My previous blog post was about embracing all of the things that make me who I am, but I also mentioned a later blog post in which you could read about how I made some changes within myself that lead to even more happiness. As promised –
How Changing My Name Changed More Than Just That
I’ve always really liked my name. Delaney. It’s not too complicated, (unless you’re a substitute teacher), it has the right amount of femininity, it’s reflective of my Irish heritage, and I love that you can take at least 20 different nicknames from it. You could probably say that it’s my favorite birthday gift I’ve ever received. (I might’ve changed this year, but my terrible jokes sure haven’t!)
When I decided to move to Senegal, I realized that this was the perfect time to start fresh. This could possibly be the only time in my life in which I move to a place where not a single person knows me beyond a coffee date and grabbing dinner together. Essentially, I had a clean slate, and I was the only one holding the brush that painted what other people thought of me. I began to think of all the things I would do differently with this brand new group of people, but I needed something that would signify a change of self, even if I was the only one who knew it. So, I decided to change my name.
Everybody, for the most part, I know through Global Citizen Year knows me as Dani. I’ve only been called Dani one other time, and it actually sounded more like “Daney”. This name was curtesy of a younger girl, Amara, I attended the same church as. Our moms both spent a considerable amount of time at the church, and so I often found myself watching after her. I carried her on my back more times than I could count, and I grew to adore her. Over the years, she became like a younger sister, and we formed a pretty special bond. As blasphemous as it sounds, I think if she hadn’t been taught otherwise, she would’ve thought that I was the one who turned the day to night and the night to day. I always wanted to be the best person I could be for her. In her eyes, I could conquer the world. She reminded me of all the good in humanity, and all of the good that I have within myself.
This was the exact thing I wanted to base my “new self” off of. I needed something that reminded me of all the good in the world, and the name “Dani” was the perfect thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the “old me”, Delaney, was a bad person. However, there were a few things that I didn’t specifically like about myself. Delaney cared a lot about how she looked every day and wouldn’t leave her house without make up. Delaney could be pretty stubborn. Delaney usually talked more than she listened. Delaney spent A LOT of time watching TV, and not enough time exercising. Delaney didn’t really spend any time doing self-care. Delaney didn’t always spend a lot of time actively caring about anything. Delaney could be pretty apathetic, and that is exactly what I strive NOT to be in life. Delaney lacked balance.
After working on it for a few months, (some of it voluntarily, some of it by force of circumstances), Dani became a better, more balanced person. Dani doesn’t care quite as much about how she looks when she walks out the door, but still cares enough to look put together and feel confident. Dani has learned to ask for help when she needs it, and is so much better at knowing when her needs don’t come first, but also when they do. Dani now (usually) listens more intently, and talks less frequently. Dani spends much more time doing ab-work outs in her room or going on sun-rise walks, and doesn’t watch as much TV. Dani now knows the importance of taking care of yourself, because she learned that self-love is essential, and that easily translates to self-care. Dani learned that caring about things- anything- is one of the best characteristics someone can possess. Dani became someone who she’s proud to be when she gets up in the morning. Dani found balance.
Changing my name was the first step of making a few lifestyle changes that would eventually lead to a healthier, happier, more balanced me. I’m hoping these changes transfer with me back to Washington, and I have a good feeling that they will. Perhaps these changes would’ve come with living in Senegal, regardless of what name I go by, but if it took starting from the very bottom of who I am, and building myself up, then so be it. No harm done, right?
The simple act of being called “Dani” served as a constant reminder that I can be whoever I want to be, and I can confidently say that I love who that person is. The only difference now is that I love that person, no matter what my name is. I haven’t completely found the balance of embracing my “old self” and “new self”, but I’m getting better at it every day.
Dani can conquer the world, and so can Delaney, and Aida (my Senegalese name), and Laney, and Bug, and Baby D, and any other name you may call me.