The case for spending our lives in pursuit of verbs instead of nouns and adjectives.
Listen to people talk regarding what they do and who they are.
“I run every morning, but I’m not a runner.”
“I cook dinner, but I’m not a chef.”
“I play the piano at church, but I’m not a musician.”
We habitually disqualify ourselves from owning the noun. And I wonder. What does one need to enter a place of nounhood–to be a runner, a chef, or musician?
Does the coveted adjective make us an official noun?
A competitive runner
A gourmet chef
A concert pianist?
Possibly. But assigning fixed adjectives to ourselves is rather bold, and potentially dangerous. It implies we have either already arrived, or that we will never change. I wish I could say “I am courageous. Forever and always!” But the more accurate statement is, “I practice vulnerability to grow in courage.” Or if a friend says, “I am disorganized,” the temporary state of disorganization is not who they ARE. They probably just misplaced their keys in a fleeting moment of flightiness.
Sometimes people read my blog and ask if I am a writer. It’s an interesting inquiry. Because I do write, with double adverb side dish of frequently and happily. Although honestly, I’m not that concerned about acquiring a distinguished noun; I believe we underestimate the verb.
Noun Goals, Adjective Accolades, and Verb Dreams
We can certainly become a noun, even with a nice adjective attached, but that happens through a commitment to the verb. Consider the student who studies their way through a rigorous medical school then becomes a licensed MD. Hopefully, it is not solely for the privilege of wearing an MD noun badge of honor, or the chance to sign emails with collections of unpronounceable nouns at the end. A person enrolls in medical school to practice medicine, heal patients or help sick people.
If not driven by a genuine desire to take part in the verb, we risk chasing noun goals and adjectives accolades in vain. For example, if someone strives to be “a wealthy motivational speaker,” it’s unlikely they will reach fulfillment through paychecks and flattering podium introductions alone. But they may very well come alive by following their verb dream of sharing wisdom, or encouraging others. And then the adjective of “wealthy” simply becomes the gateway to more verbs, such as supporting the family, traveling internationally or drinking margaritas on a beach vacation.
Finding Our Verb
We like to ask kids what noun they want to be when they grow up. But many college graduates develop identity crises when they do not identify with one particular noun occupation. What about the question, what verb do you want to do when you grow up?
Nouns are the static destination. People, places, and things. Attach a noun to an “I AM,” introduction and now it dictates a state of permanent identity. Sometimes this works–I AM Chrissa Trudelle, the unchanging proper noun–until the patiently awaited marital surname shift. But most of the time, for several reasons, the verb serves us better.
Verbs are the dynamic journey. Verbs allow for change and–thanks to the gerund (ing part)–it’s okay to be in progress. In this moment at Temple Roasters, I am writ-ing an unfinished document, wonder-ing who made this strange playlist and try-ing to study for an exam in my other browser tab.
The best of life happens in the verb. When runners run. Pianists play the pianos. Christians believe and follow Christ. Friends conversate. Marriages don’t thrive because two people slipped and fell in a pool of “love the noun.” Love is a verb.
So we might say we want to be a particular noun in life: Perhaps a doctor, a mother, or a chef. Those nouns are all worthy of ambition. But is it possible, that what we really want, is to participate in our favorite verbs?