Names and Labels

 

The clip above says it all, we as humans are obsessed with naming things. We have the same passions about labels too. So much so that throughout our lives we assign many names and labels to people and things without realizing it. Sometimes in life, we don’t even remember when they first happened but I do.  I remember them all..

Before even knowing, I was assigned the labels child, son, brother and nephew. This happened after my parents became aware of my conception. Due to my family makeup these labels became automatically assigned to me. At the time, I of course had no concept of their meaning or existence. They were just assigned.

Soon after, my parents decided on a name, Jim. I was to be named after my own father. It was a first name which had been passed down from my grandfather. It was the name of which I would come to know, as all children do, referred to myself.

I also learned the labels mother and father for my parents as well as their own names. Both a gift and a burden due to my father and I sharing a first name. If it wasn’t for my mother calling my father Jimmy or the neighbors calling him Big Jim and me Little Jim it may have been a confusing childhood responding to calls meant for someone else.

At a later point in life, I became aware of the fact that my name was not unique to myself. Others could also have this name and thus I had to become reliant on the voices which used my name to become accustomed to responding to those trying to communicate with me.

As time went on, the nickname Jim Jim was coined but I’m not exactly sure by whom. Yet again I had to become accustomed to being referred to by a different name. One of my aunts still uses this name today.

Humans, we are told, are social creatures and thus seek others for interactions. As I write this I wonder if this is a natural instinct or a learned behavior. Why? Because at some point I gained the label friend. I’m pretty sure it was because my parents sought to have me interact with other children my age either at a playground or some organized gathering. More than likely their parents had done the same. So if we are taught to do this at an early age does that take away from the instinct or is it just the way of fulfilling it? That’s way too heavy of a topic for right now so we will move on.

By the time I had become school-age, I had only known myself officially as Jim. I can recall sitting on my mother’s lap while being signed up for kindergarten to become a student. When the registrar asked the name of the student, my mother prompted me to answer the question. Confidently I responded “Jim“, I do know my own name after all. My mother responded “No, tell them you’re real name.” Real name? What have you been calling me all these years? At that point she realized and admitted that she rarely if ever called me by my formal name. “His name is James” she responded for me. This was a big lesson to learn. I had two names! Who has two names? Does everyone? As it turns out, no they don’t. Only a few of us lucky ones get that privilege.

When people become close to you and know you for a while they tend to make up nicknames for you based on some attribute or action you’ve taken, I was no exception to this. For some reason, I started carrying around a red wiffle ball bat. This was followed by using it as a weapon in fights I would get into. Strangely enough if I didn’t have it on me I would tell my opponent to wait while I would go get it. People began to call me Bam Bam after the Flintstone character. Fighting with a plastic bat isn’t exactly practical and thus I outgrew it and the moniker Slim Jim briefly took over.

Before I could become a teenager I was bestowed two new titles, brother and uncle. I didn’t know exactly what it meant to be either but I knew what it was to have one. Later on in life I would discover the importance of these roles but for the time being I continued on being a kid.

High school was a new adventure. Lots of people with the same name and no real way to distinguish them outside your general circle of friends. If you don’t already have a nickname then the common practice is to use your last name. A friend started calling me by a shortened version of my last name because he had a brother with the same first name and thus I became Nick. It was a little strange at first but it stuck.

Those 4 years lead to many other first time labels. For the first time I became a boyfriend, a common occurrence for people of that age. It was short lived but so are many things during high school. I also became a driver, another right of passage attained.

Soon after I started my first job and became an employee. My first job was short lived but I learned my lesson and bounced back quickly. My third job while still in high school lead me to a place where I would grow the most.  I attended the title of cook, manager and caterer. I also gained the nickname crucial because I liked a very unpopular rap group name Crucial Conflict. A co worker thus shortened it to crushy which stuck among some of the staff even to this day.

It’s not often in life that you get multiple nicknames or labels at once but one summer I did just that.  I became Jimifer before it was cool to be Brangelina and Transformer after an innocent teenage run from the police.

Growing up means the names and labels stop until you get one of the most important and expected labels, High School Graduate which was expectantly followed by College Student. From there the choice is either one of two options, I took the unfortunate options and became a College Dropout in favor of a technical school. I finished there and once again became a Graduate.

Becoming an adult slowed down the process of attaining names. I became a runner and an athlete for the last few years of my life.The process slowed until I met someone that would change my life. She named me Kozlik, a pet name she came up with for me. She made me a stepfather, the closest I had ever become to the real thing. Her daughter called me Jimmy John Jones, a special bond that will last forever. It was a very special relationship that I will cherish forever.

Adulthood afforded me a few more titles. I was a Groomsmen in a few of my friends weddings and the Best Man in my brothers wedding. I enjoyed watching others fulfill their desires. So much so that I wanted them for myself.

Still left for me are my most sought after titles; father, dad, husband, homeowner. Someday I will fulfill them. Someday soon possibly, or maybe someday in the future. Too bad that someday is not today.

My life with names and titles isn’t over. I will continue to attain them throughout my life and I will remember the first time each is assigned just like I have all this time.

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