Names are a bit weird, aren’t they? They make up such a huge part of our identity, yet, in most cases, we get pretty much no say in the matter. Our names are sometimes picked out for us before we’re even born – before we’re even conceived, in some cases – and it seems to be pretty much pot luck as to whether or not your name fits your personality.
In spite of this, in spite of the fact there’s absolutely no way of knowing how someone will turn out as an adult, people are hugely resistant to the smallest of changes to one’s own name – even down to the nickname. I still remember the expression of absolute disbelief and defiance on my grandfather’s face, as he said, with the most over-exaggerated shock in his voice, when I, a mature, grown up twelve-year-old, decided I wanted to be ‘Liz’ instead of ‘Lizzie’: “no… Lizzie!”. And, to this day, he’ll write Liz in cards, but will always call me Lizzie to my face.
As most people who follow me on social media are probably aware of by now, I’ve recently decided that I’m no longer going by ‘Liz’ or ‘Lizzy’, and am instead going by ‘Zara’. The reason being, if one needs to be given, is that I’ve never felt those names suited me. I’ve been known as ‘Lizzie’ since birth, and only changed it to ‘Liz’ when I decided the former was too childish. I’ve never liked ‘Liz’ that much, either, but I was twelve when I made that decision. ‘Zara’ is such a beautiful name (and can come from Elizabeth – ‘EliZAbeth’, ‘ZAra’), and I really feel that it’s a name that suits me. People have already used it to address me, and it fits.
My friends, and most of my family, have been kind, but I do worry about the response. Apparently, despite it being my name, my deciding that I’d like to be known as something else can be seen as an inconvenience. I know my aforementioned grandparents will be calling me ‘Lizzie’ until the day one of us dies – not because they can’t remember what I’d like to be called, but because they choose not to. A visit to them reminds me that I only have so much power over my own identity. (My nan, on my mum’s side, I will cut some slack; she’s terminally ill and has other things on her mind, like making sure she has enough oxygen.)
With that in mind, I’d like to ask you all, no matter what the reason may be, to respect your friends and family when they decide to change their name or nickname. Their name is theirs, and not yours to dictate. A name is so important and it should fit its bearer. Why else do you think novelists spend so much time picking names for their characters?
As for all of you who’ve been wanting to try out a new name, do it. Just do it. People who matter will accept it. Occasional forgetfulness, especially in the early stages, is okay. “I’m going to keep calling you (x), because I’ve always known you as (x)”, is lazy, dismissive, and downright disrespectful.
Do you ever meet someone who just, entirely, seems to have it all going for them?
They look cool. They’re not necessarily confident, but comfortable in themselves. They’re well-liked and are very laid back. They like all these fun, obscure things and have social media jam-packed with amazing looking parties and brilliant hair. They’re just so… nice. It’s infuriating.
As someone with wonky self-image anyway, meeting this person can be challenging. It can give a sense of insecurity, feeling like you’re not up to their standard. You feel… boring.
I’m not about to preach any anti-social media sentiments, given that I very much support, you know, knowing what my friends are up to without having to hassle them every hour of the day. Effortless keeping in touch, I love it. However, I do think that social media is pretty significant in feeling inferior to that person you met outside your lecture and promptly searched up on instagram. Let’s face it. We’re all guilty of it. We only put the fun stuff on social media, stuff that will make us look cool and interesting. I’m not about to post about my trip to Tesco, but I will make sure to mention the really nice outfit I wore while spending a day exploring the town. To some people, it might appear that that’s just a typical day for me, when in actual fact that’s a one-off occasion, and my life is about as eventful as watching paint dry.
I guess that’s comforting? These awe-inspiring people do their washing up just like everyone else.
This isn’t really what I want to talk about, though…
I think everyone has someone they know who they wish they could be like. I know I certainly do, and now I’ve started university, it’s even more obvious since my friends are scattered around the country now. To be frank, the things I’ve considered studying at degree level, other than Politics and Primary Ed, are English Literature, History, Fine Art, Illustration, Costume Design, Journalism and History of Art. There’s a lot of creative stuff in there, and that’s probably why all the people I’m in awe of/jealous of/wishing I could hate but can’t because they’re too nice, are art students of some sort. Or, students of the arts might be a better way of putting it. My boyfriend is studying Digital Film, and I wish I’d done that, sometimes. My friend doing Creative Writing? Why didn’t I? English Lit? I could’ve done that. There’s so much I wanted to do, sometimes I wonder why I didn’t choose a creative subject…
The gist is, all the people I think look, and are, wonderful, and who I want to be like, study a creative subject. There’s an art student look, isn’t there? They have interesting colours in their hair, sometimes, or it’s not in a ‘conventional’ style. They wear those fun vintage clothes with clashing patterns. That sort of thing. They have weird badges, and obscure posters on their walls. I love it. I dig it.
Equally, though, I love my own style. I’m not about to cut my hair into a bob any time soon. I like my floaty dresses and jingly jewellery, all my paisley bits and colourful vases. Whereas, when I was younger, I’d try and emulate the admired style as best I could, now I’m a bit older – and have a much better sense of my style and personality – I now prefer to pick and choose aspects, and combine them, into a wonderfully odd cocktail. Isn’t that what a personality is?
So, yeah, I have strange badges on my coat and posters everywhere, there’s independent shop advertisements blu-tacked onto the frame of my mirror, and… it works. It’s very me. I’m much more comfortable like this.
a year and a half ago…
a couple of weeks ago!!
As a teenager, I felt I had to fit into a style or subculture, but, really, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s so much easier not having to fit into the rigorously structured box you’ve made for yourself. In fact, it’s stressful. It’s so much more… fun… to be able to take inspiration, without giving up your individuality. Plus, in all honesty? The people you think are so cool have probably, if not definitely, done the exact same, because I don’t think it’s actually possible for someone to solely like things which fit their online vibe to a T. Let your style grow and evolve, you can always change it again, after all.
I guess the point of this is, as much as you may envy someone else’s life/style/whatever, there’s nothing stopping you from being inspired by it – which, in turn, doesn’t mean, necessarily, abandoning all the things which you like. Be happy with your own style because it’s yours. Alternatively, if, like me, you’re someone who lives for the validation of others (haha, that’s healthy, I’m sure), be happy with your own style, because someone’s going to come along and think your bohemian/gothic fusion is incredible.
(Ooh, style fusions… they’re bizarre and I love them!)
In case this isn’t obvious, be sensible/sensitive when borrowing aspects of a style. If the thing you think looks cool is something of cultural or religious significance to the person – and it’s not a culture or religion that you belong to – perhaps it’s better to admire it from afar. Don’t take something for aesthetic value, which may have a deeper meaning. Look groovy, but be considerate. (Just thought I should mention this. I doubt anyone needs to hear it, but it’s better to be on the safe side.)
A Note About University: I’ve started my course now, and it’s… good. Yeah. Not much else I can say about it. It’s good and it’s very busy. I’ve been pretty neglectful of this blog, and I know for a fact that I’m not going to be posting with any frequency. I might put some poems up, but I don’t know if, or when, since they’re meant to be spoken, rather than read. Whatever.