And that makes our relationship with our names one of the most crucial relationships of our lives.
I can personally vouch for the power a name can hold for a person. My relationship with my name has been a kind of on-again/off-again, high school romance type of relationship. One minute I love it, and the next I'm not sure what I ever saw in it. For the most part it isn't that unique, except that it is.
In Margaret Atwood's poem she says, "A word after a word/ after a word is power." She is right. And the beginning of power is to know- really know- your own name.
My name is spelled... differently. My father used the Greek spelling for the word "joy," so it's spelled with a silent "H" which leads most people to mispronounce it. It's kind of a big deal because the sound of it is significantly different than if you use the soft "ch" sound (as in character, or charismatic).
I had a coach in middle school who called me Charlotte because (as she told my mother at a parent-teacher night) she just liked it better. She was just plain strange, so I didn't sweat her opinion too much, but as the years went by, I got pretty tired of having to correct every new person I met on the pronunciation of my name. Sometimes multiple times before they caught on.
I think the biggest offender was my Spanish teacher my junior year of high school. Mr. Hammond was a coach of some kind, and as strange as the previous coach I mentioned, except that he refused to pronounce my name correctly. I corrected him every day for months, but he refused. It got to the point that I felt that it was just a matter of disrespect that he persisted. I spoke to him several times about it, but he ignored me.
I was once walking down a flight of stairs behind him in a deserted stairwell and the though actually crossed my mind that I could easily shove him down the stairs and no one would know. He probably wouldn't even see me. Also, it was a side stairwell that wasn't often used and he might lay there unassisted for quite some time before he was found and helped.
Ultimately, the realization that I would actually consider such a thing really disturbed me (as it probably should have) and I simply gave up on him and the class. I passed Spanish, but without any enthusiasm. I can still only a handful of spanish words, and they would do me little practical good unless I was desperately in need of some peanuts.
For the most part, however, I came to terms with my name a while back. I was asked, recently, how I would planned on explaining to my kids about how I picked their names. I haven't though too much about this, but the best answer I could give was that I really understood the meaning behind my name at a time when I really needed to know it. It was a time when I was honestly at the lowest point of my life that my mother made it clear that they chose my name for a reason. They wanted me to be joyful- to know joy and be characterized by it (pun intended).
It's still a little annoying, but I persist in letting the people around me know what my name is and how to pronounce it. Usually I will tell them that it means "joy" with the hope that they will remember that it is meant to be a little different, but there is a purpose behind it.