Monday, September 17, 2007

What's In A Name?

I was named after my father. My parents got married, and divorced young. And, when I was 2 ½ years old, my father took me to a babysitter and never came back. He left me with only the clothes I had on, and his name.

There were a few stops along the way, and I ended up being adopted by Ruth and Edward. I also ended up with their last name, and Edward as a middle name. I left Edward’s abusive home when I was a teenager, and I reluctantly took his middle and last names with me.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people have a deep connection to their name. Some people were named after a wise and adoring grandparent, or a beloved wacky aunt or uncle. For others, their name reflects a religious tradition or a specific era. Some people carry their parents’ hopes and dreams in their name, and most everyone keeps family history intact through last name inheritance. Most likely, you know the inspiration and the story of your name.

All of my life, I felt no connection to my own name – like I had borrowed it just because I didn’t have one. Every time I had to write it on paper, the external-ness of it reminded me of my particular aloneness in the world. I felt embarrassed every time I was asked why my birth certificate name didn’t match the name on my school records.

Six years ago, a very strange sequence of coincidences led me to meet my biological mother for the first time, since I was two years old. She shared old photo albums and family stories. I saw how much I look like my biological father, and I saw pictures of uncles and grandparents – people who shared my very first last name. She told me what a good guy my biological father really is, and she tried to explain how she “looked for me.” I know she’s lying. She answered a lot of questions for me, and in a lot of ways, I have gained a sense of closure.

Shortly after meeting my genetic past, I decided that I needed to take a conscious, symbolic step in the writing of my own story. I legally changed my name.

I wanted a name with meaning – something to remind me that I am not just a product of the disappointments of others. I needed to have a name that spoke to my experience and reminded me of my strength and depth and character.

I’ve written before of the magical experience I had in the early San Francisco rave scene. It was without a doubt one of the most defining moments of my life – a rare realization that everything in my life had led me to that moment. My first rave was Toon Town – UFOs Are Real. The lights and music swirled in my head and stirred my soul. At the peak of the party, I found myself in the middle of the dancefloor, a part of one huge pulsing, universal organism. For the first time in my life, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see this cute kid with colorful baggy clothes and the happiest smile I’d ever seen, just standing, looking at me and smiling. He reminded me of the Cheshire Cat. I asked him if we had already met, and I can still hear him saying “no, but maybe we should!” And then, he hugged me and we sat down, on the dancefloor, in the middle of thousands of dancing and jumping bodies and we became friends. His name was Cyrus.

Cyrus was the first friend that I ever made a rave, and he quickly became my rave tour guide and peace and love buddy. I loved his need to participate in, and contribute to the group vibe, and his energy was just tremendously positive and contagious. With him, I felt welcome and special, and a bit like his rave apprentice. To me, Cyrus was a perfect personification of the joy and innocence and intensity of the early rave scene.

Not unlike a flower generation before, the sudden burst of youth culture and magic energy was like a fleeting fantasy, and after a few life-changing months, our paths diverged and I never saw Cyrus again.

So, I had my middle name legally changed to Cyrus in honor of that time in my life – that time when I began to realize my place in the universe. Because our time as friends was so momentary and ephemeral and fairy-tale like, Cyrus is to my memory, a sort of mythical character who represents the time and place that I began to grow past the circumstances of my earlier life.

I believe that we are all a complex combination of a genetic basis, environmental influences and self-determination. My name, now has meaning to me as it speaks to this belief. My first name, from my biological parents, connects me with my genetic history. My middle name reminds me of the strength of my choices. And, my last name links me to the place where I grew up, and the people who raised me.

Now, that okapi thing…..


familyman said...

Congratulations on the positive change. Very touching post.

Cyrus said...

Thanks FM.

Lauren J said...

I loved this blog. Sad but inspiring all at the same time. I'm glad you've made a choice to celebrate the joy in your life.

Valerie - Still Riding said...

Survive and love doing it. I am holding that thought....

Checking on locations in TN, KY. Wouldn't surprise me...

Hugs to you!