Sunday, March 23, 2014

30x30: A Rose by Any Other Name Would...Not be a Rose


I hated my name, and since the age of four, have made several unsuccessful attempts at changing it.

Attempt 1:

Preschool. I was inspired by my first ever viewing of The Wizard of Oz. The next day, I went to school and instructed my classmates and teachers to call me by my new name: Glinda. They wouldn't. When beckoned, I tried ignoring them until they called me by my new, correct name, but they continued calling me McKenzie because they had forgotten that I had changed it in the first place. Glinda was short-lived.

Attempt 2:

Middle school. Favorite color: blue. I painted my entire room blue, and when my mother put down new carpet, I asked for it to be blue. I wore blue nail polish. I also decided that my name should now be Indigo. (Yes, I was that kid). 

I took a more nuanced approach this time. I only told people my name was Indigo if I was meeting them for the first time. This way, I figured, in a few years, everyone I knew would eventually know me as Indigo without having to ask anyone to awkwardly switch from McKenzie. But then I kept forgetting that my new name was Indigo. It was a confusing time for everyone.

All I wanted was a new name, a name that was pretty and not clunky like McKenzie. No one could spell it right, my own aunt always called me McKinley, and spell check always suggested that my name was actually "Macaroni" or "Magazine."

But over the years, amid the procession of introductions, sign-ins, sign-ups, and signatures, I began to think my name was kind of cool. There weren't too many others who shared my name, and I even began to hear the music in it - the hum of the first M, the percussive K, a sensual N, the electric buzz of the Z. I began to think that maybe these sounds, which I'd heard over and over again since infancy, had played a part in shaping me. I began to think that if my name were Ann or Barbara or Glinda or Indigo, I'd feel like a different person. I know that I would come to hear the music and beauty in those names as well, but I would be a different version of myself.

The beginning of feeling like my name was alright was the beginning of feeling like I was alright.

It's important for a person, especially a girl person, to be able to say his or her name from a pair of full lungs and with no apology. It is important to be able to announce clearly, and unequivocally, who you are and that you are. It is how many things begin.

Original illustration by Isabella Rotman

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