signature n., 1 the name of a person, or something representing his name, written, stamped or inscribed as a sign of agreement or acknowledgement
My Funk and Wagnalls offers that as its first definition for the word signature. Graphologist Ruth Gardner defines it as “the writer’s calling card.” About the only thing more personal and distinct than our signature are our fingerprints.
Most of us probably remember as teens, practicing our signature. I smile as I look back at some of my first attempts at establishing my style. Over-sized, immature, curvaceous.
Initially the precision and clarity of each letter may have made our grade 3 teacher proud. The white knuckle pressure on our first ballpoint pen and the accompanying grimace revealed the concerted effort required. That soon gave way to a more stylized scrawl or a more relaxed version or an overly ornate approach. Eventually it became decidedly our own.
If we’re female it may have included cutesy little heart-shaped symbols in place of dots. Or a happy face sign-off.
As our interest in boys in general and Mr. Right in particular grew, we began practicing a new signature incorporating our beloved’s surname.
We laid claim by signing textbooks, notebooks, letters, autographs, yearbooks, and more.
I’d like to propose a new, grown-up definition: signature,n. 1 the definitive way one distinguishes oneself.
During my stint as census representative for the 2001 federal census I was exposed to many people I didn’t know. I was in hundreds of farmyards. The job entailed drop-off, editing and follow-up of missing or incomplete questionnaires. It dawned on me that everything we do, everything we are, everything we have is our signature.
When we disrespect anyone in front of our children, that is our signature.
When we scrawl our answers in anger and enter an anti-government rant in the comments section, that is our signature.
When we screen our calls and hide behind locked doors, that is our signature.
When we stall and delay and procrastinate, that is our signature.
When we live in chaos and filth, that is our signature.
Likewise, when we do what is required in a civilized society, with grace, that is our signature.
When we choose real life events, like a federal census, as teaching tools for our children, that is our signature.
When we take pride in all we do — from paperwork to yard work, that is our signature.
When we begin to understand the big picture and our place in it, that is our signature.
When we become aware that all we do, have and say is our signature, we begin to distinguish ourselves as unique. We begin to consciously choose those actions consistent with who we are. We walk our talk. We don’t practice situational ethics. We are who we are, whether anyone’s watching or not. We understand our children are looking and learning. We learn to sign our lives with pride.
At least that’s the way it looks from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission