My name— my real life name— is a whole whopping two syllables. It sounds exactly like two letters, said in sequence, with no fancy stuff. But, because of the inherent uniqueness of the name, people get it wrong all the time. Even when I spell it out, there’s a 75% chance that I’ll have to repeat myself because, apparently, the human brain does not comprehend the concept of two e’s at the end of a name; after taking anthro linguistics in college, I can easily understand why. “Is that ‘Esmee?'” “Did you say, ‘Essy?'” I was convinced that I could probably give someone my Chinese name and it would be infinitely easier.
Yeah, I’m “cursed” with a “unique” name. It singled me out whenever there was a substitute teacher in class. There were various colorful nicknames created thanks to the rhyme-y nature of my name; my 8th grade geometry teacher, for example, lovingly dubbed me “Testy Estee.” Ugh, and every time I type my name on a web form or MS Word, I get those terrible red squiggles that seem to say, “You misspelled that word, you nitwit. Don’t you mean…?”
NO! I don’t “mean” something else. I don’t mean “esteem”; I know how to spell that, thank you very much! My name was crafted for me by my parents, thankyouverymuch!! For much of my life, I’ve had to explain my name in terms of something else: “Oh, it’s like that cosmetic lady, except without the accent,” or, “Think of it as ‘esteem’ without the m.” Instead of having some sort of lofty reputation to live up to due to my namesake, I get, “I’m kind of like this, except I’m lacking that one part.”
That did wonders for my identity and self-esteem. Lemme tell ya. (Oh, the irony.)
Don’t get me wrong: I like my name. I like all of the implications and meanings, and there’s a lot of sentimentality woven into my first and middle names. It would just be nice, for once, to not have to explain my name— the vanguard of my identity— in terms of other things. Having to dig through a plethora of associations and analogies just to find me is no fun.
It’s hardly any wonder that I’ve come to identify more closely with my RPG characters than my own namesake in recent years. I used to think it was just a confidence issue: I lacked belief in self-awesome, so I borrowed the awesome of [insert character name here]. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t so much as borrowing my characters’ attributes as embodying them.
After all, I created these characters and fueled them with my own personality, my thoughts, my tendencies (minus the sometimes crippling lack of self confidence). For all intents and purposes, these characters were just me, but with a different name… A name I created that no one has to associate with anything but that character.
Whichever way this stream of identity actually flows, it’s worked! During my new-hire evaluation, my manager said something to the effect that people “gravitate” to me when I’m out in the library’s public space. That’s the sort of phrase writers use to describe protagonists in their fantasy/sci-fi novels. And that suits me just fine.
To the majority of the online world, both in and out of WoW, I’m best known as Toriah— Tori, for short. Real life knows me as Estee. But, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, “A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.” Whatever name I give in any realm doesn’t matter; it’s the person behind the name that gives substance to the label.