Most people don’t think about their names. It’s just what they’ve always been called from the day they were born. As humans, we respond autonomically when our names are called and many people rarely think any deeper about who we are and what our names say of who we are.
*shrug* “It’s just what my parents named me”.
Some parents labor and argue, start social pools, and spend entire pregnancies debating on what to call their children before they’re born. For many, they don’t even have to think about it because the unsuspecting beings are meant to carry on a family line; a namesake. There are even cultural practices that do not believe in naming their children until they have begun to develop a personality or until something happens that is befitting. And some people are born into names that have lovely stories or sentimental meanings and they are able to fully embrace that story as a part of the essence of who they are.
But it’s not just a name. It’s an identity. It is with us through all of the experiences in our lives, good and bad. It is, fortunately and unfortunately, frequently how people know us, how we are often judged and how we often judge ourselves. Sometimes it’s assigned to the wrong gender. Sometimes it puts us in danger and sometimes, it’s just wrong. It’s simply not who we are.
As I write this I am thinking about the tv series, Game of Thrones. Arya Stark (a young, tomboy badass, daughter of the King of the North) spends a few seasons with the Many Faced God trying to become nameless, losing her identity, and taking up his skill at being an assassin. She is referred to and refers to herself as “a girl”. “A girl is no one”, she says over and over again. Then, *SPOILER ALERT* at the end of season 6 she has a sort of realization, an awakening from the trauma she has suffered, a very real sense of purpose and she understands that she isn’t nameless, that she is worthy of her identity. After brutally killing his protege she then rebelliously and boldly declares to the Many Faced God, “A girl is Arya Stark”.
Several years ago in the midst of a divorce, I was presented with an opportunity to legally change my name, my whole name. For some, it seemed like a spur of the moment, surprising and an even absurd decision. But for me, it’d been a lifetime in the making. It was an opportunity that I’d never thought would present itself in that way and I was not about to pass it up because of what other people might have thought. Immediately, just about everyone I know easily and happily fell into calling me Darby-Olene, Darby, Darbs and some of my dearest friends call me “D.O.” Most people thought it was far more suitable and today they can’t even remember how I was known previously.
When someone expresses a way they prefer and expect to be addressed, you should know that to do otherwise is disrespectful. It conveys not only disrespect but also thoughtlessness and inconsideration. This isn’t even just for the individuals who go through the process of having their names changed, or simply adopt a nickname completely different from their legal one. It’s the same for someone who simply prefers to be called Michael instead of Mike, or Angela instead of Angie.
That autonomic response I mentioned earlier…it ends. We become aware and it ends for those of us who have no trouble going against cultural expectations or norms in order to be true to who we are. It ends for those who have the courage to correct the incorrect (“hey mike…actually it’s Michael”.) or to change the unwanted identity we were involuntarily born into.
It ends because we name ourselves. We tell you who we are…
“A girl is Darby-Olene”.