Personal Experiences · To Do

18 Weeks

As of today there are exactly 18 weeks until I turn 30. It’s still a little hard for me to believe that I’m this close to such a (arguably?) milestone age. In 18 weeks I’ll never ever be in my twenties again. Wow.

But I’m looking forward to it. So much so, that thinking about it has helped me with my ongoing depression. It’s given me something concrete to focus on, to plan for.

So with 18 weeks left in the countdown, I’ve come up with 9 goals to focus my energy on for the rest of my twenties (/dramatic). 9 goals that I also have specific mini-goals/strategies for helping me achieve them.

Become a better blogger
Improve my handwriting
Improve my fitness
Pay extra on my student loan principal 
Improve my Spanish
Write a novella
Practice better skin care
Deal with my name issues more aggressively
Develop better sleep habits

I plan on making this list into a visual graphic and then making copies of it to have at home and at work so I can keep a literal eye on my goals. They say that you are more likely to achieve goals if you write them down, but you increase your chances of achieving them even more if you can see them regularly. This has proven true for me in the past so that’s why I’m utilizing this method again.

Also, I tend to do strangely well when I challenge myself with very specific goals. If someone else gives me a deadline, or task in general, it tends to fall on deaf ears until I go out of my way to break it down and then psych myself up. This was true as a kid when cleaning my room (I’d make a list of the things I needed to do and then work on just one thing at a time), it was true in college (and the only way I survived my last term) and it’s true as a worker (I make a list of the overall goals for the month and then at the end of the work day I make a list of the things I want/need to accomplish the next day). I feel more capable when I break it down like this and then challenge myself to prove what I can do.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to over do it only to make myself feel like a failure. That’s why I’ve used language such as improve or better for most of these. For example, I fully recognize that I’m not likely to be speaking Spanish perfectly or even understanding it perfectly when it’s spoken in 18 weeks unless I actually immerse myself in the language and culture. But I can work on it regularly so that I’m more capable of saying the basics without thinking too hard or developing my vocabulary so that I can read/recognize words without relying on my English/Spanish dictionary.

So, here’s to 18 weeks more and, hopefully, an improved life as I prepare for the next decade. Since once of those goals is to become a better blogger, I will definitely be checking in on my progress via posts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read a bunch of silly posts about all the things a person should supposedly do before they’re 30. I’m pretty sure I’ll probably have accomplished very few of them!

Mental/Emotional Health · To Do

To Do: May

I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but it’s April 30th. And you know what that means!

Most of the first half of 2017 has been pretty bad for me mentally, emotionally, and even physically. But I’m working on it and April has seen more, if not good days then, even-kiltered days than just plain low days. While I seek more drastic changes in my life over the course of this year, I also strive to at the very least look toward small changes in the interim.

So in May, I’m finally going to partake in a Hygge-inspired challenge.

If you haven’t heard of Hygge, then you’re essentially like I was up until a week ago: somehow entirely clueless of the phenomenon. I must have been living under a rock (or more likely was trying not to be crushed by a political landslide) since apparently this became wildly popular some time late last year. Oh well. Better late than never. Actually, the timing of it is completely perfect!

The reason Hygge even caught my eye at last is because in a bout of whimsical longing for a simpler life where I’m actually content I went looking for photos on Pinterest to match my mood. For me this means a lot of photos of Autumn and sweaters and all of the other stereotypical “white teenage girl” things (although, a teenager I am not), but it also means pictures of flowers and sunshine and red hair and blonde hair and hair with ribbons in them and tea parties and trees and girls in dresses and girls smiling and… you probably get the point by now. Whenever I long for contentment, I don’t imagine it while working a 9-to-5, posting on Facebook-Twitter-Tumblr-Wordpress-Etc., bingewatching a show. While I enjoy those things, am extremely materialistic, have to work to pay of student loan debt, and won’t be giving up my favorite tablet games or television shows and movies or shopping, or anything else anytime soon, I’m desperate to cultivate a lifestyle that’s a little less of that and a little more of the things that require “unplugging” so to speak (I’m keen on eventually looking into a minimalist lifestyle).

While indulging my aesthetic and whimsy by pinning photos that represent the ideal (and ironically materialistic if you think about it, but I digress) life, I caught sight of a pin about a Hygge challenge. I was curious, clicked on it, and down the Danish-inspired rabbit hole I fell. I’ve always said I wanted to move to Denmark, so I guess this was inevitable.

That’s why I’m going to try and incorporate more Hygge-inspired things into my life over the month of May. That is, every single day in May, I’m going to do one thing that’s been branded Hygge (while understanding, of course, that this is a superficial attempt and Hygge is much more nuanced than a trend). The bonus is, a lot of the things that I have on my Hygge calendar are things I’ve been wanting to do more regularly or to try for a long time, but I never get around to them because of excuses. Excuses like: “I can’t afford the resources to incorporate those things into my life” even as I lay down money on clothes, hair coloring, Starbucks, fast food, dvds, etc. Or “I’m so tired all of the time” even as I force myself to watch movies, surf the internet, play Sims Freeplay (it’s not an addiction, I swear), write fanfiction, etc. Or “People will think I’m being weird” as if they don’t already think I am (I mean, writing and reading fanfiction at 29 is considered weird by a vast majority of people, but I do it anyhow; the key here is I do that in private when really I need to stop being so afraid of being myself regardless of others’ opinions).

By looking at other challenges and taking into account those things that are sadly still not within my means (aka, I do have a full time job to consider as much as I’d like to be able to wear slippers all day or enjoy an entire day to myself in solitude, which can’t be done at home on the weekend either). I mean, obviously this isn’t going to work at all if I challenge myself to do things that would be so difficult (even if rewarding) that I’d just give up. So, here’s the itinerary I’ve put together.

May 1st Wake before sunrise
May 2nd Spend the evening with a favorite book and some tea
May 3rd Buy some fresh flowers and a vase for my desk at work
May 4th Spend the evening with only candle light
May 5th Clean while listening to Billy Joel
May 6th Pull out a board game/cards
May 7th No Internet
May 8th Take a candlelit bath
May 9th Watch a favorite movie by candlelight with popcorn and hot cocoa
May 10th Spend another evening with a favorite book and some tea/ambience
May 11th Spend an evening with classical music playing
May 12th Meditate/do yoga before work
May 13th Go to local tea shop
May 14th Something special for mother’s day of her choosing
May 15th Go for a walk on lunch break
May 16th Go to bed early (on purpose)
May 17th Buy some pretty teacups
May 18th Fill up a notebook with words and thoughts throughout the day
May 19th Treat myself to a gourmet, hearty lunch instead of the standard workday lunch
May 20th Draw a picture
May 21st Try something new
May 22nd Color on lunch break
May 23rd Do something nice for coworkers
May 24th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 25th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 26th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 27th No Internet
May 29th Take family to dinner
May 30th Take an extra long walk
May 31st Reflect

Look, I could be dishonest with myself and in this post by saying, “Yes! I’m going to do all of this! And in 31 days my life is going to be amazing! I’m so excited to give this a try!” Truth is, I’m exhausted just thinking of this challenge, just writing this post even, and completely scared. I may fail miserably and it’ll be one more thing to hate about myself. I may end up getting no benefit out of it whatsoever. My attempts may not even be genuinely Hygge, since I’m working with what I can to start with. And the excuses are still running through my mind (I really am depressed, and mentally and physically exhausted 80-90 percent of the time because of it, for example).

But physical therapy isn’t easy. It hurts and is hard and many patients have to do it whether or not they want to. Self-care is no different. I’m learning little by little that self-care is absolutely necessary, in some form or capacity or another, and the stigma that it is selfish, that we’re just weak and unable to handle real life, etc. cannot stop us from taking care of ourselves. As someone with ongoing depression, among other things, it’s vital to treat self-care with the same kind of attitude as physical therapy. It may not always be fun, it may be difficult to get used to or exhausting, but it’s a critical component of one’s health, recovery, remission, etc.

So I’m going through with this to the best of my ability. And the optimist in me hopes that I learn a little more about myself along the way. The things that made me feel better, the things that I want to devote more time and effort to, the things that really didn’t do much for me, etc.

I’m not trying to make Hygge a lifestyle, like some, and I’m definitely aware that there’s a time for safe places and a time to throw yourself into harsh reality. I’m simply trying to remind myself that there’s so much to take pleasure in, that life is worth reconnecting to,  regardless of what depression or stress or a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ society may tell me. I want to start being a little more selfish in my self-care. I want to start being a little more exact in my self-care. I want to start looking for the pleasure that can be had in spite of how hard this life is. I want to slow down, evaluate, remind my mind and soul how to appropriately find joy and pleasure even in the humdrum of a small life instead of wishing for a life that is better, more fulfilling, etc. If I wait until I’m completely self-sufficient, able to travel at the drop of a hat, have accomplished some career aspiration, etc. then I’ll miss out on the ever-ticking seconds of my life that can be enjoyed right here and now. Perhaps Hygge will give me a good guide for how to start.

Personal Experiences · writing

To Be A Writer, One Must Actually Write

Note: if you were following me for my faith-based posts, those have moved to another WordPress: All Things That Grow. Also, apologies for lack of replies to the comments on my Doris Day post. Depression hit hard, but I will try to get to those shortly.

Some time during my second college degree, I stopped writing. Original fiction. Poetry. Songs. Fanfiction. I just stopped. Insecure and depressed and more, I stopped. A few years ago I started writing fanfiction again, but I kept it to myself. Then, I started publishing some of my fanfiction again and have been doing that again for going on two years. I get a lot of wonderful feedback, including comments insisting I work on my own material for publication (some from people actually in the industry which boggles my mind). In spite of that, I have remained largely insecure and have let that – and my ongoing depression – prevent me from trying my hand at original fic on a serious level. I’ll start to write, nothing will happen, and I’ll skitter back to fanfiction where it all comes much easier to me (which I guess makes sense seeing as the heavy lifting has been done and I adore the characters I’m working with most of the time).

It’s time for that to change.

Now that I’ve settled on a pen name that I adore, and now that I’ve been looking at some long term goals I have for the next two years, including moving to a new place while juggling student debt on my current salary (that whopping 2,000 dollar lump payment on one of my loans I just made has me seeing a few stars), I realize it’s time to stop hem-hawing and start creating content. Even if it’s like throwing darts at a dartboard and I end up with a whole lot of nothing before I end up with something, it’s like that old motivational poster: You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. I can’t be a writer if I never write.

So, a couple days ago, I opened up a new package of loose leaf paper – God knows I have more than enough laying around my room – and started drafting a story idea that’s been in the back of my mind (originally intended as an au fanfic in one of the fandoms I’m in) for about six months.

This is horrible, extremely rough, sure, but I know if I don’t share it I won’t stay motivated. So, I present you with the initial draft first section of what will hopefully be the first completed original fic I’ve written since college.

And I’d like to dedicate this little post to Simoa, whose perseverance as a writer has inspired me and made me dare to try again ♥

Continue reading “To Be A Writer, One Must Actually Write”

Classic Film · Film

April In Paris

 

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“It’s no use, Philippe. I’m in love with the man I married, and he’s not even my husband.” “Even in Paris, that is an unusual situation.”

Some stories I’ve heard/read suggest that Ray Bolger was an egotistical ass. And, unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the good looks and notoriety for people to swoon over him the way they do other egotistical asses (and Hollywood, then and now, is chock full of them if we’re being honest). I have come across Doris fans who write off this film simply because they can’t stomach Bolger, hate the treatment she endured during filming, etc. before they even get to the actual flaws the film might (and does) have. I understand that if a movie’s been tainted, it’s been tainted, but it always makes me a little sad that this charmingly saccharine little film gets left out a lot of times.

For me, I’m not here to see anyone or anything other than Doris Day making the sun shine brighter than anyone else can (sorry, Wham!, but nobody can top Doris). That’s a common thread for me in all of her films. With the exception of The Man Who Knew Too Much (blog-a-thon post by Crimson Kimono) and Please, Don’t Eat The Daisies, because I love Jimmy Stewart and David Niven respectively, the leading men are pretty much all nonexistent when I’m watching a Doris Day film because I only have eyes for her. That’s not to say I don’t have soft spots for her team ups with some of the other men by any means, (Rock and Tony come to mind since I’m no sacrilegious Doris fan!) just that it’s often been a case of needing a few viewings to even appreciate the male leads or costars if I wasn’t already in love with them.

tumblr_n3fvzqzg3a1qdrqovo4_250So because I couldn’t care less if Bolger was in this film or someone else – if it were the same film (and not an actor I abhor) – and because I find Bolger entertaining regardless of the moments I’m applying face to palm, I love April In Paris and urge everyone to at least give it a shot if they want to see a bright and sunny young Doris (her 12th film, and towards the end of her first five years in movies). I would urge everyone to at least give it a shot simply for Doris’ rollicking number, “I’m Gonna Ring The Bell Tonight”.

The film opens up with Bolger’s character, S. Winthrop Putnam (the S is for Sam). He’s a ‘politician’, specifically the “Assistant Secretary to the Assistant to the Undersecretary of State.” Of course, the joke here is that he acts more high-and-mighty than he ought when, really, he’s just an easily manipulated, graveling peon in the ridiculous bureaucratic system of Washington D.C. If anything, he’s only put up with because of his fiancé Marcia Sherman, the daughter of his boss, who has high political aspirations that she’s willing to achieve vicariously through her spouse – it seems whoever she marries will be in the White House if she has her way.

Underneath Sam’s rigid exterior isn’t a regulation-obsessed, power-hungry rich man, rather a whimsical Everyman into the arts who’s worked his way up from the son of a janitor and would like to give into his carefree whims and enjoy life. But he’s simply so entangled in the politics of following rules, pushing pencils, and pleasing older, regulation-obsessed, power-hungry rich men that he doesn’t tend to give into those whims. Fortunately for Sam, he makes a terrible mistake. An invitation intended for Ethel Barrymore to act as an American representative at an art festival in Paris is sent instead to a chorus girl named Ethel “Dynamite” Jackson who’d applied for a work permit for Montreal at the same time, Doris Day of course.

tumblr_n3fvzqzg3a1qdrqovo2_250In the opening act, before Sam learns of his mistake, we also meet Philippe Fouquet (ah, the little middle fingers that were given to the production code are sometimes very amusing), a Frenchman played by Claude Dauphin. He’s a Parisian night club owner who’s stranded in America, trying to get home, but being put through the runaround by the government – going through the “usual channels” which is essentially code for being tossed from one agency to the next because none of them are willing to help him. (Funny how 65 years later, things operate generally the same in that regard.) Philippe acts as the guiding force of the film, and narrator; he even breaks the fourth wall.

Sam rushes off to un-invite Ethel Jackson and finds her in the middle of a chorus line, singing “It Must Be Good.” Naturally, Sam is bowled over when he sees just how drop-dead gorgeous (hence, “Dynamite”) Ethel is. Sure, “what a built” may be entirely sexist, but aren’t we all guilty of having to pick our jaws up off the floor upon seeing Doris Day for the first time, and every subsequent time? I certainly can’t say I wouldn’t be right there with him if in a similar situation. tumblr_n3fvzqzg3a1qdrqovo8_250

What I love about Doris Day characters is that even though Doris is absolutely stunning and feminine, she’s not some picture of frail womanhood (no offense to the actresses who are, by any means, since we all need representation). Ethel Jackson is no exception. She’s a woman who will sock you if you tell anyone she’s been crying, who pushes back when she’s being pushed around, who gets angry, who rebels, who stands up for her dignity, and generally displays a wonderful range of human emotions and reactions while on her little adventure in the movie.

Sam breaks the news and, naturally, previously excited Ethel is heartbroken and singstumblr_n3fvzqzg3a1qdrqovo3_250 the beautiful Yip Harburg and Vernon Duke classic, “April In Paris”. I love this song, generally speaking, especially performed by Ella Fitzgerald – one of Doris’ biggest influences, and of course love what Doris brings to the table. It’s a moment of vulnerability for her, in the film, and her sedate performance, her emotional voice and tear-glossy eyes are simply mesmerizing. Doris always has this natural charm that pulls me in and it’s true when she’s being emotional too. For all of the “affectedness” that could be (and has been) wrongly attributed to her sunny, ultra-blonde, girl-next-door routine, for me, I’ve never seen that in her acting. I mean, she always breathes life into her characters just by opening that lovely mouth of hers whether to speak or sing or simply smile, but then she taps into the character’s emotions even deeper and shows off her acting chops and it’s like icing on an already delicious cake (seriously, Doris, you’re giving the rest of us unrealistic expectations!).

Now, obviously, the movie would end there if it were as simple as Ethel Jackson having her hopes and dreams of being spirited to Paris dashed for good. Fate, and popular politics, intervene when “the people” voice their joy at having a common woman represent the U.S. at the art festival and Sam’s boss responds with voter numbers in his eyes instead of pupils. Sam, after trying to fix the problem, has to hurry off to fix the problem again by making sure Ethel comes along, but not without performing a song and dance number with himself dressed as two different presidents, which gives us a little insight into his truer artistic and imaginative personality while also giving us another example of how he’s let Washington go to his head (honestly, he’s not overly likable as a stuffed shirt politician, and less so when I rewatch the film now following this past election cycle). Ethel doesn’t go without throwing a wonderful fit over the incompetency and runaround, but she goes.tumblr_n3fvzqzg3a1qdrqovo1_250

What follows is your standard fare: girl and boy fall in love, but it’s complicated. And it’s the madcap complication that makes it delightful. Some of the highlights for me include, aforementioned “I’m Gonna Ring The Bell Tonight” sequence (a song that gets stuck in my head for days at a time), Doris’ song number with Claude: “That’s What Makes Paris Paree” toward the end, and a humorous scene in the middle that is nearly completely impossible outside of its 1952 context – that is, it’s literally all about preserving sexual virtue prior to marriage and is an example of how the production code was literally played with for humor. One thing can be said for the production code, and I may talk about more of my feelings on the subject in another post, and that’s it sometimes gave us unique storytelling, creative jumping through hoops and witty satire we don’t see anymore (for better and worse).

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There are hearts in my eyes. Doris is heartrendingly mesmerizing.

April In Paris certainly isn’t the most nuanced film. It’s not Doris Day at her best (although that’s a false statement because she’s always at her best). It’s probably not even all that memorable unless you’ve managed to form some kind of attachment to it like I did early on. There are some misses, objectively and subjectively (I don’t love the jealous women trope by any means). But, overall, it’s still a cute little movie and a pleasant enough excuse to fawn over Doris Day for an hour and a half. I wish more people could see that and appreciate it for what it is! Cheesy has been thrown at this film as a description, but I say pop open a bottle of wine get a French loaf and enjoy it! And if you don’t want to watch the film, at least do yourself a favor and watch some 2e5o7jpclips on YouTube!

This post is part of the Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood, and just in time for Doris’ birthday! For more entries, click on the banner and if you enjoyed my post, you’re sure to enjoy the others even more!

XOXO Elinor Anne James

(Featured Image Credit: MoviePoster, Gifs made by me @ Tumblr.)

Mental/Emotional Health · Personal Experiences · To Do

To Do: March

Nine days into March, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to outline some goals I have for the month.

March, in the past, has always been a difficult month for me. It’s a month where depression either tries to sink it’s claws in deeper following some January and February lows or it’s a month where I start to climb out of January and February funk only to fall back down harder. Thus, I’m trying to be as proactive as I can at the moment. Staying on top of things. Avoiding triggers. Not stressing too much. Taking steps back from things. Focusing on healthy habits. So on. So forth.

Thus some goals I’ve set for myself in 5 key areas are as follows:

Health

I’ve let myself get lax with my walking and general physicality thanks to 1. winter and 2. emotional health. So I’m currently in the middle of a 2 week restart, getting myself back up to walking 10,000 steps (at least) a day. I’m doing this by using this guide from MyFitnessPal. I’m utilizing the off-the-couch one since even though I used to be able to walk/jog 3 miles a day, my body quite literally feels like it’s back to square one so I’m just going to ease into is as if I am. Today was day 5, so I walked 5,000 steps today! Half way there! But, boy, oh boy, was it a doozy. I don’t work in at a place where I feel comfortable getting up and walking (although many of my coworkers do so maybe a later goal is to deal with my insecurity in this respect), so finding a way to squeeze in more and more steps has been a challenge. If the weather were nicer, it would be no problem, as I can walk a nearby trail after work. So I’m thinking I’ll need to readjust my typical daily schedule to fit in logging some minutes on the treadmill – which is a bonus since I’ve been trying to get myself to use it more!

Spirituality

I’m not Catholic, but I during this season of Lent – and thanks to the inspiration of Simoa – I am trying to spend my Friday’s separating myself from the things that I tend to give too much time to or fixate on which for me is negative media (like social media, news, etc.) and writing fanfiction. The latter one may sound silly, but I sometimes find myself writing 10,000+ words a week and latching onto unhealthy behaviors with it (like writing instead of sleeping, not wanting to do work around the house because I’m writing, obsessing over updating, not focusing on my own original stuff which would probably be of more merit, etc.). While fanfiction is an outlet for me to let the pent up creative energy flow, sometimes I need to reel it in or find multiple ways to release that energy instead of “stemming” so much with it.  On Fridays throughout this season, I will be spending as much of the day as I can focusing on prayer, meditation, etc. I feel like this is especially needed right now as I’ve been so disengaged spiritually due to fatigue from the election and my ongoing break away from Evangelicalism.

Social

This is a huge trigger point for me so I’m simply trying to stay positive and not put any undue pressure on myself. Updating this blog alone is quite the exercise in itself. My goal is pretty much the same as it always is: engaging without getting stuck inside my head. I typically engage and then stress out over it after it’s done or stress out prior to engaging or stress out when it feels like nobody wants to engage with me.

Self-Improvement

I really do want/need to start working on my own original fiction writing again. So even if I have to pull a few teeth in the process, my goal is to write at least 5000 words, be it a short story,  a few short stories, some outlines or something of a greater work. 5000 words. If only I knew where to begin. Sigh. I have another post about this topic coming soon.

Interests/Hobbies

I haven’t been reading much lately and I really want to get back in the habit of it. So I may pick up a few quick (guilty pleasure, campy) reads from the Amazon Kindle store to read this month which will also get me back on track with my Goodreads goal for 2017!

Identity · Personal Experiences

What’s In A Name?

My stomach fluttered with nervous energy as I waited in line to order my grande white hot chocolate. When the time came I gave the desired drink order with well-practiced ease, but took a deep breath in as I awaited the barista’s inevitable question: What is the name for the order? For the first time in my entire history of going to Starbucks I didn’t talk myself out of giving a fake name. And to my delight I got a positive response of, “Oh, what a pretty name.” For a few short moments I was able to be the person I’ve always wanted to be – that is, someone with a different name.

Now, this is no uncommon thing for people to do at a Starbucks. You get all sorts of funny or outlandish stories regarding fake names given out, such as character names or the recent hullabaloo of people giving out the name of the current U.S. President. But for me, and for others who have been in my position, it’s about something more than just a little fun. It’s genuinely about identity.

In fact, I got this idea quite a while back from a forum of people discussing adult name changes. Someone suggested using Starbucks as a tool (just one of many, mind you) to help a person considering a name change, in that he or she can give the desired name when asked and then hear what it sounds like/feels like when called. Seeing as I have a short list of different names I would love to find the nerve to legally change to, I thought why not? Only, I chickened out far too many times prior to the experience described above.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I won’t be heading to the local courts Monday morning now that I’ve finally managed to give a fake name at Starbucks, but it was definitely an enjoyable moment of “what if” while it also gave me quite a bit to reflect on.

The biggest thing is that the name I gave was immediately deemed pretty by the barista. I can guarantee you that this has never, ever once happened to me with my real name and I’m not entirely sure it’s a common thing at all, really. Which is precisely one of the reasons I’m not sure I’d change my name to my most desired name if given the chance.

On the one hand I fully recognize that my desired name would probably be considered pretentious by others since it’s not common for women, to my knowledge, of my age group and since it would be a legal name change to said name, making it seem like I was trying to brand myself as something I’m not (in this case, elegant or pretty). On the other hand, I fully recognize that all of my desired names have been chosen to some extent because, thanks to ingrained social cues, they sound more elegant or pretty to my ears and I do long to have that sort of pride in my name – which in turn could mean I’m just inherently pretentious and that criticism is valid. (That’s not to say that I don’t consider a lot of names, some others deem plain, pretty because I do!)

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would still smell as sweet.

But is it true? Artists change their names – even if not legally – on a regular basis so as to stand out or to be brand-able. Even writers face the daunting task of selecting pen names that will give them a boost in the market. Consider Potentilla, also known as Cinquefoil, which is part of the rose family. You don’t hear a lot of children with either of those names, but you do hear Rose. You don’t buy a dozen Potentilla for Valentine’s Day. You don’t stop and smell the cinquefoils. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things, for what it’s worth, but we generally accept that Rose is the pretty name of a pretty flower that we give to our lovely little girls.

The fact is, names seem to be quite powerful things once given. If they weren’t people wouldn’t have the need to care one way or another. We wouldn’t link names to gender for one thing, and for another we wouldn’t make rash judgments based on names. If the way society-at-large viewed names was as simply markers for people to know us formally by then a barista wouldn’t even make comment one way or another on the prettiness of a name nor would we be talking about the Oscar prospects of Meryl Streep rather of Mary Streep.

So, no, I don’t think it’s true. Should it be true? Probably. But be it given names, chosen names, nicknames or else, names are a big part of our society and culture. And we seem to make a very big deal about them in general beyond just how they roll off the tongue, how they’re spelled, etc.

We tell daughters they should automatically take the last name of their father and then husband later if they should marry a man. We tell sons they should take their father’s last name to pass along to his wife/children. In fact, in modern Western society, all of us are given names at birth 1. without any choice in the matter and 2. before anything is known about us and whether or not we do, we are at least expected to hold onto those names as an identity for the rest of our lives regardless of if they’re practical, professional, or otherwise. Consider that even in cases of adoption, parents often change their child’s name, further emphasizing the purpose of names as an identity given to us from our parents.

I’m not saying necessarily that this is a bad thing or that we should just call children by their social security numbers until they’re old enough to have some say in the matter. I’d go as far as to say I doubt most people even share my sort of fixation, or complex, on this matter. And those who do typically seem to have similar negative experiences with their name that stem from childhood. That said, it may be better if we weren’t so rigid with names.

The reason I haven’t changed my name legally is because I’ve met with resistance. I’ve met with the likes of: Wouldn’t that be weird? How do your parents feel about that? I’d hate it if my child changed his/her name after the time I put into picking it. I like your name, why don’t you? It’s just a name.

It’s just a name and yet we make such a big deal about it if someone decides it’s really just a name and thus changes it. It’s just a name and yet artists change their names so that we’ll notice them better. It’s just a name and yet one is considered plain, another is considered old-fashioned, and then some are considered trendy. It’s just a name and yet we say some are suited for biological males and others for biological females. Then, to muddy the waters further, we designate some as unisex even if we don’t actually reserve them for intersex children the way we try to reserve boy names for boys and girl names for girls (ignoring feminism-based trends of calling girls with traditionally male names like James, John, Mike, Pat, etc.).

It’s just a name and yet a barista at Starbucks was struck enough by one to offer me an undue compliment over it.

True, a name is not the end-all of an identity, and I would hazard that I have a lot of other identity issues to work through that wouldn’t be fixed by the superficial change of what I’m legally allowed to call myself, but I quite seriously question that we have no right to consider the role our name does play in our identity and in how that identity is received by other people. In a perfect world we could name a son Rebecca and a daughter Joseph and they would never have to face any kind of backlash or undue scrutiny regarding their character.We just don’t live in that perfect world yet.