What’s In a Name Anyway?
Have you ever felt the need to reinvent yourself? Self-define? Start over? Some points in your life just warrant a change, and it’s amazing how many people will resist and question something so personal – a thing that really doesn’t affect them other than to acknowledge that it exists. The friends that can take it in stride are the treasures that I hold dear.
I’ve never really had a great attachment to my given name. That fact doesn’t seem at times to go down well with the ones that chose it for me. I suppose I could lie and pretend I feel something about it that I don’t, but it’s just not in my nature. It’s nothing personal, as it relates to their involvement… it’s just the way I feel about the name. To quote a friend I recently got back in touch with, “Having a unique name SUCKS,” and believe me it does for many reasons. No one ever spells or pronounces it right, or remembers what it is, and when you really don’t want to be tracked down there is nowhere in this modern electronic age that you can get away. You can’t personalize things easily either when you want to. I was always the kid with either no license plate on my bike, or a similar one that was the wrong name… invariably either the wrong name people would call me by, or my middle name. I found out as an adult that the believed meaning of my given name was wrong anyway. I like the real one better but… that’s neither here nor there. If you’re going to look at meanings, you’re going to look for something of your own choosing anyway. I am Native American (albeit mixed) and in that culture, name changes are normal and expected. They move with the very being of whom you continue to become throughout your life, and have great significance based on personal achievements and experiences.
I’ve had so many nicknames by this time that everyone would be confused if they all got together. I’ve lived in different places and had such variant social circles that it really doesn’t matter. If you know me as one person, then you know all the other friends that do too, and no one wonders who you mean. That’s okay. I’ve moved on from some things in my life to others, and I am very much “where I am” and happy with that, not lagging somewhere in a broken past that I can’t go back to anyway. Each has special meaning and purpose, and a place in my heart, and I can respond to them without wondering who it is calling to me. Maybe that’s just my way of organizing the segments of my life.
I grew up in a household with a mother that went by her middle name her entire life, as though it were her first. You would think with that, there would be some grasp of the need to self-define. I’m never under the impression that anyone gets it though. We all choose self-definition in one way or another, whether by name, or personality, or appearance. The world only sees about us that which we choose to reveal, at all points.
My world right now is my art, my writing, and awareness/advocacy. It’s the first time that I’ve really felt I had a sure purpose with which I could take care of myself and help others at the same time if I so choose. Those things take an investment of time and energy. If you don’t invest, there is no return. It’s been in my best interest to make a clean break and start fresh to make that happen. With it comes a name. If I am to “make a name for myself” then it should be one that I can feel a connection to, even if it was because I just needed to simplify everything. Someone very special in my life has taught me much about simplicity, by the way that they keep their own form of order in the world. It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of “too much stuff”, and lose what is important amidst the stacks. I have grown to appreciate even more than I have over my previous lifetime some of the smallest things. For a time I let myself be led down a path that was foreign to my basic nature in that regard. This year, I needed to take the control back. So here I am.
One dear friend that I have not spoken to in almost 25 yrs gave me the precious gift of not even hesitating to say to me, “Hello Tala. How have you been?” It is not a name he ever knew me by, and yet the respect for the choice was acknowledged and without strangeness. It was a heart-warming moment that I will not forget. I’m not asking my blood relatives to call me by anything other than they’ve ever known. To my friends and other “families” that are able to embrace and understand, I do appreciate your willingness to adjust. It’s a label… like a brand, or a title. It’s DBA. It’s AKA. I suppose it’s like any pseudonym. Either way… It’s mine.