What’s in a Name?

(A true story by Tyler San Marcos from the Vissell’s book,
“Meant To Be.”)

For as long as I can remember, I have seemed to know the name of the woman with whom I would spend my life. It was supposed to be Amanda. I really don’t know how I knew this; I don’t consider myself psychic. I do vaguely remember a few dreams in my adolescence including that name, and then one more in my mid twenties. But more than the dreams, I have always seemed to possess a knowing that her name would be Amanda.

On my thirtieth birthday, I looked back at my life with sadness. I had met several Amandas, but none were right for me. I tried very hard to be with one of these women, to make her somehow fit as a lover, but it didn’t work. It ended painfully. I had other relationships with women of different names. These, too, were painful as I tried to fight against my inner knowing, or even to pretend that I didn’t have this bit of information locked in my heart.

I also felt anger. It felt like a handicap to have such a precise qualification for my life partner. I felt limited in my relationships. My friends could enjoy the simple pleasure of dating with an open mind and heart. I felt biased, at times even cursed.

For example, there was a beautiful young woman, Heather, who lived in the apartment next door. I felt attracted to her. I felt comfortable with her. When she greeted me with that warm smile of hers, I felt her genuine caring. If her name was Amanda, I would have leapt for joy. But I had to hide my feelings for fear of breaking her heart-and mine.

One Saturday morning, I decided to take a walk. My apartment building bordered a large park with tree-lined walkways. As I stepped out into the hall, I noticed Heather was also leaving her apartment. We said hello-why did she have to disarm me so completely with her smile? Walking together toward the stairs, I told her I was going for a walk in the park.

She said, “I was heading that way too. Would you mind if I came along?”

“No, I’d like that,” I quickly replied.

Then came that old familiar conflict. Enthusiasm to be with someone I really liked, and fear of getting involved with someone I would end up leaving.

For the walk, however, I managed to put aside my worries. Being in Heather’s presence was so comfortable, so familiar. We had a great time, with much laughter as well as some serious conversation about our lives.

Later, alone in my apartment, I started to panic. One walk in a park and I was falling in love. How could this be? I again felt angry at my “curse,” and resolved that I needed to follow my own path, to choose the person with whom I would spend time. I refused to be controlled by a name anymore. I would spend as much time as I wanted with Heather. And I certainly wanted to spend more time with her.

I knocked on Heather’s door later that afternoon. It was almost like she expected me, and warmly invited me in. She showed me her apartment. We talked for hours; it was amazing how much we had in common. We talked about our spirituality. Although we came from seemingly diverse backgrounds, we shared the same basic beliefs about a Higher Power that was as much a part of us as it was a part of everything in the universe.

It was obvious that we liked each other wholeheartedly. I told her how comfortable I felt in her presence. Her smile told me she felt the same. I knew I needed to tell her about “the Amanda thing” but, before I could begin, she started talking about her childhood.

“Tyler,” she began, “I didn’t have an easy childhood. I can’t remember any time my parents sincerely listened to me. You’re such a good listener. I feel important in your presence.”

“That’s easy,” I interrupted, “I can’t remember ever enjoying listening to someone else this much.”

Heather smiled, thanking me, then continued in more serious tones, “I felt pressured by my parents to live my life according to their beliefs, to follow in their footsteps. When I finished high school, I couldn’t take it anymore. I chose a college as far away from home as possible. In my attempt to find myself and my own values, I did some wild living with partying, drugs and sex. I even changed my nameā€¦”

A bolt of electricity shot through me. “Heather,” I interrupted again, almost afraid to ask, “what was your original name?”

She looked sad, then continued, “I hated my name. It has always been a reminder of an oppressed, controlled child I’ve been trying to run away from. But lately I’ve been feeling differently about that name. I’m considering going back to it, sort of reclaiming my lost childhood. What do you think of me going back to my childhood name, Amanda?”

“YES!!” I almost shouted. “I love the name Amanda!”

I could scarcely contain my excitement. My story tumbled out of my mouth. Her face went from puzzled, to amazed, then to excited. With tears in my eyes, I reached out and hugged Heather. No-Amanda!
That was nine years ago. Amanda now loves her name. Our son and daughter like to call her Amanda as much as they call her Mom.

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