“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet;” (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 45-46). Let me just preface this by saying, no, this is not an article about my main man Willy Shakes, and yes, I did hate reading Shakespeare until I started acting it. BUT! This quote discusses a psychological idea that I’m sure all (or most, at least) of us have thought about at one time or another in our lives.
I’m sure you’ve probably asked your parents why they chose to name you what they did. Your siblings have undoubtedly done the same. The most common answers heard are usually, “You’re named after *insert relative’s name here*,” “You’re named after *insert saint or famous person’s name here*,” or “We just liked the name.” Now, maybe you like your name, and maybe you don’t. Maybe your name is really common, or maybe you’ve never met a single person with the same name as you. We all have one thing in common; we don’t get to choose our names. Heck! Most of us don’t even have a say in what our nicknames are!
Personally, I’ve been thinking about this whole name thing a lot lately. For two reasons. One: I do a lot of writing. I’m constantly choosing names for my characters, and that makes me conscious about naming them. They have to have the ‘right’ name. It has to sound right and feel right for the character. It has to work well with other characters’ names. And even more importantly, if it’s a period piece, it has to fit the time. Second (and this is the one that’s really got me wondering): College. I know you’re all thinking, “Really? She’s preparing for college, and she’s worried about names?” But really, it’s not all that crazy.
You see, as you already know and I already explained, you don’t get to choose your name. At birth, your parents gave you a name. Soon after that, they probably already developed a nickname for you. It is more likely than not that this nickname has stuck with you all the way through high school no matter how hard you try to ditch it. Example: Your name is Brianna. That is your birth name and the one that your parents probably still use when they’re angry with you (in conjunction with your middle name ;)). Then, you have your nickname, say, Bri. This nickname came about anywhere between the infant stage and toddler years (possibly along with other non-birth name-related nicknames). In elementary school you probably went by Bri. You didn’t want to be called Brianna because you associate that with being formal or in-trouble. High school comes along, and you’re probably still Bri. If you’re like me, you’re teachers called on you on the first day and said “Brianna *last name*. What would you like to be called/is there a name you prefer?” And if you’re like me, you either said, “Brianna,” or you said, “I don’t really care. Brianna or Bri is fine. I respond to anything.” And also, if you’re like me, you really wanted to be called Brianna, but you quickly learned that even if you wanted to be called Brianna, you’d always be called Bri because too many people already know you as such and you already respond to it.
So, that brings me to college. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want people to call me in college. Especially since I don’t anticipate seeing a lot of people from my childhood or high school at my university. I have a chance to “rename” myself. Again, using the name Brianna, I don’t want to go by Brianna. Too formal. Or Bri. Too childish (and for me, the childhood nickname comes with some not-so-pleasant childhood memories). So I have to look at my name a little differently. Think outside the box. A name that can come from Brianna but usually isn’t used as a nickname. Anna! Most people named Brianna don’t go by “Anna,” and somehow, it sounds more ‘grown-up’ than Bri.
And now that I’ve gone through this whole explanation and discovery, you’re all probably wondering “So what? What’s the point? Why do you even care what name you go by?” The simple answer is just that- very simple. And the complex answer is, well, not very simple. In essence, our name is the very fiber of our being. Your name is written on your soul, forever. It is the closest tie to who you are. Which brings up another question- are you denying yourself if you take another name? I think it depends. Taking your spouse’s last name when you get married isn’t denying yourself, nor is changing what you go by from Bri to Anna like I mentioned before because it is possible for your name to evolve as you do. This is why I’ve been considering a “name change.” I feel that “Bri” no longer fits who I am; I feel that I’ve outgrown it. When I hear “Bri,” I think of the little girl who once was, not the young woman who is now.
I have now been brought to a bridge. The question that lies before me is “How do I make the transition from ‘Bri’ to ‘Anna?'” ‘Anna’ doesn’t fit quite right just yet, but I’ve outgrown ‘Bri.’ I guess I just need to break ‘Anna’ in like a new pair of shoes. Everyone will love me just the same, I just have a slightly different packaging. So the complex answer is that it’s a feeling: a coming-of-age feeling, almost like you’re a snake that’s shed its skin. And everyone sheds their skin for different reasons. Me- I just stopped living in a shell; I shed the skin of my past life that was holding me down. For me, my name has evolved, just as I have.