Growing up, I would use any name except my own. It was partly because I didn’t feel worthy of my full name, Emanuelle, and partly because I didn’t like my nickname, Emmie. Eventually, I grew.
My name is Emanuelle and I don’t know who I am yet. I know who I’ve been and I know who I want to become. But I am a work-in-progress. I am lost.
When I was younger, I wanted more than anything else to be called Sarah. Now, I can’t tell you why. But back then, I thought the phonetics of it were simply gorgeous. I said it and played it in my head like a new favorite song. But then I got sick of it. Perhaps I grew out of it or I said it one too many times or decided that it no longer sounded like my favorite sweet treat. The reason does not matter. I moved on, but not yet to my own name. Because back then, when I said my name into the mirror, I was greeting a stranger.
Next, I thought that the name Alexis was the most beautiful name to ever exist. When my next-door neighbor and I played make-believe, that was the name I always assigned myself. We would be in her bonus room, using spare notebooks from school-years past, playing college. And I was Alexis. Back then, we were ready to grow up, ready for the world. But I was not yet myself. However, myself or not, I did grow sick of the name Alexis, too. I’m not sure when, not at all. But at some point, I did grow up. And I grew away from it, away from the delicate letters that had once sounded like a perfectly-tuned violin in an empty concert hall. I was not yet me, but I was growing up.
I like doing this one particular icebreaker when I first meet people. I like making people feel comfortable around me, so I always make a joke of some sort. The only one that consistently lands is telling them what name they look like. Maybe they’re a Silas or a Michael or an Alice or a Rebecca or a James or an Allan or a Madeline. The name is inconsistent, but their laugh is anything but. So, I wonder. Do they know who they are? Is that why they laugh? Or do they laugh because they think it’s true?
But, of course, the laughter comes to an end and they turn to me. “What name are you, though?” they ask. They ask, and then they turn up blank.
I just laugh again. “I’m Emmie,” I say, as though I’ve never said it before and it’s a completely new thought. “I look like an Emmie. But no one would ever guess that. No one really knows what an Emmie looks like, but I guess I look like it.” They always just laugh and agree.
I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I just say my name was Emanuelle? Well, yes. But I’m also Emmie.
I always used to hate the name Emmie. I thought the letters came together to form something ugly. I thought it was blunt and short and weird and awkward and childish. And I always thought Emanuelle was too much. It was Hebrew and I was ashamed. People always mispronounced it and called it a boy’s name. It wasn’t me and I knew that. I tucked it in my jean pocket and saved it for the future, for a sunny day. So, instead, I was Sarah. Then, I was Alexis. Now, I’m Emmie.
One day, I’ll be brave and elegant enough to be Emanuelle. I love the name Emmie now, though – honestly. I grew into it. It’s friendly and happy. It’s a good medium. It’s the halfway point from a strange, unfamiliar name like Sarah and the name of someone who knows who they are, like Emanuelle. But one day, maybe soon and maybe not, I will know who I am.
That day, I will own up to my true heritage. I will have the unruly curly hair of my ancestors. It will be out and beautiful. I will be confident. I will be fluent in the beautiful Hebraic tongue. I will be completely unashamed of my views, my skills, and my heritage. I will look into the mirror and see an old friend, one whom I welcome with open arms.
Soon, I will be Emanuelle Ahava. And my ancestors will smile.
When I was writing this, I was lucky to feel the writing flow through me. I had just gone on a long run and I was contemplating the constitution of the word ‘I’. How do you define yourself? How does your name define you?
I was wrestling with these questions, as I subconsciously have been for years, and so I did what I always do: I wrote. I didn’t know where I was going when I started, but by the end, I felt refreshed. I began to feel worthy of my name as I finally knew that I was growing. I am, finally, becoming Me.
Emmie Wolf-Dubin is a fourteen-year-old, eight-time published writer currently residing in Tennessee. She contributes to YR Media, has been published in local newspapers, and an anthology. Emmie is an active Girls Write Now, Girls With Impact, and WriteGirl mentee, on YR Media's Youth Creator Council, on Teen Ink's Teen Board, and the winner of five writing awards. She's conducted interviews with business leaders, authors, and actors. She's reported on various newsy-events, including a business conference and a press junket. She recently finished her full-length YA novel and is currently working on a compilation of resources for young writers.