What’s In A Name?

Call me Ishmael. Or not. It’s not my name. I’ve just always wanted to use that as an opening line.

“Call me Ishmael.” It’s a powerful statement. Maybe the most powerful statement a person can make; it’s taking control over one of the most basic components of our identity. Not “my name is this” but “call me this.” Maybe Ishmael’s name is really George or Kelvin or Phineas. (Feel free to chime in if you know the name Ishmael’s mother gave him. I’ve only read Moby-Dick once.)

Sometimes, when my brain isn’t skittering in a million different directions, I wonder what name I’d give myself. My parents named me after a relative whom I’m sure is very lovely, but it’s not necessarily what I’d choose for myself. See, Kasey means “brave.” Maybe my parents didn’t even bother looking that up, or maybe they hoped that bravery would weave itself through my life as much as it has theirs. I’ve rarely felt brave. My mother always points to moving halfway across the country to a state where I literally didn’t know a single soul as a brave thing; I counter that it was purely a practical one. I moved to North Carolina for grad school, Ma, not just for the hell of it. If an Arkansan college had had the program and the faculty I wanted, I’d have stayed in-state. Pursuing an advanced degree in a field with a glut of workers wasn’t brave, it was foolhardy.

Sometimes I wish I came from a culture that didn’t make changing the name I was given before I was fully a person so difficult; contemplating the sheer volume of paperwork is exhausting. And that doesn’t even factor in training my entire family and network of friends to call me something new. Plus, I get the feeling that my parents would take the change really, really hard. I’m the only one of my siblings officially named after someone, after all.

My family might have wanted me to be brave, but it’s not what I want for myself. I want stability. Roots. Tradition. I want something that isn’t mispronounced and/or misspelled a thousand times today. (Never mind that my last name is apparently impossible to manage; I actually like my last name a lot. Maybe because it twists and winds its way back to pear trees—which have roots.) I can say with almost 100% certainty that I’d never actually change my name; sheer laziness alone pretty much guarantees that.

My name is Kasey. I’ll figure out what you can call me later.

(Sometimes I feel more like a Kate.)

11 Jan: Looks like I was a week early with this one; check out yesterday’s Daily Prompt!


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