Something that occurred to me the other day…When I was born, my Dad and Mom of course needed to give me a first name. I don’t know if they thought about it the way that I did when my daughter was born, but I know that my Dad absolutely did not want anyone to call me “junior”. This I never really got, but that’s what Mom told me (Dad wasn’t much for talking about such things). Anyway, So I was given the first name Robin. I really didn’t have much of an opinion about this at first, but as I grew, others made it clear that your name defines you, at least to the outside world. Even people who would never meet you or see your face form opinions based on that name they read on that piece of paper in front of them.
As I got to be a teenager, this became an issue for me. The nicknames that friends gave me, such as “Birdman” (which at the time was a name I liked) started to even affect the way I carried myself. But to the majority of people, I was Robin. Add to that the fact that Robin was also used for girls, this name began to exert a sort of negativity in my life. I started to wish my Dad hadn’t insisted on that name.
A neighbor came up with an idea that was just crazy enough to work in order to change my name. She told me to call the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Harrisburg, PA and tell them someone made a mistake on my birth certificate and it should read Robert instead of Robin. Not even considering the fact that it was a lie, I did so, and to my complete surprise, they told me to send the old one back with two dollars and a letter explaining the situation, and they would change my first name. I followed their instructions, and soon my name was Robert.
And so, for the rest of my life I would be Robert Clifford Hindle. I was rather pleased by this, although now I wonder a few things. First, Dad never really registered an opinion about this. Usually if Dad had an issue with something any of his children did, he’d let us know in no uncertain terms how he felt. But on this, he was silent, so I figured that he really didn’t care, although I still wonder if that was really the case.
The people around me took little time in accepting my new name, but of course, there were non-believers amongst my peers…One particular individual stating I had made up the story (not surprising, it was really what I expected). So I was now Robert to most of the world, although there is a funny story about one of the folks in my old neighborhood that didn’t ever have my name right.
The strange thing tough…Most folks still called me Robb (or Rob, as I always wrote it at the time). So in a way, nothing had really changed. Hmm…This is where my present day is. Most folks just know me as Robb, so the whole name change thing didn’t REALLY change things all that much. The only thing that really changed was my perception of myself. And now, since I’ve been learning Buddhism, I come to realize that a name is just a human construct, and really doesn’t mean all that much at all, if anything. I’m still Rob (or Robb, depending on how long you’ve known me). The extra “b” came when I was in my early twenties, after I read a short story by George RR Martin, A Song For Lya, and I unofficially changed my nickname to Robb after one of the characters in the story, and besides, I thought it looked kinda cool.
Now as I look back, it was all about how I thought I was being perceived by my peers and how I perceived myself. Also, my wife has told me she likes the name Robin and wishes I hadn’t changed it. And so… now I realize that this whole bit was just a waste of energy…and to a point so is this post.
But, I digress…Like everything else in life, a name is just a word…In this case a word that people use to identify you. Whether it’s Robin, Robert, Rob or Robb, it’s just a word, and therefore nothing more than a construct of the human mind. It really doesn’t mean anything. And I’m sure that there are still those who have their own names for me that I don’t know about, so it means even less.
Turns out there’s not really all that much in a name…