What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet”. – William Shakespear 

I’m good with faces, but terrible with names. I will remember your face, but your name escapes me. And for the life of me, it’s refusing to come back. 

But that is what you want me to know, isn’t it? Your given name. The name you had no part in choosing, gifted to you by those who named you, either on a whim or through long contemplation. You have carried your name for as long as you can remember. It’s yours.

My given name is Ekateryna [ eh k ah – t eh – r ee – n ah ] named after my paternal Grandmother. Katya for short, for friends and family, for everyone in the world. That is my name.

It carries the warmth of my mother’s voice, it’s soft and simple. 

There is a vivid memory of choosing my English name in first grade. A lack of cool sounding options led me to Kate, and she became my sidekick in all things English. We learned grammar together and practiced irregular verbs, but I always went home as Katya while Kate remained a foreigner, confined to a classroom.

When I was 12 my family moved to South Africa and Kate was born in a whole new way. Everything was strange and intensely different. The land and all it’s glory. The history, the incredible people. The languages…

I didn’t fit in, I didn’t belong, I was foreign. My foreign name became a shield of protection, sheltering my lost identity behind four letters, hoping to be accepted if for the name alone. Kate was good at surviving, quick to conceal her feelings, fast to pick up on subtleties. She was awkward yet persistent. Having read every book in the school library, while completely abandoning math, she gathered her words like armor. She made it.

Life took me back to Ukraine a few years later, to force me to belong again, but I was changed. 

In 2003 The United States of America welcomed me by instantly labeling me an alien. Good thing Kate was ready and willing to survive again. And so we did, because the human ability to grow roots regardless of where you’re planted is a highly underrated skill.

 A rose is still a rose. A thorn is still a thorn.

Through losing many ties to my heritage, I have lost the frequency of my name. I rarely speak my language and avoiding my people has become effortless if anything. There are very few that call me Katya, but damn if it doesn’t sound like home. 

I am sorry if I met you and forgot your name, I just remembered my own. But I know your face and I hope to see it very soon.