I Am Not Named Katherine

Wouldn’t it be cool if people were allowed to name themselves? Names are supposed to define us, to set us apart from the eight billion other people on this planet, and it’s kind of strange that names are chosen by someone else. No one names herself–even if a person is picking a name in another language, she’s still tied irrevocably to her old name and to everything that it connotes. Names are like the identity that we never chose.

I used to want to be named Katherine, with a K, until I realized that my last name would sound stupid with Katherine. Maybe that was just because I wasn’t used to it, though.

Actually, maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to figure out what I’d call myself if I weren’t named Naomi–my name has grown around me, worn in on the edges like a favorite shirt, until I am Naomi and Naomi is me.

The whole causation-correlation thing is confusing, to be honest. It’s like wondering if I am who I am because of my name, or if my name has come to mean something because I am intrinsically the person I am.

Nicknames are kind of like the next best thing to naming yourself, though, if you get to pick them–like deciding that you’re sick of being called Isabella and insisting that your name is Bella. And from what I’ve seen, nicknames work just like the names that people were born with–they grow closer and closer to a person’s identity until the name is so closely attached that it is nearly impossible to see where one ends and the other begins, or if there are even a one and an other at all. Perhaps they are really just the same thing.

So what if I’d been named Katherine? Would I still love English and school and grilled cheese?

Actually, yeah, I probably would.  Maybe some other things would be different, but while my identity is tied to my name, my name has not been the only force shaping my identity.

I wish there was an easy way to figure out how people’s identities have been shaped, just because it would be so cool to know which ideas are yours and which are from someone else. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be the same person I am right now if I had spent the last eighteen years under a rock, and then I realize that that’s an easy question to answer–absolutely not. I am constantly molded by the people around me in the tiniest and most significant ways. And at the same time, I constantly mold other people, so that there is a neverending give-and-take as we are all pushed towards greater complexity.

Identity is weird. It’s not completely set in stone; it’s not completely definable. And all I really know is that my name is Naomi and not Katherine, and that maybe that has made a difference–but probably not.

Isn’t it weird to think that even as you wonder “Who am I?” you’re changing?

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One thought on “I Am Not Named Katherine

  1. Before I even start: “my name has grown around me, worn in on the edges like a favorite shirt”. That is gorgeous and I am in love with it.

    I spend so much time wondering about my name it is ridiculous. A lot of the time, it means absolutely nothing, but at the same time, I also kind of think it might have a bigger impact than anyone can imagine. What if your name had a different number of syllables in it? Maybe I’m crazy, but sometimes I think it could be life-changing. Maybe.

    On the topic of changing: I have spelled my name “Sami” for less than half my life, but when I see “Sammie,” it looks foreign and not-me. Maybe it’s ’cause I did it when I was still pretty young, but in that sense, I think you do have the ability to define yourself. It’s just that a lot of people are scared to change their names because of the reaction from the rest of the world, just like how people are afraid to change their identities – not because they’re not capable, but because the world makes it intimidating.

    Sometimes I think about whether or not the people I met after I changed the spelling of my name would see me differently if I were still Sammie. Logically, no, but I have this weirdly inherent feeling that maybe they would. But then again, it’s probably only because to me, Sammie is the elementary school version of me, and the difference between Sammie and Sami is only present because I changed it.

    This is getting really long but obviously I love this topic so much and I didn’t get to touch on the whole interdependence thing you talked about at the end but that is awesome too and I’m gonna go catch up on all my comments now.

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