I’ve been thinking a lot about labels lately and today, I got news that crystallized my thoughts. My favorite band, Enter the Haggis, is changing their name to Jubilee Riots. Leaving aside whether or not I *like* the new name (I’m digesting it), I had a variety of reactions starting with shock and winding up with wholehearted approval.
Bottom line, we grow up. And as we grow up, we try on a lot of identities. Some we keep, some we discard, depending on how they work for us. Some of these identities are imposed by other people and are nothing we’d ever choose for ourselves. Some we hang on to for way too long, because it’s easy or because we’re afraid to change. But eventually, we shed what doesn’t work, keeping those bits and pieces of self-knowledge that we gained along the way.
The name Enter the Haggis hasn’t worked for the guys for a long time. It’s a bit silly, hard to market, and they outgrew it long ago. I’ve known that and, apparently, they’ve also known that. But it takes a great deal of courage to shed an identity you’ve carried for nearly 20 years (20 years? Ack.) and in some of the guys’ cases the majority of their lives. From a simple marketing perspective, abandoning your brand after building it for that long has got to be terrifying. I’m sure they’re going to get some blowback from people who want them to be what they always were, not understanding that change is as inevitable as it is required for growth.
When I got my diagnosis of Type 2 Bipolar in 2009, I had some stark choices to make about identity. Was I still going to be me? What did this label mean? Was I going to reject it? Was I going to embrace it and tell people? Would they treat me differently if I did? Did I feel different than I did when my label was simply “weird and moody?” It was all unknown. I willfully chose to accept the new label, tell everyone, and own that shit. The label was imposed externally, but the decision to seek a diagnosis was mine. I decided to change my brand, so to speak.
Adopting the new label allowed me to grow into myself. It gave me words for things I’d always known inside, but which were not necessarily visible to others. It gave me access to resources that had been closed to me before. It gave me a way to explain myself. “Hey. You know those things I’ve always done? Well, guess what? There’s a name for that and it’s way better and more informative than the one I had before.”
It’s the same with ETH. They’ve abandoned a label they acquired more or less by default and willfully chosen who they want to be going forward. That’s a phenomenally gutsy, self-aware move and I applaud them for it.
Because I know how hard it is.
p.s. Go listen to their music. You won’t regret it, I promise.