What's in a name?
My doctor friend Alexis started calling me ‘Measles’ after she learned that my initials were MMR. It was stitched into the cuff on a few of my shirts and she found it hilarious whenever I wore them. For weeks I had no idea why, only to find out that ‘MMR’ was the short hand for the measles, mumps & rubella vaccine. It didn’t matter that I was born Matthew Morgan Russell, no… to Alexis, I was just ‘Measles.’
Growing up I was strictly Matt; no one called me Matthew. It was a simple subtraction of three little letters, but it made a world of difference. To me, Matt was something that only my friends called me, a more casual me I suppose… Matthew was a little sharper, more professional and took slightly longer to pronounce.
Sometimes when my mother calls out to me I can tell that she can’t choose between Matt or Matthew, all in a split second. Instead, she blurts out ‘Math,’ just like the subject. I don’t really mind this nickname, but it blows my mind that still, years later, she still can’t pick between the two.
On my free Birthright trip to Israel, I was Matityahu. And when I ate moule frites in Nice I was Matthieu. On the beaches of Poland, Mateusz, and after lots of Polish vodka, I was simply drunk. In Italy and Costa Rica I was Matteo, and every time someone said it, I felt like the Fonz. And when I was in Japan I didn’t understand anything that was going on, so no one ever really said my name.
When I went to college my roommate also turned out to be named Matthew and we both only went by ‘Matt’. At first it was very convenient since that was one less name to remember. But it turned into a problem when we both started hanging out with the same people and could never keep our conversations straight. In time, people simply referred to us as Jersey Matt and Manhattan Matt, obviously just going with a quick geographical reference. And since this was during the flip phone era, our friends went one step further and put us in their phones as ‘Jerz’ and ‘Manhattan’ since no one but me wanted to have full names in their contact list.
The name we are born with is one of many, and it’s not necessarily the one that defines who we are. What truly matters is what we respond to.