t do it. i couldn’t tell you in a single word what it is i am and am trying to do out here.

i hate definitions. i rail against pinning myself like a science fair butterfly when i am, of course, a unique snowflake, ever-evolving (TM). i thought about it, saw tweets and posts with the #oneword tag and wondered if i had a word and then slapped myself and stuck my head back down into the hell that is my quantitative statistics paper.

unruly thing kept poking up. because i’m writing – or trying to write, starting to write – about the idea of digital identities, and the ways in which being online changes how we interact with the world and see ourselves. this is the story i want to tell. my own. yours.

it occurred to me that knowing my own damn word might be important. might even be aspirational, in a sense. because hell, i’m doing something every time i post, or tweet, or hold a SeaMonkey funeral, or cut off that lady at the supermarket. maybe if i found a word i could live with, it could serve as a little talisman; a stone to keep in my metaphorical pocket. a sightline to where i’m trying to go, as a mother, a grownup, a thinker, a human being.

tonight i figured it out.

my one word is witness.

i’m not going to show up at your door to tell you about Jesus. and i hope not to be spirited away in a possibly fictional protection program for people who see what they shouldn’t.

but what i’m here for is the not looking away. giving voice. nodding to the margins and the complexities and the silliness and the sorrow and the big ideas and the hope that someday, somewhere, it will all matter. trying to figure it all out, especially the stuff our culture likes to sweep under the carpet. dead babies and unwieldy educational theory both, plus the tantrums that occur in between.

this is my life, and my digital identity. this is my branded self.

i’d like to do a better job of it all, really. this is my reminder to myself to keep trying.

do you have a talisman in your pocket? a one word, or two, or seven, that you hold onto to try to make sense of what you’re doing online, or off?