Deciding my own name

Off the Beat

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I change my mind about what kind of life I want to live every other week. Over the course of any given night I’ll announce to my roommates, “I’m so over him,” followed by, “Oh my god can you believe that I’m still secretly in love with him,” at least three times each as my feelings run through the whole spectrum from indifference to infatuation.

All the while, I’m desperately searching for the smallest cue to force me to decide one way or the other. Choosing what to eat can land me in a confused spell for an hour as I lie in my bed staring up at the umbrella hanging from my ceiling and delicately weigh every option. By the time I decide, it’s too late to eat and I wait until the next meal to go through the whole process again. I’ve made more decisions with the help of coin flips and random number generators than I would like to admit.

Indecision is a vicious process. It’s taken over every aspect of my life. The moment I realize that I have to make any sort of decision it falls into flux and soon enough, everything around it falls apart as well until I have nothing solid left to cling to.

It’s the ultimate teenage dirtbag cliché, but I have no clue about the future. I know that I have to pull something together as fast as I can, but it feels like time was always a bit too short for me to think through things clearly.

As far as my parents know, I have everything figured out. When they ask about my plans for the future, I recite the same thing to them word for word and then abruptly end the conversation. I know that if they ask any more questions my facade of assurance would fall apart into a crying mess. I would no longer seem like the trustworthy, hardworking daughter that I’d tried so hard to convince them that I was. Instead, I would just seem like a lazy, indecisive loser.

It’s dangerously easy to play my indecision off as a fun character trait, an active imagination or a purposeful cultivation of inner turmoil to keep my internal life fresh when in reality it leaves me exhausted with myself at the end of every single day. Nothing will change unless I make the active decision to confront my indecision and find something solid to hold onto and really believe in as I rebuild myself as a solid entity.

When I think about how big and overwhelming of a task this seems to be, my mind floats back to my first night in Berkeley, the night I had to make my first major decision:

My floormates and I sat in a circle introducing ourselves. Simple enough, but with each step down the circle as it approached my turn my heart beat just a bit faster. Soon I would have to make the crucial decision: would I go by the same limp, caucasian mispronunciation of my full name that I’d carried around my whole life, or would I introduce myself as “Sanni.”

By my turn, I’d practiced what I was going to say dozens of times in my mind, but I still had no idea how I would say my name. I began calmly.

“Hi, my name is Sanni …”

I hesitated for a second and then blurted out the final syllable, half against my will:

“… dhi.”

“Your name is Sunny D? Like the juice?” someone asked, yet another repetition of the same stale joke that I’d heard all my life.

“Um, yeah. That’s basically it,” I said. My cheeks burned with embarrassment that sublimated into a defiant pride as I decided definitively that this would be the last time in my life that I introduced myself as “Sunny D.” I took control of my own name and identity in a snap decision.

When I think back to this moment, I become a bit more hopeful about having a concrete foothold to steady myself on as I work to become more decisive. Somewhere deep down, I have a decisive streak, it just needs to be nurtured patiently and with certainty, even if the way I do so is something as simple as insisting on a certain pronunciation of my name.

“Off the Beat” columns are one-off columns written by Daily Cal staff members.
Contact Sannidhi Shukla at [email protected].