One of the greatest struggles that a person will have as they transition from their childhood into their adult years is understanding who they are. What is my identity? Am I really nothing more than what other people see in me? Is my identity tied to something buried deep within myself? Is it created by my desires or does it stem from my actions (these really are two completely different places)? Is my identity based on this physical space that I occupy or is it anchored in a spiritual place and to a deity that dwells in that location (I won’t get all theological on you here but would love to discuss this very thing if you are interested)?
Regardless of your answer to these questions, who you are will manifest itself in the relationships that you build with other people. As those relationships develop, many people will begin disregarding your given name (primary identity) and replace it with a nickname (their identifier for you).
Most of us have a plethora of nicknames. My wife lives in a world of nicknames. She has two or three different nicknames for any person that she has developed a relationship with. This stems from her childhood as her family is the same way. These nicknames serve as terms of endearment and indicate affection for the person given the title. If my wife begins calling you something other than your given name, you have made it into her inner circle.
So, quite a few years ago, my mother handed me notebook with a green cover on it. I don’t know how many pages are in it but it’s about an inch thick. Every page of this notebook has a writing prompt on it.
What was the day and date of your birth?
Where were you born?
Do you know any other circumstances of your birth?
The purpose of this tablet was for me to journal my life experiences and then give it back to her so she could read it. Well, I have filled out some of the pages as the years have gone on but it still sits in my possession. I don’t even know if my mom has given this book another thought and she probably assumes that I have lost it or disregarded it.
However, it has stayed with me for twenty years or so now and made it’s way in various boxes and tubs as I have moved a dozen or so times during that stretch. When I worked at the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi, I would use this book as part of the boy’s therapy. Many of them would struggle unpacking their thoughts. I would use some of the questions in the journal as writing prompts to get them to unpack their family life.
And, from time to time, I get it back out and use it for myself.
This brings me to this morning. On page three of this journal is the following prompt….
Tell a family nickname that you had. How did you get it?
Myk uncle Ronnie (my mother’s brother who I feel like I most closely resemble) used to call me Zachariah Wickerbill. I have absolutely no idea why he called me that though. I guess it just sounded right to him. I’m not sure what a Wickerbill even is or if it’s a real thing.
So, I’m looking it up.
Apparently, a wickerbill can be found on the back of a car. After looking at a handful of Google images, I see that a wickerbill is that raised up flap that sits on the back of your cars trunk. I believe that people often refer to this as a spoiler. Now, I’m not sure that was what my uncle was intending when he called me this as it would make no sense whatsoever. But, I can still hear his voice when i type or say Zachariah Wickerbill. The things that people call us do not have to make sense. The identity is not grounded in the literal meaning of a word but is found somewhere else.
Another example of this is a name that was given to me by my friend, Abi. She calls me Zacho Tobacco. However, I don’t smoke. A friend of mine at work, Rob, calls me Zach Attack. But, I have never shown any form of aggression towards him or anyone else that I work with. My dad used to call me Skinhead but I have never been part of anything that that word typically implies.
When Sydney was born we started calling her Geegs. As I’m writing this, I can’t come up with the reason why that nickname developed either. Twelve years later, she’s still Geegs. When Caleb was born, I started calling him Bubba. Elisa didn’t like the nickname at first but it has stuck in a shortened form. We call him Bub.
So, our identity develops in many different ways and from many different sources. Our nicknames will often develop from those sources. What are some of the nicknames that have developed in your life?
Life is Strange. Live it Well.