Not treating myself as a noun

It’s easy to think of identity as a fixed point. Defining yourself like you’re a basket of tangible things.

I am these desires. These things I like. My perspective. How I understand others perceive me.

A narrow definition can cut a person off from other possibilities: I am not this. That’s not something I do. It can negate the value of the present moment. 

If I see myself as a noun, everything I do either fits with that definition or doesn’t. Every action, every moment, gets judged in relationship to those set terms. X isn’t something I should be doing because I am Y.

Which is why thinking that I’m a verb feels healthier.

“In the beginning, we believe that there must be someone in order for the breathing to be possible. There must be someone in order for the walking to be possible. But in fact the walking, the breathing is enough. We don’t need a walker; we don’t need a breather. Think of the rain. We’re used to saying, “the rain is falling,” or “the wind is blowing.” But if it’s not falling, it’s not the rain. And if it’s not blowing, it’s not the wind. It is the same with breathing and walking with the Buddha. We begin to touch the reality of no-self. There is only the breathing going on; there’s only the walking going on.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Breathe, You Are Alive!

Or, put another way:

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

– David S. Goyer’s dialogue for Batman in Batman Begins

Some pressure I feel to define myself comes from outside. To swiftly package what they want to know. Meeting new people. Applying to jobs. Being a person on the internet.

There’s self-imposed pressure to maintain ideas of my attributes. Like a hidden character sheet that shows what I’m skilled at, and where I’m lacking. As if I should refer back to this rubric to remind myself how to be myself.

I want to work at seeing myself as a verb.

To stop trying to make myself make sense but end up feeling broken, or lesser; stop justifying the present moment with a forced connection to some fossilized identity.

I hope to see meaning in the things I choose to do because I give them my full attention and effort.