This is a beautiful story full of culture, identity, and joy.
My parents named me after Esther of the Bible. She was a Jewish queen who saved her people from genocide and is known for her courage. My parents are both Christian, and they tell me they picked this name for its association with an honorable person of the Bible, and also its easy pronunciation (for my grandparents’ sake).
When I was younger, what stood out to me about Queen Esther was her beauty, so I was fully into dressing up, acting like a princess, and telling people I was Esther, Young and beautiful (no Lana reference intended…but did you catch the pun?).
I’m certainly not the bravest person around, and I don’t stand out in a crowd…but maybe I should have told you about my Chinese name instead because I live up to it a lot better, so it means more to me, although I go by my English name. Sorry. Here goes: My Chinese name 杨韵宁 means “life is a song,” “joy,” “peace.” All those nice things. My mom picked it for me, and I know those are characteristics she hoped I would bear. When you first meet me, I’m told I come off as a very happy person – not euphoric, but I do smile a lot. When something’s wrong and upsetting my relationship with someone, I usually speak up and try to set things straight.
I don’t think my name affects the way I am, and I don’t feel that it pressures me to be a certain way. There are a couple times that I’ve introduced myself to a stranger and she exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely name!” and asked me if I knew where it came from. It’s during these moments I’m suddenly aware I want to be someone who is known for certain characteristics. I’m not chained to someone else’s legacy, but since I’m given my own blank page, I definitely want to be the best self I can be.