Warning: More CPE-ish-ness ahead...
This year - and this semester, in particular - I've been doing a lot of work (or rather, God's been doing a lot of work) on figuring out (revealing) who I am. Not who everyone thinks I am, or who everyone wants me to be, or explicit or implicit expectations of me, or what the narrative of my life has been up until this point. But me. Me.
What do I like/want/need? What has God created me to do? Who am I? For so long, without even realizing it, I've been and done everyone else's expectations - probably up to and including the Accuser's. (He's a devilish one...) And it hasn't been intentional, for the most part - mostly it's been because a) I don't think I know how to do anything else, b) I'm a nice person and I do what people ask me to do, and c) I trust other people more than I trust myself.
So learning to be my own person has been hard. I feel like I'm constantly peeling back layer after layer of personal junk to "find myself" - ugh, this sounds so new-age-y, but that's not how I intend it - and sometimes that "me" underneath all the layers is really sensitive, because it's had so many defenses built up around it for so long to keep it from hurting. Like the way certain skin sunburns super-easily because it's never exposed to the sun, "me" has been "clothed" for years, and when I finally let it see the light of day, it's really fragile.
Something that has been important to throughout the years is my name. I don't know why, for sure, why my name has been so critical. I have very few nicknames - only one, really. Most people don't know it, and only people who are super-close to me are allowed to use it. I've had friends and quasi-family attempt to call me by this nickname, and I absolutely hate it. My parents, a couple aunts and uncles on my dad's side, and my high school BFF are the only ones who are allowed. People who just presume to use this nickname annoy the crap out of me.
Other than that, I don't really have any nicknames. I don't really like them all that much, and besides, my given name is a shortened-nickname-form of a lot of other people's given names. It was a super-popular name at the time I was born. And therein lies the problem. My whole life, whenever I'm in a group of any size, there's always someone else with my name. Even if it's a nickname for them, it's the same as my name. And so, whenever someone says my name, there's always a genuine chance that they're not actually referring to me - either directly or indirectly.
That's been really hard for me, especially this year, and especially as I'm trying to live into me and who I am. One of my best friends on campus has the same name as me (although hers actually is a nickname). We're good friends, and I love her to pieces, and we have spent much of the past school year attached at the hip. I mean, we're together basically all the time. Right down to the same job and the same class schedule and the same friends. And it's been great. I love having her around, and I'm so ridiculously glad we're friends.
Of course, everyone else notices that we're always together, and simply refers to us in the plural. Never us individually. Or when I'm with other friends and they reference her, it feels strange - like, they're talking about someone who isn't me, but they are using my name to do so. And also: and yes, I'm such a girl, so deal with it - she's all the -er's, compared to me: smarter, prettier, funnier, cuter, cooler, better, more popular, more fun, more Christian, etc. I don't begrudge her these - it is what it is. But being around someone who has my name but is way more awesome than me all the time gets hard, and it sometimes feels like me and my identity just get lost in the shuffle - because my name hardly ever refers to me, or at least to me exclusively.
This really hit home last Sunday when a friend and I went to hear another friend preach in worship. Same Name As Me Friend did not come along. Afterwards, while Preacher Friend was greeting congregants, the friend that I had come with and I were visiting with the senior pastor. When Senior Pastor learned my name, he said, "Oh, you must be the one Preacher Friend talks about." Oh, really? Hmm...I guess. I didn't know Preacher Friend talked about me to his pastor, but that's cool. Until Other Friend jumped in and said, "Well, maybe. We hang out with another one a lot too, it might be her." And then it hit me. Oh, right. I forgot. It probably is her. She's the cool one, the one that people are interested in and want to talk to and about. Nevermind.
So, I think that I need a nickname. Something that when I hear it, I know it means me and not anyone else. Even if it's rarely uttered by others, because they are talking about some other person with my given name, I need that space for my identity. Because it's not just about one or two people, it's about that from the time I was in kindergarten, I've always just been part of a group of people with my name. I need to know that there's something about me that is unique, and that I'm not just second-string owner of the name. It needs to be something that fits me and suits me, something I can live with and feel like is actually me, not just some name I picked off the shelf. Something that's mature and professional, but fun and playful at the same time. Something that feels like me. Suggestions?