reverb10: what's in a name?


December 23 – New Name
Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)



As a society, we put a lot of stakes in the naming of things. Language matters and the name our parents give us is the beginning of who we will become. Will we resist our name, rebel against its meaning, or embrace it and make it our own?

When I was younger, I created an alter-ego/alias: Anna Gold. I wrote the name on my piano practice book, my backpack, and practiced my signature during class. When I was frightened, of a new situation or of what hid in the dark recesses of my closet, I repeated the name over and over in my head. Anna was all the things I wasn’t. She was glamorous not clumsy. She was popular, not geeky. She was proud and beautiful and boys were interested in her. I, on the other hand, hid in oversized t-shirts and was the kind of girl that boys played kickball and rode bikes with but never thought about kissing. Anna was a force within me that wanted to be something, someone I felt I could never be. I tried to embody this new persona by growing out my hair and wearing makeup but it never truly felt like me. By high school, I had abandoned Anna along with the piano lessons and became serious about writing. I considered adopting Anna Gold as a pseudonym but my writing was too personal; it was too Devon Fitzgerald to be anything, anyone else. But when I come across books with her name emblazoned on them, I’m reminded of my 11 year old self struggling with what it meant to be “Devon Fitzgerald, preacher’s kid, Devon, the aspiring writer, Devon, the smart girl, Matthew’s sister.” These have been my identities, ones I’ve rebelled against, resisted, denied, identified with and embraced.

A guy with whom I had a tumultuous relationship called me Muriel, because he thought I resembled Toni Colette in Muriel's Wedding. Muriel was again, this version of myself that was both better and worse than my everyday self. She was bold and funny, always up for an adventure. She was also selfish and brash and reckless. I needed to be Muriel to figure things out, to give myself permission to try something new, to steel myself against the guilt and sadness that crept in night after night when I wasn't paying attention. I've come to terms with that time in my life and I see why I needed to be someone else who was like me but not completely me, for a while.

That being said, I love my name and all that it means. Devon is Celtic or English, depending on which etymology you follow and in both cases means "poet." But it also represents all the places I've been, how I've grown into it and wrapped myself around what it means to be me.

So, like many others who answered this prompt, I'm not sure I'd want another name.