What are we? Who are you? Who am I?
Most often, the answer to that question will begin with a name. When someone says “tell me about yourself”, we often start with our name. It seems trite to say, but it ought to be said: there’s power in names. The need to have the ability to self-identify is a powerful driving force for all of us. Take away a person’s name or their ability to choose/keep their name and you erase them. If you tell someone everything about who you are without ever telling them your name, that disclosure often feels incomplete, devoid of intimacy, sterile, barren.
Despite the power in names, it’s ironic that for most people, we never get to choose our names. Our names are given to us, assigned, and the most that happens for some of us, if we even consciously think of it, is that we come to make peace with the names we were given. We come to accept them as a part of us even though we never asked for it, like a birth mark you can’t be rid of, even if you wanted to. Ask yourself: if you could change your name, would you? What would you call yourself if you were given that choice?
The ability to decide our own names is one of the fundamental things that makes us different from all other creatures. That sense of personal freedom to chart our own course begins with this. To know our names, the names we have chosen for ourselves, whether as an affirmative act or by accepting the names we were given, is to begin to know who we are.
But names are not static, they are dynamic, fluid, they exist in a state of ebb and flow. The name you identified with yesterday may change, you may see yourself as someone different, better, but always, it comes down to choice. Did you choose that name? Is it yours?
We may have multiple identities, fluid and interweaving. We may be called something different by our parents, friends, enemies and everyone in between. We may have different online identities, but each name is no less real. In a sense, the name itself is the least important element of a confluence of abstractions and existential quandaries (who am I? What does my name represent?), but as long as you in some way chose that name for yourself, that is sufficient. In the moment, you are secure, your existential dilemma is resolved because it was a conscious decision, either to take that name or to keep the one you were given.
All the different names we have: our ‘real’ names, our online names, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter handles, that combination of names is a mosaic of who we are. Each one is an important element of what makes us ‘us’. We all need to be able to affirmatively embrace our names. We have the power, if our names cause us grief, or anguish or pain to create new identities for ourselves, to create new beings.
But with the great power to create ourselves through nomenclature, comes the great responsibility to respect the choices of others in how they choose to be named. Respect who they are and they reciprocate. If we were all happy in our names and we respected the choices of others, maybe then we can begin to be happy in ourselves.
There’s power in pseudonyms. They are often just as real as our true names, but there’s something powerful too, about shedding anonymity (or the facsimile of anonymity) and stepping out into the disinfectant glare of the sun.
Who am I?
My name is Andrew Arthur Juldeh Kaikai. I'm just me.
|Can you feel the sun washing over me?|
Can you see the sun watching over me?