Shakespeare penned the words, “What’s in a name?”
Are names important? And if so, why?
At birth our names define us. And for the rest of our lives they are an extension of who we are. They have the ability to evoke certain images or thoughts. In an essence our names define us; yet, in return we define them.
My name is Kalifa and when I was younger, I didn’t always like my name. Particularly, when meeting people for the first time my name thrust me into an unwanted spotlight. Usually people had a hard time pronouncing or spelling it. As a result of this, I longed for a “simple” name. By simple, I wanted one that everyone knew and wouldn’t allow me to stand out so much.
I used to think why my parents couldn’t have chosen differently. Isn’t that interesting? Something so integral in defining who we are from the beginning of our lives, we have no control over. Our parents pick our names. Therefore, we could say that our names are a reflection of our parents desires and hopes for us. Oftentimes, the meaning stems from something personal to them. My parents have told me that they wanted a name for me that had both an ancestral and spiritual meaning. Kalifa means “holy child” and they were inspired by the Bible verse 1 Peter 1:16, “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’.” As well, my mom likes to remind me that K is her favorite letter.
While Kalifa is not your average name, when I was in middle school something happened; my name became more recognizable. It was during this time that the rapper Wiz Khalifa became popular. To a certain degree, people knew how to pronounce and maybe even spell it. However, it wasn’t until high school that I fully embraced my name. I like that it’s unique. I like that I will mostly likely be the only Kalifa people meet in their lives. Also, I get to carry the aspirations of my parents with me. Unfortunately, I may never find my name on giftshop mugs or keychains, but that’s okay.
How do you want to define yourself? When people hear your name what do they think of? While we may not be able to choose our names, we can choose the type of person we want to be.
So, who will you be?
My name is Kalifa. That is six letters, three syllables, and so much more.
What’s in a name? Maybe nothing and perhaps everything.
Kalifa Stringfield is a Masters student in the Department of Biotechnology