Shakespeare once said “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I have been called different names – not in the surly way as that sounded. Take for example; my Mom calls me by my full names (not all 12 of them) when I do something wrong; my maternal grandmother calls me Folake (good thing I only get to see her once every five years or so. I have no qualms with the name, it’s just that my brain has refused to register it as mine), some of my friends call me “T-Mama”, as a Cadet in Foursquare church, I used to be called “Temitope”; and in high school all the way through college, I was mostly called “Tolani” and most recently, “Mo.”
I’ve been pondering about the complexity of names, especially when you have so many of them. I believe that naming a child is one of the biggest and most fundamental duties that parents have to toggle with when they bring a child to this world. It’s a either a hit or a miss! You cannot call dibs on halfsies here. To be called different names by different people can sometimes take a toll on you. I sometimes struggle with the Imposter syndrome or the guilt that I am taking on a different character at the calling of each name. This brings me to these vital questions, what exactly do we aim to achieve when we use different monikers, or rather what are the added benefits or what exactly do each name-calling take away from us?
Nonetheless, I think names can be a way of starting anew. Not in the way of someone on the lam who takes on a new identity (one can argue in favor of this too). Wait let me explain. Since I relocated to the US, I have created inventive ways for people to pronounce and spell my name properly; ranging from /taller-knee (like a Native-Indian name. I think it loosely means “One who runs with the wind.” Gerrit?)/ for the former and using word associations from the alphabets, i.e. M for Margarita, O for Oscar, T for Tango, etc. for the latter. Despite all my attempts, it has not been a successful feat. From the waitress at Einstein Bros who labeled my bagel order “Talany” exactly the way she bawled it over her PAS, to the barista at Starbucks who calls me “Toni” (what a recidivist! Quel dommage! I actually gave up all hopes in correcting that one. My boss calls this nonchalant behavior of mine – African Supremacy), to the tea-boy at Teapioca lounge (best bubble tea in Austin btw) who labelled my order as “Wu”, I had told him “Mo.”
Being in a new terrain has helped me really understand that your name is only as special as you make it, kinda like branding oneself. It is like the way you see other people’s kids, they are cute and all but only for so long before the novelty wears off. Armed with this realization, I decided at my new job in Boston to be called Mo! (Exclamation point inclusive). It represents many things – a new start and a way to forge ahead and to put behind all the mispronunciations and misspelling that so easily besets me. The realist in me thinks that I’m too naïve to be that optimistic. It thinks that the novelty will soon wear off, especially when someone calls me “Moo” or “Mo (followed by a tongue clicking sound (as in the Xhosa language). I jeer back at it. What do the voices in my head know? Who by the way, all have their own names. Now, you tell me, what’s in a name?
A couple of Sundays ago, I spent the better half of my Sunday with a group of friends. We meet every other Sunday for lunch, small talk (usually about God and righteous living) and play games. One of the games we ended up playing was Scattergories. It is a game of wits, speed and creative-thinking. The game starts by a player rolling a 20-sided letter die. You can read more about the game here: (http://www.ehow.com/how_18711_play-scattergories.html)
Once the dice was cast, we had to write words beginning with the letter “O” using certain categories. One of the categories listed was “things you can wear around your neck.” I put down “orange peel necklace”. During the scoring process, I was faced with the task of explaining what I meant by “orange peel necklace.” Talk about being in a state of mild denial? Playing make-believe with orange peels was something I did growing up. After what seemed like a herculean task of explaining, my opponents understood it but they really did not get what I meant by orange peel necklace. I guess there goes my lecture notes on “tinko, tinko”, “ekanna Gowon” and forming patterns with rubber bands.
Since I moved to the US, I have experienced clashes of cultures. There were times when I would want to look knowingly at a random person next to me when I see certain cues that triggered some relative experiences, but it always fell flat. That being said, I think they too might feel the same way about some of the experiences they must have had growing up.
Regardless of how demure, placid or reckless our childhood experiences were, there’s always something to learn from it. Moreover, the past is past; who needs to brood over it? So here’s to now – incorporating and blending experiential knowledge with the present, and to the future – a time when today’s novelty becomes history.
“There is some kind of a sweet innocence in being human- in not having to be just happy or just sad- in the nature of being able to be both broken and whole, at the same time.” CCJ
Like every other human roaming the earth, I have my uber emotional side. A while back, I was on a call with a friend. It was a call that made me cry as she made some not-so-nice statements that turned on the waterworks. My husband, who was in the other room at the time of the call, heard our conversation from the next room and he didn’t seem too happy with the said-friend. This dampened our relationship for a while. Fast-forward a few weeks after that, I asked my husband if he’s heard from the same friend in a while, to which he replied “No”. I asked him why and his response was, “I don’t think I wanna talk to anyone who makes you cry that way”. While I thought it was cute and valorous of him, it got me thinking for a while.
I thought about how often we hear one side of a story (about someone) and tend to react differently to them based off of what was said. I thought about how it’s hard to forget the bad stuff even in the presence of abundance of good. I peered deeply into my soul and realized how guilty I have been sometimes of doing all of these. I also thought about the Swiss people. This is where everything gets hairy (you may need to pull out your chair for this one because history is about to repeat itself – literall). For the most part of it, Switzerland declared its neutrality during WWII in order to maintain its internal cohesion. There is not much to their geographical location either; they are bordered by other powerful countries like France, Italy, Germany, and Austria – Switzerland is considered by many as a vassal state. During WWII, it never officially got involved with the war due largely to its small geographical size (Texas is slightly more than 16 times the size of Switzerland). Their stance on the war paid off as they were not only able to keep their country safe, they experienced an economic boom as well.
Next time I am in a position to be swayed by what I hear or what I see that would make me think about someone differently (in a negative way), I will think of Switzerland and declare my stance on neutrality – that way I am immune to “enemy” invasion.
Have a phenomenal day ahead!
It is the beginning of a new year. Nothing really has to change (if you don’t want it to) save for some nagging reminders around you clamoring for a change. We always begin the New Year with resolutions – we know how most of those end. One of mine (hopefully not gonna be short-lived) is to express myself with written words. At the nudging of some friends, I have decided to start writing again. I know this will be cathartic for me; I only hope that it will be as equally enjoyable for you.
See, I am somewhat of a human sponge – I soak up so much around me and I happen to have the memory of an elephant tainted wickedly with the attention span of a fruit fly. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have so much to share with you, given the unique environments I always find myself in. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you. I welcome suggestions for themes to talk about as well. Let’s get this bad boy on the road…
Hey, that’s me up there. Can’t remember what I was staring at or pondering upon (maybe I was just being vain). I have a bad habit of placing my feet in uncomfortably, twisted positions as you would see in most of my pictures. Anyways, here you go.
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