I Have Two Names | Teen Ink

I Have Two Names MAG

October 4, 2018
By chelsea4711 BRONZE, Homewood, Illinois
chelsea4711 BRONZE, Homewood, Illinois
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Oyindasola means “Honey poured into my wealth.” It’s a fairly common Nigerian name, mainly used for girls. Legally, I’m known as Oyindasola but my nickname is Chelsea. Some ask why I don’t go by my real name and I tell them what my father told me: a story about him visiting Chelsea, South West London a year after I was born. I tell them that this nickname spoke to him so much that it had to be used on every birthday cake of mine. Chelsea was sprawled in sugary icing every year. I’d blow out each candle with confidence – my birth name becoming as foggy as the smoldering wicks.

At seven years old, inside the brick walls of our townhouse in Brooklyn, I made a decision. We were moving to Nigeria, and my mother needed to know what family there would call me. The nickname I’d been called for as long as I could remember … or, the complicated string of syllables on my passport? A simple question. But it tore me apart. Dad wasn’t coming with us and I couldn’t comprehend it, but being called anything other than Chelsea made even less sense. A week later we found ourselves in an airport with the collective hum of Nigerians and tourists invading our ears as we headed for the cab. Lagos, Nigeria. It was nothing like the movies mom watched back in New York. In the flesh, it was much more colorful than the images they showed on the news. After a week of getting used to the thicker voices, spicier foods, and sharper scents, I fell into routine.

Soon, memories of Disney were replaced with sounds of rhythmic Afrobeat music from the likes of Lagbaja and Fela Kuti that grandpa would play in his rusty black BMW. Bobbing my head along in the backseat, I’d always try to count the drum beats. My tongue grew heavier with the Nigerian accent. My skin became peppered with mosquito bites from playing outside too long. The words shared between my mother and grandma in their native tongue were finally making sense. But, I still wasn’t Nigerian enough. There, I was taught to be meek and obedient. Elders followed the principle, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Where assertiveness was viewed as confidence in New York, it was disrespectful in Nigeria. I tried to be softer, quieter, a listener and not a speaker. But disdainful looks and snide remarks were a constant reminder of who I was. The American girl with the phony, westernized name.

So, I wasn’t absolutely crushed when mom announced our relocation back to The States for her career. On the first day of middle school in America, anxiety coursed through me because I knew my birth name wouldn’t escape the attendance list just as I couldn’t escape the suffocating classroom with linoleum tile and stinging fluorescent lights. I was mortified. Clenching my stomach, I shot up my hand when the teacher mispronounced my painfully long name. O-yin-da-sola? “Here.” Fifth graders shifted their pupils and snickered across the room as I looked down at clasped hands. I hated it. I hated every second of explaining that it’s just the name I was born with, a random string of words on paper. “I go by Chelsea.”

But with every passing year, came new confidence. Every new attendance roll call elicited a bolder voice and a wider smile. That long name, mispronounced or not, is mine. The Nigerian accent slipping through when I’d say the right pronunciation is mine. Who I am is simple: a Nigerian girl with access to the American dream, not conforming to any stereotype or label. A girl with two languages and a Spotify playlist that varies greatly. But I have two names, and I don’t mind. 

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This article has 2 comments.

on Mar. 6 2019 at 2:06 am
JAGO0578 SILVER, Tirana, Other
5 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Thats really cool

whiteguy said...
on Feb. 21 2019 at 12:57 pm
whiteguy, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
thats good