I am, I am

I am having trouble introducing myself lately. I start with “I am a…” and when whatever of the following options come along, I cringe and twitch internally.

  • Writer: Oh isn’t that soooo pretentious? Or did I just say that I am a hopelessly delusional loser? Am I trying to impress?
  • Translator: OK, this sounds safe. But hey, I only “translate” for a couple of hours a day. I spend more time on my unpaid writings. Am I trying to impress?
  • (Small) business owner: Oh here comes another buzzword. Where is the profit, Isao? Am I trying to impress?
  • Freelancer: Am I selling myself too short? Or isn’t this a glorified way to say that I am not employed by anybody? Am I trying to impress?

The problem isn’t in any of those “labels.” It is that anything sounds pretentious and superficial as soon as it is combined with “I am.”

Any label represents a part of me, but none encompasses who I am as a whole. The phrase “I am” automatically pigeon-holes me into one role. Oh, you say I can list more than one? I dare you to say “Hi, I am a business owner, a translator, a writer, a lover.”

Now, what happens when I have only one chance to introduce myself? I put up the shiniest, most impressive cards in my hands. That’s where my twitching occurs. “I am a marketing executive” (showing off my social rank) “I work at Microsoft” (showing off my branding rank) “I am a writer” (showing off my artistic rank). You know what’s sad? I fail to impress either. As every pickup artist tells you, the fastest way to make no impression is to try to impress.

The problem is in the act of labeling itself, and therefore, the usage of the term “am.” The solution to get out of this quicksand is to stop labeling and start…simply describing.

Instead of “I am,” I can say “I do.” (In this case, it isn’t that serious.) Thus, I can say any combination of the following phrases and not feel restricted by my own words. “I translate.” “I run business.” “I write.”

A verb is by definition dynamic and temporal. A verb can articulate something as clearly as a noun, but does not fix that thing to a single point in time or make it larger/smaller than it is.

I can list as many actions I take without worrying which is above or below others. Multiple elements are listed in parallel, co-existing in peace. I sell real estates / design magazine covers / construct houses can safely stay with I write poems / draw sketches / organize social events.

A verb also pulls me back from past memories or future fantasies into current events. A verb puts me in the Now and then thrusts me into motion. By introducing myself using verbs, I can reassure who I am—at this moment—and what I should do, not only to others but also to myself. A positive spiral begins.

Being is over. Doing is the new black.