Friday, July 5, 2013

Personal Reflection: Nouns vs Verbs

While I may teach English and my students believe I invented the concept of proper grammar.... I assure you that this post has nothing to do with that dreaded subject.

But I have been reflecting on these two parts of speech for the past several months, ever since I took Patti Digh's online class, Verb Tribe for Teachers last summer.  And while this notion I put before you is not my original idea, it is a culmination of my musings.

Nouns and Verbs are essential in our English language, but they serve two different purposes.  Nouns name.... or to put it another way, nouns label.  If, for example, I say the noun "table" - you will immediately conjure an image of that object.  Verbs, on the other hand, show action... or in other words, verbs DO.

And while nouns serve me well in everyday life, I have come to discover that they hinder me when I try to express my purpose in life.  For example, if I label myself a teacher... I immediately think of all the positive teacher role models of my past (those who encouraged me,  inspired me, pushed me) as well as those who humiliated me and led me to believe that I was not good enough.  And with those opposite ends of the spectrum I am left to wonder.... what kind of teacher am I?  It is often paralyzing, for I fear that I am the latter.

But if I use the verb instead... I teach... judgement seems to disappear; comparisons are not an option.  I do, in fact, teach.  It simply states the action without any reference to the quality of its performance.  This puts me at ease and allows me to accept myself.

And the same could be said for other noun vs verb scenarios.  It scares me to death to say that I am a writer, for being a writer (to me) means I must be successful and then I must ask the question, how do I define success?  A published work? Probably not good enough.  A New York Times Best-seller?  If only one time, then I would reason it is probably a fluke.  Several weeks on the best seller list?  Hmmm... not sure.

But if I say instead... I write... the pressure is off.  I do indeed write.  I write journal entries, blog posts, books reviews, personal essays, travel articles, etc.  I have never been published but somehow that is inconsequential.  I write... and that is enough.

And let's not even venture down the path of photography.  I could never call myself a photographer! Up until two years ago I never knew there was a "rule of thirds"... I always thought centering the subject was the point of a good portrait.  I took a photography class two summers ago, but rather than encouraging me in my new hobby, the instructor made me feel completely incompetent.  Call myself a photographer?  NEVER.

But... I do take pictures.  And I enjoy taking pictures... of landscapes and nature and travel excursions.  I like to capture a moment in time in order to revisit those memories again and again.  I like to edit the image and try to bring out the emotion of the moment and not just the subject matter.  If I were to focus on the noun I would sell my camera on Craigslist tomorrow.  Instead, I need to focus on the verb.

Yes, nouns serve a purpose in life, but they also label, and with labels come judgments - and harsh judgments can prevent me from moving forward with life.  So instead, I will choose to define myself by my daily verbs and take those necessary baby steps towards progress, attempting to enjoy the process rather than solely focusing on that final result.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, Molly. I'd never thought about nouns vs. verbs in this way, but it's so true. I've been reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle lately, and when he talks about being present, it's exactly this that you talk about - not labeling things, which is what our minds have gotten into the habit of doing. What you write here about the distinction between nouns and verbs is true. I love the idea of defining myself with daily verbs.

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