Everyone has a name. That's a fact, but how many of us actually like it? Kids are born loving their name, or learning to love it. There’s no middle ground. I had to learn to love it. I know that this sounds weird, but it’s true. It wasn't an overnight process, loving your own name, it took me 6 years to love my name.
The day that I began to notice was on the first day of kindergarten. Before I didn't care much about my name. It was just me. I didn’t find anything different or strange about it. I only knew what my name was, and that I should answer to it.
On the first day, I tried to chase my mom off campus so that school can start sooner. At least that's what 5-year old Dania thought would happen. I grew up with the phrase, “Vas a ir al colegio, no pero’s. Vas a ir porque yo dije!” Which translates to, “You’re going to college, no but’s. You’re going because I said so.” I grew up with over-exaggerated tales of how everyone gets along and that everyone will be my friend. So you could say, I was excited for school, I wasn't scared or worried. Bullying, psh, what's that? Embarrassment? Never heard of it. Well, I found out pretty soon on the first day of school what that was.
At home everyone pronounced my name correctly, or they called me by my middle name, so I thought my name was normal. I remember the teacher calling out role, and she got to my name. I felt time slow down and I felt everyone staring at the teacher. Yes felt, it was that intense of a moment of quietness. The teacher never got that moment again throughout the school year.
I never felt more embarrassed in my life. Giggles filled the classroom, and I was a mess of emotions, I didn’t see my name as strange. Just normal. I never thought that my name would be a cause of giggles throughout a too bright classroom.
It’s very rare that someone pronounces my name correctly, but when they do, I always have a look of surprise. My friends used to tease me with my face every time a teacher said my name correctly. Don’t get me started on substitute teachers though. I always hated it when my usual teacher was absent. This cycle begins every year.
“Dan-ee-ah” that’s what most teachers call me for the first few days of school. The rough, deep ‘a’ and no smooth transition from ‘n’ to the ‘i’. The hard and sharp ‘e’ sound. Everything was just… a roughness that you couldn’t even imagine. I always felt a sense of dread when they would go through the list of names. That’s how I started telling people to call me Dani, or teaching them to pronounce my name.
Then came 6th grade, there was this girl that hated me, and I still don’t know why. I ignored her, just like how everyone said that’s what you should do if you’re ever bullied. She still didn’t stop, but me being me, I decided to fight back. I knew I was good with words so I used my words. When I threatened to report her, she played the victim, but she left me alone. I know that she isn’t going to forget my name for a while. She always had a way of twisting stories, but I know how to be truthful. I felt proud that I stood up for myself, and proud that my name now had a meaning. Not a meaning from the internet, but a personal meaning. Something that is more powerful. My name is Dania, and I am independent, strong, smart, and good with words. I am no longer ashamed of my name, or embarrassed when someone says my name wrong. My name is unique, it defines me, it is important, it’s me. And I will never change that.