A long time ago, there was a young girl – aged 10 or so – who spent hour upon hour alone in her room . This wasn’t a bad thing, really. Alone was a comfortable way for her to be, even though she sometimes wondered what the other little girls in the neighborhood were doing.
Were they playing “house” or dolls or swimming at the beach? Were their heads bent close together, conspirators sharing secrets about boys and their changing bodies and their common dislike of the new girl?
Sometimes, thinking about the other girls made her sad. But mostly, she didn’t mind being alone in her room at all, for it was there that something quite magical happened
She became Someone Else
The Magic started the minute she carefully gathered all of her dolls and stuffed animals, and put them in a circle. Once they were seated just so, she gave each of them a name. There was Sally and Mark, Kathy and Susan, Brian and Diane. Each had their own name, with their own “desk”, and their own writing paper with their names written on it in big, bold crayon letters.
The girl spoke their names often to the dolls and animals. She wanted them to know that they were important to her, and acknowledge that she saw them. Being “seen” is a very special gift to receive. Maybe the best ever When someone sees you, you know that you exist. You know that people want you around and that they like you. It makes you feel special, and maybe even a little bit taller.
Oh, and having someone call you by your name was extra special – especially when it was pronounced right! She knew this because, more often than not, people called her by the wrong name – sometimes over and over and over again, no matter how long she had been in their class or heard it pronounced correctly.
And whenever she was called by something other than her own name, her heart dropped. She imagined it happened because she wasn’t important enough for the person to remember to spell it right and to say it right.
This it made her feel very small, like there was something wrong with her. Something Weird. And being Weird was awful. Weird kids didn’t have many friends, and were picked last for the handball teams.
So when she was alone in her room, she would give herself a new name. One that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other girls. It was a name that would get her invited to slumber parties, or asked to play. It was a powerful name because it
She called herself “Jane”.
Miss Jane was the best teacher in the whole world! Not only did she remember the names of each of her students correctly, she carefully prepared papers with dashed lines and math problems so they could practice drawing their letters and adding numbers.
Sure, she might scold one for talking too much in class, but she hugged the children a lot and carefully glued innumerable stars – red and green and gold – on their school work so they knew how special they were. Stars told them what a good job they were doing.
Naturally, all of her students loved her, and knew her name, too. Miss Jane was their favorite person in the whole world! It wasn’t until after those magical hours came to an end, when she left the safety of her bedroom to go to school, that the little girl was reminded – over and over again – how different she was. How weird. How she didn’t fit in.
She was reminded by the snickers when the teacher would stumble over her name for the millionth time. She was reminded when all the other little girls, save for her and “retarded Kim”, were invited to an after-school party just down the street.
She was reminded when her mother and father asked her to be quiet, to go play in the other room, and to leave them alone talk and to drink. Or when she had a bad dream, and no one came to comfort her.
When she grew older, the woman used a made up name – one easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other women – when she met new men in bars. At least the ones she knew she wouldn’t spend more than just the night with.
When she grew older still, and married a man with a weird, unusual last name, she had children. The woman gave those children names that were easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other kids. There wasn’t much she could do about the last name, although she hoped her daughter could eventually change hers through marriage.
When she grew old, the woman grew to appreciate her name and to cherish it’s uniqueness – correcting or ignoring the mispronouncing of it, depending on her mood. And even though she’d spent innumerable hours alone in her room reading and writing, learning and healing her broken bits (you know the ones…the ones that make you feel unwanted and unimportant), she still found herself making that certain magic at times.
It happened every time the barista asked for a name to write on the paper cup, or when the saleswoman asked her name so she could write it on the dressing room door – to make her shopping experience more personal…to make her feel special.
It happened every time she placed a fast food order, created a user name, or was in some situation where it was just easier to be someone else. To be more common. To be more like others.
She told them, “Jane”.