On Being a Verb Instead of a Noun


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I love Stephen Fry, and one particular quote of his has stuck with me for a long time:

We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.

It can be really hard, especially when you’re running a business, to think of yourself as anything outside of your career. You’re literally making your life into running this business, achieving this goal, making a name for yourself… and it can overtake your entire personality. It can push your hobbies aside, destroy your social life, challenge your marriage, and test your every boundary. I imagine this is true for many different jobs and careers — ones that require year upon year of schooling, or tons of technical training, or just sap your energy and your passion with long hours and underappreciation. Even jobs that we’re happy with — jobs that are challenging and satisfying, ones that provide us with variety and help build new friendships and give us a sense of purpose — can become our world.

It really can feel imprisoning, especially the more time and effort you put into building it. It can make you feel like you’re stuck. Money can be the driving force for everything and it can be daunting to think of giving up a stable schedule, a stable paycheck, a guaranteed source of grocery money or rent or childcare payment, for the unknown. For starting over. Even for taking on new jobs, new hobbies, new passions. You can feel guilty for even considering it. You can sometimes prioritize comfort and familiarity over the challenge of something new.

I think that’s the biggest risk we run in thinking of ourselves as “nouns” instead of “verbs”. I try to remind myself every day — sometimes successfully, sometimes not — that I am so much more than just a photographer. I am so much more than just my job. The only nouns in my life are the things I will always be, no matter what I do. I will always be a wife. I will always be the mother to a dog and kitties. I will always be a sister (and a sister-in-law), a daughter (and a daughter-in-law). But aside from photographing, I also bake. I read. I watch and love movies. I research the paranomal. I create art. I write. I support human rights and equality. I debate. I excel at social media. I have a wide array of interests and passions and it’s ALL of these things as a whole that make me who I am — not just my professional title. My job, my career, can be altered or turned on its head at any time, and that is liberating. I am not stuck, I am not stalled out, I am choosing to be here, right now… but that can always change. 🙂

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