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Kristen with an EN

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When asked why she named me Kristen, my mother will usually say that she “likes the E-N. It sounds like a strong person’s name, and a strong woman’s name.” I’m sure she didn’t pick my name or its uncommon spelling lightly. She miscarried eight months into her previous pregnancy, and my first moments of life represented our combined tenacity.

Although my mother and I had been a team since I had taken my first breath, circumstances with my father were always drastically different. He abused me, and I did not question his narcissism or his violent reprimands. Instead, I determined to please him by performing amicably and silently in both school and sports. I was a perfect mannequin, posed and composed, and completely fake. Afraid of punishment, I existed but did not live.
This changed when I was fifteen. My mother, a strong woman in her own right, stole my sister and I away on a Saturday when my father was on a business trip. She situated us in a new house and began divorce proceedings. My new family gradually lost everything associated with our former seemingly-Stepford existence. We were pariahs, cast out by our ultra-conservative church and our ultra-conservative friends, even as our father continued to harass us from afar. People refused to admit that my father was capable of the actions he committed, and I used my mannequin-like skills to hide (successfully, I might add) the pain I felt because of it. Regardless of what other people thought had transpired, I was diagnosed with a very real case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of my father’s abuse. I felt like Sisyphus, faced with the eternally lonely, grueling task of both balancing and moving a formidable burden. I had to make progress, but how, exactly? What would be at the top of the hill but the beginning of another effort?
In the beginning I found no answers. As I relentlessly attempted to steer my burden back and forth, life presented me with an interesting opportunity: Would I, Kristen, like to change my name? At first, my answer was a qualm-free “of course.” Maybe if I changed what I called myself, I wouldn’t be Sisyphus any longer. Maybe, just maybe, I would forget about that boulder.
Midway through extensive official name-changing paperwork, I entertained a strange thought. People had always misspelled my name, making it “Kristin” with an I-N instead of “Kristen” with an E-N, and thereby completely trouncing its significance. Even as I endeavored to change my name, remembering this annoyed me. Pause.
I still wanted this symbol of my old life. My old strength, my old legacy, my old self; I myself, Kristen with an E-N, survived my old life. I surely had the strength to carry on now, unashamed of my past and unafraid of confronting my future. I thought of my mother, who had aptly named me so that I would have Sisyphean strength to confront life’s Sisyphean obstacles.
That day, I began again like I had when the umbilical cord was cut. I believed that I could carry my burden, and I did that, and more – I beat PTSD, broke out of my mannequin-esque state, and began to discover who I really was. I began to love the journey back and forth as I embraced my new self while keeping my old name, Kristen with an E-N.



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