Growing up with a name unique like mine was sometimes a double edged sword. When I was a child, I cringed every time I had to start a new school year, a new class with a new teacher to butcher the pronunciation. It became a routine I got accustomed to…
Teacher: “Is Nirvana Ottero here”
Me: “It’s Navani, NA-VON -NEE” no r
Teacher: “oh ok, Nirvani, got it”
I mean it seemed simple enough to enunciate, it was spelled how it sounded, at least anyone of Latin heritage got it. Then again I grew up in Poughkeepsie NY, Latin population of .5 percent. I literally was related to all the Puerto Ricans that lived there.
Besides having the responsibility of correcting the spelling and pronunciation of my name to the world, I was also lonely in being the only person with it. Whenever I would scour gift shops on field trips for a keychain with my name on it, I would have no such luck. I would go my entire childhood without any personalized paraphernalia to adorn the walls of my room. I would never identify with any characters in any of the books I would spend countless hours reading. That coupled with the fact the fact that I had no middle name to accompany the strange first one didn’t make me feel unique but rather weird instead.
Me: “Mami why did you have to name me something so weird, why couldn’t I have a normal name people can pronounce?”
Mami: “Because I didn’t want you to be like everybody else. You are special and unique just like your name”
Apparently, being born in the late seventies to a hippie-esque mom meant getting inspiration from the strangest places. She was reading a book on Hawaii when she came across the name Navani – which means heaven-sent in Hawaiian. After learning that I had a new sense of pride in my name and what it stood for. Cut to high school and then college where I would introduce myself and then happily share the meaning behind my name when people immediately asked about it. This then led to many people saying “wow that’s different; I’m going to name my daughter that one day”
I of course never believed them. I would smile and laugh it off, suddenly happy to not know anyone else with the same name as myself. It became who I was… the girl with the unique name, followed by the Latino surname. My name was my identity and I held on tight to it.
I recently got back in contact with a high school buddy who informed me another classmate recently had a baby. She had a baby girl, and she named her Navani. I was so touched! Touched beyond words, just like I was the other three times I had someone tell me they too named their daughter after me. Who knew a part of me could touch someone else’s life that way? It is a wonderful feeling, well worth the grade school torture lol.
Thanks to Jesus for inspiring me to recollect on the story of my name with his blog.
Oh, and thanks to my cuz Christian for getting me my first of many monogrammed items lol.