1.21.2014

My Name Is Jennifer. And So Is Yours.

 



Because I was born in the 80’s to middle class, (mostly) white parents, my name is Jennifer.

Just Jennifer. With not even an unexpected letter thrown in or taken out for good measure. Me and some 1.1 million other people.

Because my name is Jennifer, I sometimes feel stunted of individuality. As a child who grew up with at least 2-3, sometimes 4, other girls with the same name in my class/team/troop/etc, I certainly could not rely on my name to distinguish myself. (You know your name is far too common when even adapting versions and nicknames, Jenny, Jen or Jenn with two-n’s as though there were a difference, is still not a distinctive enough way to differentiate yourself.)

 
Because my name is Jennifer, I have never felt a fondness or dare-I-say even a connection to my name. Even as a small child I used to badger my parents about their selection. I would ask over and over again, “Why didn’t you name me something better, like Jolene?” Jolene? I don’t know; I won’t go there. But I always wanted something other than what I had. The ideal changed over the years to what sounded beautiful and unique to me at the time – but always something else, that would match me better.
Because my name is Jennifer, I was pretty thankful for a somewhat redeeming last name growing up. My last name was unusual enough that I had to spell it after I said it, if I ever did hear of another person who also had it, that most likely meant we were related, and, best of all, it shortened into totally cool nicknames across whatever sport team I joined or college dorm room I bunked in. Enjoying the reprieve from title-monotony, I liked that most of my friends called me by my last name, or some version of it. Thank goodness for that.

And then I got married.
If you know my married name, you’re laughing right now. It is only mildly better than Smith – and by mildly, I mean a tiny smidgen. I’m pretty much Jennifer Smith now. There is absolutely nothing about my full name that does not say boring, commonplace, and classically plain.

Now that I have offended both my own my parents and my in-laws, I shall scurry along to my point.

It’s pretty much just that I am Jennifer Smith. And so are you. Even if you have a beautifully unique name – like I hope I have given my children, or like my mother thought she was giving me in 1981 – we are all fairly ordinary amongst the 7 billion people habituating this earth. We are but tiny blips in the incomprehensibly vast span of time before and after our own existence.

 
When we’re young, most of us grow up thinking we deserve to be famous, royal, fabulous in big ways. After all, this is what we're told in most healthy childhoods: you can be anything you want to be; you can achieve great things; you are special. Well, then we grow up in wisdom and (hopefully) begin to realize we are not quite so distinct, maybe not so equipped to take on absolutely anything we should desire, and certainly not so entitled to deserve special recognition at every turn.

In fact, against the backdrop of all-time, the only way we even matter and make a difference is by linking ourselves to something bigger with faith; in small way, after small way, day after day, year after year; in community, in relationship and humility.

So, suffice it to say, I’ve grown enough to be okay with being judged by my ultra-common name. (I do admit though, I am shallow enough to smile at the people - which includes my husband - who still call me by my maiden name.) But I understand now, we are all Jennifers - and Bobs, and Jessicas, and Mikes - even if your name is Arabellesquella.

We are different from each other, but probably not to the extent we imagine ourselves to be. The commonality of humanity looms bigger than our individuality. I'm only as special as everyone else.
We all will grow old, if we even make it that long. We all will eventually be forgotten. So let’s remember, Jennifers, to use our blip of time wisely, humbly, and in the service of someone and thing other than our not-so-fabulous selves.

7 comments:

  1. if it helps, I call you J-Ro :)

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  2. It could be a lot worse...suppose I just called you "Bob's Wife" or "Spouse to a Loser"? No I would never do that. That would be even MORE depressing...as though you needed to be reminded of him during those parts of the day when you are NOT waking up beside him and controlling the urge to vomit.

    :)

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  3. Oh Allan, sometimes I feel like my identity is "Bob's Wife" which is kind of sad. Now, "Spouse to a Loser" might be a new one. Certainly "Jennifer" would be preferable to either of those.

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    1. You're right. That _is_ sad. He, however, is quite lucky if he thinks of himself as "Jenn's Husband." Let's be honest: he has little else going for him. He's not pretty...His taste in music leaves much to be desired (no TOP GUN soundtrack?!?!?! What a schmuck!)...and did I mention that he's not very pretty? Fortunately he has a beautiful, intelligent wife who is an amazing writer. ;) All (decent) men should be so lucky.

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    2. I'll take that. Thank you, my friend. Would you believe that he recently put Top Gun in the give-away pile when we were cleaning out our CD collection? Don't worry, I rescued it back out again - to its prominent position in my heart (and the keep pile).

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  4. Excellent! Posted a link to it on my blog.

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