Day 1925 – Day 1935
It is said that everyone has 3 names: the one that our parents give to us, the one which we are called, and the one that we go out and claim for ourselves.
What is in a name? A name defines us, in ways that we may not even realize. I was named Tania after my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother. I lived among French Canadians with a Russian name that was difficult to pronounce and harder to spell. And when I visited my cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents for whom Russian was a first language, I was the odd English speaker.
Although an outsider, I was an ultimate insider, too. My name created a strong maternal bond that was like an anchor in a life where I was tossed around on the seas of parental aspirations, moving home and having to make new friends and to fit in somewhere new, every year or two; sometimes, twice in a single year. Of my siblings, I became the one who spent serious time researching my heritage and working to live up to the high ideals of the women from whom I came. My mother passed away just as I was reaching womanhood, and so I am grateful for that thread of matrilineal Oneness that stretches back through time, as I made my way forward, without them.
Some believe that we ought to name our children based on qualities they appear to possess. Others believe that the greater power is in being named for qualities we lack, in the hopes that we will grow into our names.
I have been on a spiritual path for as long as I can remember. Along the way, I was given a Sanskrit name by a teacher. I think he chose my particular name because my stars are pretty awful. Any astrologer who has looked at my chart – whether working with Western or Vedic astrology – has looked upon me with pity.
With those stars, I grew up believing that my destiny was to be forsaken by fate. My spiritual name, however, means “greatly auspicious.”
When I first heard my new name, I hated it. It was harsh and aggressive, and not at all sweet and feminine sounding. My teacher reassured me that I could pronounce the consonants in their softer form, and so I did. I learned to live with the name and it grew on me. It became the name by which I was known, and when I traveled to India I was quickly informed that I was mangling the language, and requested, politely, to stop. Hard consonants and great auspiciousness; such was my fate to bear.
While others have recognized and sought to siphon my spiritual power, the legacy, with which I struggle, is a lack of belief in the gifts of my own potential. Perhaps without my second given name, I would never have been inclined to practice deep gratitude. If the good favour of the universe precedes you, follows you, surrounds you and is the meaning of own name, how can you fail to feel blessed?
The name that matters most, it is said, is that which we give to ourselves. I remember playing outdoors as a child and a stranger, who mistakenly thought I was lost, demanded to know my surname. I was frightened by him, and frightened that I would get in trouble for playing where I shouldn’t have been; so I lied. I told him my surname was Pink; I became Tania Pink. Pink was my favourite colour and while joyful, it served then, as now, as my shield of privacy. It is a word that conjures femininity, even if in a hetero and gender normative way. It is a colour that, while oft dismissed as passive, universally symbolises female sexuality and celebrates feminine power.
Before I even went to school, I had, of my own volition, set myself on a path to be a warrior woman.
Every name I’ve had – the one given by my parents, the one I became known by, and the one I chose for myself – have been neither frivolous nor always easy to bear. Each has taught me to be the woman I was born to be and to become. I am grateful for each of them.