I am an adverb.
This realization occurred to me (or at least I forced this realization to descend upon me) as I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” I intentionally picked this non-fiction bestseller as my last read for 2014 slash first read for 2015 since I was hoping that I would somehow find a tad more of myself by reading another person’s narrative of her own self-search throughout Italy, India, and Indonesia. It’s like tagging along minus the expenses and the actual thrill of being there in the moment. Fair enough.
On page one hundred thirty something of the book, there was this conversation between Liz (the author’s nickname) and her Italian friend Giulio about how every city and every person has a single word that defines it. And that it’s only when the word of the city and the word of the person match can you say that someone belongs to that specific somewhere. For example, Giulio said that the word of Rome is SEX, except in Vatican where the word is POWER (I was also surprised the word was neither FAITH nor PRAYER). Moreover as Liz proclaimed, the word of New York City would be, no doubt, the verb ACHIEVE.
If your personal word is not compatible with the word of the city where you are, then it would never feel like home to you. No matter how long you stay or how hard you try to fit in, no amount of change will bridge the gap between two incompatible words or worlds for that matter. So how do you know where you belong?
No, you don’t look for places first. Before anything else, ask yourself this: What’s your word? What’s that single word that defines you?
I wished to be a verb for three reasons:
1) I can’t be a noun because the best nouns are abstract in nature and they are far from being the mess I could become on my bad days (e.g. HOPE, COURAGE, WISDOM) Not that I feel small but it’s just that these kinds of words are too big for me. And never in this lifetime will I choose words like INTERNET, CHAIR, or CHOCOLATES to define me.
2) I can’t be an adjective because they sound so permanent (e.g. HAPPY, SAD, CRAZY, BRAVE, CONFUSED) Sometimes I’m not any of these and other times I’m all these, all at once.
3) I don’t want to be a preposition or conjunction for obvious reasons.
So I tried to come up with a mental list of all the verbs (all positive of course) I wanted to consider as my very definition. After a couple of minutes, I had nothing in mind. I felt betrayed by my very own word bank which I believe I have invested so much on. For someone who writes, it’s one heck of a big deal. It’s like having an affair for more than half of your life and you’re so ready to commit and then the other suddenly says “I can’t do it anymore.”
I wanted to check the dictionary or thesaurus or Google. I thought that maybe if I look hard enough, I’ll eventually find my personal word. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I don’t have a word after all. Maybe I don’t need a word after all. Maybe I can just get over this whole word thing and move on. Maybe that would be better. Maybe this too shall pass. Maybe I was meant to do far greater things than simply look for my personal word.
I shook my head in utter disbelief and then found myself smiling like an idiot— the kind of smile that only presents itself when you realize that the very thing you’ve been going nuts trying to find (like a phone or a key) has always been just there in your hands or your pocket.
I found my word.
I’m a MAYBE.
That makes me an adverb that means “possibly but not certainly.” It feels so alive because it’s not final. It seeks and it answers, like doubt and faith intertwined. Maybe. That word alone already feels like home. But where does a MAYBE belong?
If my word was LUST or SEXY, I could easily claim I belong to Rome. If my word was WORK or INSOMNIA, I’ll be good in New York. But I’m not any of those words. I am a MAYBE. And I think MAYBE’s don’t live in places; I think MAYBE’s live in people. If that’s the case then that means I belong nowhere and yet everywhere. I like that idea.
Ten, twenty, thirty years from now I might see myself transformed into an adjective: ENOUGH. But today, right now at this very moment, I’m just going to be the adverb MAYBE. I couldn’t be any happier that I’m not a certainty. There’s this sense of pride in realizing that every inch of me consists of possibilities.
How about you? What’s your word?