On Grammar and Identity

Dear Janie,

Lately, I’ve been watching you struggle with an identity issue. For about 6 years now, you have thought of yourself as a Volleyball Player. You have been a middle school volleyball player, a club volleyball player, a JV volleyball player, and this year, a varsity volleyball player. You love the sport. You love being part of a team.

This year, as you take on the challenges of the junior year International Baccalaureate curriculum in our local high school, I watch you wondering  what your world would look like if you take a season off from club volleyball to focus on your studies and spend time with your friends, take some deep breaths, perhaps to go to bed before midnight on a school night every once in awhile.

I was about your age when I went through a similar identity crisis. In ninth and tenth grades, I thought of myself as “an athlete.” Depending on the season, I was a (very average) gymnast, a diver, a tennis player, a field hockey player.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t.

You know the story. One winter day in gymnastics practice, I hit the mat wrong and my life changed in an instant. I suddenly could no longer walk, run, or sit up by myself.

I was no longer an athlete.

I spent many 3 a.m.’s staring at the hospital ceiling wondering who was I now? If not an athlete, who? How would my friends see me? What would define me and how would I define myself?

I lay in my hospital bed, eyes staring at that 3 a.m. ceiling, night after night.

Until it came to me, grammar nerd that I was and am.

I had been living my life as a list of nouns.

It was time to embrace the adjectives.

I could no longer be a gymnast, a diver, a tennis player, a field hockey player. Those nouns no longer defined me.

But there were adjectives I could choose, and I liked them even better.

Strong. Resilient. Creative. Smart. Caring. Loved.

Same with the action verbs.

I tried. I persevered. I connected. I served. I exceeded expectations.

I want you to know that noun identities can be fleeting. Situations change. Relationships change. Roles change. Goals and priorities change.

But no matter what else is happening or what you are facing, you can choose to be strong, resilient, creative, and smart. You will be caring and loved. You can always try, persevere, connect, serve, and amaze us all as we watch you travel along your path.

Don’t limit yourself to nouns. Live your life in adjectives and action verbs.

Love, Mom

(PS I just added “wise” to my list)