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As real as my true self

When I travel and visit hotels, I am often spoken to in English and cause brief irritation when I out myself as a German. My name suggests the first assumption and it has always been so natural to me that I sometimes forget it. For many people, the name is closely linked to the family and thus, for example, to a sense of belonging. In my case it all looks a little different.

History, stories and genes

To get straight to the point: I like my name a lot. I think it’s cool. Always have done. I recently spoke to my Hamburg parents about our family name again. That reminded me of how much I now know about my ancestors and our family history. If, here and there, I am mistaken for a Scotsman or British, it is not surprising that my ancestry does indeed include Scots. Scots who emigrated to South America a long time ago, to British Guyana. Later the family branch returned to Europe, which ultimately led to my birth in Hamburg. Dealing with your own genetic history is exciting because it reveals how much world and development there is in each of our cells.

Everything under one roof

However, all of this makes up only one part of my origins, because, as most of you know, I did not grow up with my birth parents in Hamburg, but in my Bochum family, made up of "selected" siblings. I didn't know a common “roof name”, but a common roof of life. For me it was completely normal that my siblings and parents all had different names. The name was not a factor in making you feel like you belonged to the family, for example. This is more and more the case today, I think, because people can keep their own names even when they get married; there are more and more blended families and alternative concepts of life. My family, my "inner circle", are not necessarily or automatically the people whose name I have. It does not determine the degree of closeness and familiarity. At the same time, it connects me with my origins, and yes, I like that, it’s too important to me and I am happy to know that all these different aspects are united in my life.

Differentiation draws attention

McDavid is mistaken for an artist name every now and then and the surprise is appropriate when I can assure people that it is a completely real name of my own. Thanks to its English pronunciation, it is very useful when traveling and when I meet new people it very, very often offers an easy introduction or starting point for conversations in which you get into detail. That saved me and others a lot of small talk about the weather. Sometimes it is the big and sometimes the small differentiation that draw us attention. In any case, I often think that this name couldn't have been more appropriate for me.

For nothing in the world

Are names ephemeral? Are they insignificant? From Goethe's "Faust" originates the saying that they are "smoke and mirrors". We are certainly more than a name and at the same time it is extremely closely linked to our identity. It means something to us. It denotes us. We want to take it off if we don't like it or don't like our origins. It is important to us that it is spelled and pronounced correctly when we are aligned with it.

With McDavid, with Janis McDavid, I am as aligned with as one can be. Janis, my first name, is a form of “Johannes” or “John”. The Latinized name John goes back to the Greek form Johannes of the Hebrew name Jochanan and means "God is gracious, or is translated, among other things, as "God's gracious gift" in relation to birth, which, given that my best life began with my birth, I find just as perfect for me as my last name. Nomen est omen.

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© 2024 Janis McDavid