Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's In A Name

Bob Marley isn't my name. I don't even know my name yet. - Bob Marley

If I'm gonna tell a real story, I'm gonna start with my name. - Kendrick Lamar

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
- William Shakespeare

The past few days, I've been working on a birthday greeting for a little girl I know. As with many of the cards and banners I make, the design features her name, prominently displayed in bold shapes and bright colors. I've also left plenty of white space so she can add some color too, if she likes.

During this creative process, I've done a bit of musing about names. Here is a random sampling of the thoughts that have been whirling around my brain.

It's strange that our names are chosen for us without our consent at the very beginning of our lives. Think of it. The single word that will describe us and be associated with us for literally every day of our life is chosen when we are a mere day or two old. When you think about it, our names really say more about our parents, and their hopes and dreams for our life, than they do about our own selves. But we carry them with us as a fundamental part of our identity from cradle to grave, and that is truly remarkable.

Most people are ambivalently okay with their names, though others may love or actively dislike them. I personally have mixed feelings about my name. Weirdly, I like that it has five letters, three of them vowels, and I like that it starts with D. D is a good strong letter, and fun to write in cursive. Also, I like that my name is reasonably familiar and easy enough to pronounce. But I've always felt that the name doesn't suit me quite right and I've fantasized many times about shortening it to Ann.

It's good to know the story of how and why your name was chosen. I'm fascinated to hear how names are chosen, and I've made a point to tell my daughters their stories over and over.

My first-born was named for a famous Irish Setter,
my second named after a character in a storybook that my first-born adored,
my third was named after one of my childhood friends, and
my fourth-born's name literally means, "fourth-born."

As for my name, here's how it came to be. My father had always loved the name, Diane, but my mother preferred Carolyn, the name of her college roommate. After much debate, my mother let my father have his way, and Carolyn became my middle name. I wish my mother had stuck to her guns.

It always feels good to be called by name. During my many years of working with kids of all ages, I've tested this theory over and again and found it always to be true. Preschoolers beam, elementary kids come running, even the most disengaged, unemotive, trying-to-be-cool teenager will bust out a genuine smile when you call them by name. And I'll be honest - I light up when someone calls me by name. There's something about hearing another person speak my name that makes me feel known. And loved.

Little-known fact: the name of my blog refers to my feelings about my own name. After years of being a full-time parent, I was so used to hearing my daughters call me Mama, Mommy, or Mom, that I began to think of myself only by those names. As they grew up and flew from the nest, I realized that it was time for me to reclaim myself as a person who was more than simply a mother. It was time for me to be Diane again.

And writing these posts to you has been an essential and perfectly lovely part of my journey.

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