I’ve been thinking recently about how we are defined by different things in our lives. How we look, our culture and heritage, the career we have chosen, where we live and who we hang out with. What about the television we like to watch, the books we read and the sports we play? All of these at some point or another may come to define us. In the movie Clueless (and later in Mean Girls), groups of high school teens are split into tribes all with similar features that define them as one amorphous set.
But one thing that can define us right from birth is our name. Did you get given a serious moniker, perhaps like a Jane or an Elizabeth? What about something more playful like Piper or Roxanne? We make judgements just as quickly on what some is called just as much as what someone looks like (and get mighty confused when the two don’t match the stereotype we have worked up in our heads).
Sometimes our relationship with our name can be changeable, and confusing. What do you think your name says about you?
I was born Samantha Raymonde Nicholson (cheers Mum for that most excellent male name squeezed in the middle – just because it is tradition, it doesn’t make it right). I spent many years growing up not having a huge attachment to my name. I was constantly trying to hide the truth about my middle name (everyone I knew was Louise…it was just so much more simple aged 5) and to most people I met, I was just Sam. I was a bit of a tomboy of sorts, and the shortening of my first name which just felt like a mouthful was attractive to me. It’s true I never felt a huge connection to my surname growing up, and as my Mum remarried this only deepened.
Nicknames came and went growing up, largely applied by my family. Spam was popular given my first name and my oversized forehead (that I still have a complex about – I like to think it houses my massive brain), and this morphed into Splat, and then finally Splat Monster. In fact as I approach 30, I am still called Splat Monster by my Step Dad. At school, once people got wind of my middle name, this turned my nickname into SamRayNick. Really, it is what every 15 year old, discovering femininity and boys and make up wants to be called eh?
I didn’t think much about my name as I moved through school and university and then into my first job. As I had always been known as Sam, that is how I introduced myself at work, how my email was set up, how I was shown to the external world and I suddenly got a complex about it. First of all, with a name like Sam you tend to get a lot of emails entitled “Dear Sir”. Secondly, I just didn’t feel like plain old Sam represented the professional me. It didn’t feel serious enough – I didn’t feel confident enough in my ability to pull off a really intelligent, professional Sam.
So when I moved to my next job, I made a huge fuss and became a Samantha. It felt different. I’d not really been a Samantha before. I was stepping into the corporate world and being taken seriously. I got a new nickname too from my work colleagues that sort of came out of nowhere – SammiRay. Part country ‘n’ western Singer, part wild child I sort of liked it. In fact some of my friends from that era still call me that today. It was certainly an improvement on SamRayNick.
Somewhere in the middle of this I got engaged, and then married. I never had a moments hesitation that I would take my husbands name (and that is a whole new debate). Overnight, I became Sam Sparrow. Cue lots of Black and Gold jokes, ponderings that I could be a pole dancer or a private detective with that name and a final feeling of comfort on the name I had become.
What is interesting to me is that many of my closest friends these days have known me as nothing else. To them I am Sam Sparrow. To my work colleagues, HTC collaborators and new friends that is who I have always been. To many of them I am simply known as Sparrow. Imagine – being defined by a last name that I gained almost by accident really. 29 years ago no one knew that this is who I would become.
And Sam Sparrow sort of fits. It feels like this name was who I was always supposed to be. Gone are the days of worrying about sounding professional enough (I mean, it certainly is memorable). Perhaps marriage has made me more confident in who I really am. Perhaps it is age.
Or perhaps it is a realisation that name or not, I am finally defining who I am by my actions, my happiness and those around me. Is it the name that has helped this process along? I’ll never know. But I do know that for all these years where I have panicked over who I really am, my name was probably the least important factor at play.
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