December 8 – what’s in a name?

137/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I was born and raised here in Canada. I was named by my neighbours and never knew any other name but Randy. This is the name they gave me and this is the name I was registered in public school with and this is the name that I know to be mine. Many people – especially of my own ethnic background – thought that I sold out and changed my name. I didn’t – Randy is my name. Except, it isn’t. I only discovered the fact as I started growing up and moving into my teen years when I had to do paperwork for legal documents for passports and driver’s licenses. My name Randy was just that – given to me and had become interwoven as a part of my identity. However, I actually had an Indian first name that I was completely unaware of until I saw my birth certificate. I actually recall back in elementary where there was a mix-up and the name was called and I sat in class until attendance was taken and started crying as “I” wasn’t called. I gather that the teacher figured out that I had a Western first name and made the necessary changes on her attendance. Fast forward to my teaching years at Burnett. In walks a new student into the class a ¼ of the way into the year. She gives me her slip which has her legal name on it – a beautiful Persian name Azadeh. I begin to pronounce it and she stops me and says “call me Donna”! I was surprised. She was embarrassed. I let it go. After class, I asked her why she wanted me to call her “Donna”? She told me that it would be easier. No one can pronounce it. I told her that was my problem and I would make an effort to make sure I say it correctly. She railed against it but I didn’t give up – I told her that her name was so beautiful and that she shouldn’t have to change it just to make it easier for others. She then told me how to pronounce it. I told her that I would be calling her by that name from then on. I was the only teacher who did to the surprise of many of her classmates who knew her as Donna. I noticed a shift in Azadeh. She became more proud of who she was. At the end of the semester, she told me that she would be changing schools but she also told me that she would be calling herself Azadeh from now on out. I was so very happy for her to be happy with her name and her identity. As I reflect on Azadeh and the pride she took in owning her name, I too am about to take pride in my Indian first name and announce it publicly – although I won’t be changing Randy to it as my Indian name was never a real part of me or my identity, it is still the name that my parents gave me but allowed my neighbours to change to make it easy for me born into a Western world. Thank you Azadeh for giving me the confidence and pride in letting the world know that Ranjit is what I came into the world as but Randy is who I am.

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