candid writing

What's In A Name?

That's a pretty big question for a gal with a decidedly big epithet.

ZIP•PO•RAH – three, whole syllables forming a combination of sounds not often strung together.

Add my first to middle and last, and you get the bounciest pattern that might've been penned by Dr. Seuss himself. I joke that my parents wanted your mouth to make every shape when you say it – I imagine one of those 'follow along' bouncing balls dancing over the letters – a little visual indicator of its rhythmic character. 


That's just the sound of it, never-mind the meaning and origin. It's a lot of name to live up to – a lot of information to repeat – each and every time I meet someone new.

As a child, and well into my teens, I was known simply as ZIP. Kids had a field day with it – how could you not? In classrooms full of names they'd all heard a dozen times before, mine was ripe for the pickin'. Weary of the teasing, at age 11, I tried on a different 'self', using my middle name instead. I thought it'd be safer, somehow, but it didn't last more than a year as I discovered that kids were just as creative with that one. So – ZIP LOMAX it was – for another few years, at least. 

At about 16, I began to understand and appreciate the gift of my name's individuality. At that age, as I grappled with youthful self-discovery, claiming my uniqueness felt important – and brave. 

ZIPPORAH sounded so mature. It felt significant and intriguing and full of promise – as though it belonged on a marquee – while ZIP had a strange finality. It sounded diminutive and flat and oddly empty – zip, zilch, zero. For a kid with her whole, unimaginable life ahead of her, the latter seemed an ill-choice of moniker, so I began insisting people call me by my full name. 

Somehow, I imagined 'growing up' would mean becoming a woman whose countenance and persona embodied the mystique of my given name – someone befitting such a unique mouthful of letters. I believed I had to 'grow into' it – to make myself so big in my accomplishments that I would feel worthy of the weight of it – that I had to be truly extraordinary to rightfully dress myself in the charming sound of it. 

Such a grandiose, adolescent idea, that – such an impossible standard to live up to. Not to say that I've failed, by any means, only that I recognize how hard I've been on myself – how unfairly I've admonished myself for not quite living up to my own inflated sense of who I might've become. 

The truth is – no one calls me ZIPPORAH. No matter how many times I introduce myself, people always seem to shorten it anyway. Ignoring that obvious fact, I've continued presenting myself as that person, hoping fake-it-til-you-make-it would find me eventually believing I was her. I've been traipsing around with this over-sized name, expecting myself to embody its remarkable fullness, wondering why I'm always tripping over myself, instead. 

Now – 5 days shy of 41, I finally get it – 'growing up' means letting go of all those outdated notions of who I'm supposed to be – softening into who I am – relaxing into what IS by daring to acknowledge that my most youthful, light-hearted self is, in fact, my most authentic.

All those years ago, when I was ZIP, the only one who called me ZIPPY was my big brother, Zed. It was an endearing exchange between us. We were the two z's – zippy and zeddy – or, zippyzoo and zeddyzoo, respectively. I'm not sure when everyone else began to call me that, too. I only know that, at some point, that sound became the one most commonly associated with me

It took me a while to see it, as often happens when you set your sights too high – you miss the thing that is right under your nose. I'm quite amused by my lengthy oversight – it's been there the whole time, cozily nestled halfway between ZIP and ZIPPORAH – just waiting for me to stop looking so far afield – knowing I'd eventually remember who I am. 

ZIPPY – sounds so whimsically alive – so playful and light – so alert and present.

Feels appropriate and absolute perfect fit. 

Not so unlike Goldilocks and her third-time-charms – after a few ill-fitting tries – I've finally found my 'just right'.


postscript – I didn't intend to write such a revealing, personal essay – only to give a brief overview of why I've made the switch from to the new, much more fitting Such is the way with writing – it often simply spills out, surprising me with its cadence and content. I suppose I had need of expressing these things. In fact, it is through the writing of these words that I truly came to understand my own journey with the subject matter.

Thank you for reading.