08 October 2012

What's In A Name

One year in middle school, I decided to go by the name Katie.  It's such a nice, sensible, ordinary name.  One that requires no explanation at introduction and no repeating. 

Katie was Trés American.  As American as the ham and cheese on Wonderbread sandwiches I wished my mother would make for lunch, instead of Polish store ham and Morski cheese on sourdough rye bread.  Or a Twinkie, or even a bag of potato chips in your lunch bag.

At the beginning of the school year, when the teachers would read aloud the names of different students, when they would hit that long pause and begin the uncomfortable ritual of butchering my legal first name, I would raise my hand and say with a nervous smile "It's Katie".  You could see their shoulders collapse with relief at not having to struggle with a "foreigner" name.

For the first few weeks, when someone would say "Katie", I wouldn't register that they meant me.  Because for over a decade before, I was Kasia. 

And even after, the oddest sensation was of hearing someone say "Katie" and being confused which Katie they meant.  Since there were a billion in my school.  Along with Jessica, Jennifer, Amy and Kim.

It felt wonderful, or at least I told myself it did.  Blending into the background, not sticking out like a sore thumb.  It was fabulous.

But what I realized after that first year was over was something I didn't count on.  I didn't count on my name, Kasia, evoking a sense of actually being.  And not just being here.  Physically breathing.  Me.  But a sense of being from, a line of existence stretching back generations before me.  Like whispers behind me encouraging me through my future.  A sense of coming from somewhere, others, events, dreams and prayers prior to, the chain of events that made me.

I realized that my name is not where I am from, it has nothing to do with a place.  My name is who I am from.

I was Kasia.  It didn't matter that it stuck out.  It didn't matter if it didn't.  It was my true name.  Like a brand on my soul, etched over countless generations slowly with tears, laughter, and change.

The Grand Canyon was carved by flowing water.  I was carved out by the flow of time.

I'm not a Katie.  I'm Kasia.

What's your name and what does it mean to you?  Did you ever try going by a different name, and if so, how did that feel?

Na razie..

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My Confession and a Campfire

A Gallon of Milk


Unknown said...

I hated my name in grade school. I was the only Rita in classes full of Kathys and Susans and Lindas. Oh how I longed to be a Suzie! I was also mercilessly teased about such an odd name. Kids can be so cruel. By HS I loved being the only one and I still do.

Unknown said...


I loved your post for the obvious reasons, lol!

Unknown said...

You are the only Dwana I've ever met and the name suits you, it's as unique as you are. :)

Unknown said...

Rita is not a common name at all. I'm so glad you could relate to this and that you learned to love your name as much as I do.

Stacy said...

I always wanted to be called Anastasia even though my name is Stacy. My mother wanted to name me Anastasia and call me Stacy but she was afraid I wouldn't like Anastasia. I remember being in 4th grade and longing for the beautiful flowing name of Anastasia, not the chipper, pert "Stacy". Now I don't mind. I sometimes think my name doesn't sound very professional, more like a cheerleader or cocktail waitress...but it is ME. And my mom swears to this day when I was born I LOOKED like a Stacy and I wouldn't be the same person if I wasn't Stacy.
Teachers can be pretty dumb at pronouncing things which leads to teasing etc. I am glad you went back to Kasia ...its gorgeous!

Rachelle @ Sweet Home Pasadena said...

Just found your blog and am enjoying reading your thoughts. :) Kasia is a lovely name!

Anonymous said...

I have always been Julie. Sometimes people call me Jules. I am ok with that. I have never went by any other name but one year at camp I put on a southern accent ya that was pretty awful! I don't think I had ever even met a Texan (being grommets Canada) but there I was making an ass of myself and butchering an accent. I was 8 or 9, and I guess at that age we want time be someone else sometimes, then we realize how amazing we really are. Your name is beautiful by the way. :)

Lauren said...

I love that you are going by Kasia! It is such a beautiful name! My Polish Grandma still goes by Lucy, my uncles by Bob and Joe. But one uncle is still Anton, and my Babka Karolina. They are beautiful Polish names!

Anonymous said...

Oh I can so relate to this! With a name like Bogumila and explaining to teachers to call me Bogusia the first day of school was always a nightmare for me, especially because I was so shy! In college I started to go by Mila and it was so much easier, but you're right it was an adjustment answering to a different nickname. I confuse a lot of people not knowing what to call me, but I like it better when Americans call me Mila and Polish people call me Bogusia. My last name is hard enough! ;)

sadingle said...

My mom still remembers you as Katie ^_^