We’re born small and helpless, we’re given names and a place in society. We do this all over the world, and you could say that it’s one of the things that make us human. We take an organic being of flesh and blood, and make it into a social being.
The Saami people of Northern Scandinavia used to sing a person into being. It wasn’t until a person had a tune of her own that she was a proper person. As a baby she would be given a name, but more importantly she would be given a very short tune that said who she was. This tune would be sung by people thinking about her whether she was there or not, and also after her death. It was this tune that made her real, that made her a person and a part of the clan.
The process of changing a something into a someone is also repeated several times in our lives as our social status changes. We are born and are given names by our families, go to school and get nicknames, get married and take our spouse’s name. Here in Norway it’s common for the wife to keep her own name, or for the husband to take his wife’s name. Why should she always take the man’s name, anyway?
The Saami changed their names if they didn’t fit, and some people would change names many times during their lives. I really like that idea. As we go through life, we might find that an identity is no longer representative. Changing a name can be a great way to embrace a new identity or stage of life.
Years ago, I felt that my name was horrible. I guess it was because I felt small and vulnerable, stupid and clumsy. I had low self-esteem and low self-worth. I doubted my right to feel joy and freedom. So I hung onto every derogative description of me that I heard, convinced that this was my truth.
Now, I love my name. It’s a fierce, strong name that I have made my own. It’s still the same name, but what I hear is loving and encouraging, it’s laughter and support. Now, my name means fellowship and experiences, journeys and adventures. My identity has changed so much over the years, and I find myself sending love and strength to the insecure girl that I once was.
Adolescence was a horrible time for me, and I am so grateful those years are behind me. For me, this journey has been about becoming woman. It’s been about learning to love myself, embracing my flaws as well as my strengths. It’s been about learning to know my cycles, my changes and my hopes and dreams. And about following my dreams, daring to think big and having the guts to go for it. Being the woman that I want to be, and refusing both the judgment and expectations of others.
That’s the someone I’ve become, a free woman. I think I’ll keep that name.
Vild Prestegard is an anthropologist, holistic therapist, Reiki master and public speaker based in Norway. She is a regular blogger for Cycle Harmony. You’re welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments.