What’s in a name?

“No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself” – Haruki Murakami

Earlier in this journey, when I was in Nepal, my name was often misheard as ‘Dev’. This inevitably would make people smile, as in Sanskrit, Dev means ‘divine’ or ‘God’. It’s a good name: short, easy, although the Sanskrit meaning is a bit on the heavy side.

While in Singapore, I’ve been exploring the multitude of parks here and finding good spots to sit with my current read: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The other day, I came to the chapter where Cheryl changed her last name to ‘Strayed’ after her divorce (Strayed was not her maiden name).

I had diverged, digressed, wandered, and become wild. I didn’t embrace the word as my new name because it defined negative aspects of my circumstances or life, but because even in my darkest days – those very days in which I was naming myself – I saw the power of the darkness. Saw that, in fact, I had strayed and that I was a stray and that from the wild places my straying had brought me, I knew things I couldn’t have known before.

I had a bit of an aha moment when reading that particular passage. I’ve been dealing with some bad thought habits for a while now that I can’t seem to shake, no matter how hard I try. Maybe this is the solution, I thought to myself.

But first, a bit of a backstory. The day that I read that passage was actually the best time to set new intentions. In the West, we typically do that on New Year’s. But actually, the first new moon after the solstice is a much better time to set intentions for the year. It’s the actual start of when the natural world, the sun and the moon, begin their dance through the skies. Once I discovered this was what day it was, it was like a sign telling me that this was what I needed to do.

People have called me a handful of names throughout my life, mostly centered around my last name, but there’s another name that really sticks out to me because of the feeling that it evokes: Davi (dah-VEE).

It’s just David without the last ‘D’, so really not all that radical of a change. But it makes me feel something very different – I feel love when I am called by that name. Plus there’s this: the meaning of Davi in Hebrew is cherished or beloved. Coincidence? I think not!

So starting now, this is how I will introduce myself to new people that I meet. It will be a reminder to myself of who I strive to be every time I hear my name called. And every time I have a thought or emotion pass through my head that I want to move beyond, I will address it as Dave, the self that I no longer am or want to be.

So when Dave starts making ridiculous assumptions about people, begins to fall into old bad habits, or generally starts thinking about behaving badly, I’ll just say to him: “Thanks for sharing, Dave” and let that thought pass.

Here’s to setting big intentions for the next year!


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