This may seem like an odd question, beloved readers, but:
when is the last time you’ve spoken your name?
I’m not referring to the times you offer it as an answer, when given a prompt by another person. Then it’s just an answer to a question, a means to an end. I’m not referring to the times you give it to another person, as an obligatory piece of information for their benefit, during an introduction.
I’m not referring to times when you are using it to do anything that requires you to identify yourself to pay a bill, make a purchase, or otherwise complete an errand.
When is the last time you have “spoken” your name, not “given” it?
Simply stated: “I am…”
Don’t answer yet. This might seem rather useless until you try it, with absolute sincerity.
I stood before a mirror one day and tried this. It had be full length of course, for maximum effect; what effect, I had no idea at the time. Feeling ridiculous, I blurted my name, shattering the previous silence.
Bright early morning sunlight flooded my room and lit up my mirror, as if on cue my two-dimensional twin responding in kind, to my silly grin. What struck me is that I did not make eye-contact with myself as my name passed betwixt my lips. I tried it again. This time, I fought to maintain eye contact with myself. I succeeded.
Despite my success, I felt disturbed. Why did I have to fight with myself, to make eye-contact (with just my own reflection no less), when it came to my name?
Suddenly what was a silly exercise in building presence, just a 30-second item on my To-Do List, became a serious issue.
Further more, why did I lower my voice, however slightly, when doing so. What lurked in my subconscious that caused me to glance away from my own reflection (and others, I admitted to myself) and lower my voice slightly when saying my own name?
That was the question I mulled over that day, as I quickly pulled my eyes away from my mirror, grabbed my keys, and with purse strap over my shoulder, dashed out the door. This odd inquiry-of-the-self followed me about, like a hummingbird, as I went about running errands, going to class, and doing chores.
Every spare moment I had that day–zoning out through boring parts of lectures or standing in line–I reviewed times I stood on stage and gave my name for auditions, or as a formal introduction to a group.
Surely, said my Ego, I, of all people, who had acted (once–no #humblebrag intended) before a crowd of 700+ had no issues with saying my own name. That reasoning was not good enough. In class, while driving, while cruising through store aisles, that excuse, no matter how many times I rehashed it, simply was not enough.
That was a cop-out.
I knew full well that the adrenaline that made stage performance so pleasant for me, gave me a boost that nullified whatever it was, before my mirror, in the privacy of my bedroom, that caused me to glance downwards and lower my voice when speaking my own name.
The name crafted by my loving parents to give me an identity, a sense of self, sounds born of my native tongue that I could wholly and completely call my very own–why could I not speak it as I did on stage?
Without conviction, without guilt, or self-consciousness?
As a stood before the mirror again, the late afternoon sun as subdued as my mood, I noticed my carefully crafted posture shifted when I said my name as well. I was thoroughly put off by this.
In the split second that these actions happened, I was sending a message that those I spoke to received. The knowledge made me wince. They more than likely, read it subconsciously, and couldn’t have articulated it, if I’d asked them to; yet, it did have an impact on how they interacted with me.
I had to admit to myself, as bitter a pill as it was: The message I had been sending for years was not a good one.
It didn’t say: I am confident, calm, poised, friendly, and outgoing. That’s what my body language on stage said.
This was not a play.
During a performance I knew how everything would end, what everyone would say, and that I would earn and deserve the applause at its end. This was real life. (Ugh.)
I was in the one role I did not audition for and could not turn down if I tried.
The role of Me.
I realized there was something about that role I did not like. There was something about being me I did not like.
There it was.
Laid out before me and my reflection: Unlike a character that I didn’t care to play, I couldn’t put this script down.
The message I sent to those I interacted with, in a split second of brutally honest body-language, was as telling as that sent by an actor that cannot hide how much they hate a role to the audience. A role they took simply to pay the bills.
I don’t like her.
That girl, that one I just spoke of, her.
I don’t like her.
That is the message I sent. That is what deep down, I knew I felt. I saw goosebumps rise on the arms of my reflection. My mirror diligently and dutifully reflecting the words burning in my dark eyes, the truth:
I hate you.
Yep. That was it. Buried under so many years of being a straight A student, the eager volunteer, the creative, the nerd, the bookworm, the dramaturge, a gamer, a daughter, a cousin, a friend. Under it all–I hated myself.
Fleeting sunlight pierced half-open blinds marking a boundary between us–the original and her reflection.
I wasn’t content.
I wasn’t content with hating myself.
I was not content with lowering my voice and shifting my gaze, if even for only half a second when I spoke my own name.
I could see the question playing in my own eyes as the sun rapidly set and my reflection began to dim.
A hint of challenge flickered in the identical onyx pair of eyes in front of me.
What had started out as a silly exercise, something I hardly took seriously, had put me in a place I had avoided for ages: a place of truth and deep self-introspection. The lack of which–I had to finally acknowledge–had come out in odd ways. My difficulty in even saying my own name had proved it.
The sun slipped before the horizon, my room faded to black, and the dark left me with something precious:
I could continue being someone that could not state my own name without feeling awkward, even alone, to no one but, myself.
I could become someone who could say my name as a declarative sentence, with full confidence and peace because I liked–loved!–all that it represented.
Someone who could say the name that was meant to mark me as separate from all others. The four words of the billions spoken, given to me by loving parents, of the millions that are my very own.
I could say my name like someone who loved herself.
So, random question, but…when is the last time you’ve spoken your name?