As I was typing my name at the bottom of an email to my PI (principal investigator AKA research professor), I did what I (sadly) often do.
I misspelled it. (Of course, I corrected it after I realized what I did).
Arlene Ho. 8 letters, yet even for the person who goes by it (me), it’s all too easy to make a mistake with such a core part of yourself. Most people do identify themselves with their names, so it got me thinking: if it’s that easy for me to misspell my name, which should be pretty set in stone since that’s what is on my birth certificate, how easy would it be to “misspell” what I wanted in the future, or even right now? In other words, how do I really know that one day, I didn’t just accidentally jumble the letters or thoughts in my brain to accidentally spell “doctor” as my career choice, or “philanthropist” or “humanitarian” as the type of person I wanted to be?
I suddenly had a flashback back to when I was a kid, when I really just wanted a nickname. My friends would have nicknames because there would be some kind of shortened version of their names that we could call them by: Nance (Nancy), Debs (Debbie), Jenn (Jennifer), etc. “Arlene” is a pretty hard name to shorten, so I had all but given up.
Then, in high school, I acquired a nickname from my tennis coach: A. Ho. Yes, he really called me A. Ho for 4 years whenever he had the chance. This was because in the score books, you would write the first initial of your first name and then your entire last name. Anyway, because of that, my tennis coach would always misspell my actual name. I also still get called A. Ho to this day because of him (thanks, Coach Lou).
But you know what? Regardless of what name I was called by, and regardless of how it was spelled, it never changed the way I felt about myself. No matter what you’re called, you’re still going to retain your core, your sense of “self.” No matter what you think you’re going to become career-wise, you’re still going to have something in the “future.” I think the biggest fear that people have, especially coming into their first quarter/year of college, is that you’ll have to decide your entire life path as soon as you get here. This isn’t even close to being true, since something like 70% (rough statistic) of people change their majors during the course of their college careers. Beyond that, a lot of people don’t even pursue careers that are directly related to their college major.
So the next time you get angry that the barista at Starbucks misspelled your name, just remember that it’s not his or her fault that your “core” isn’t evident to them. More often than not, it’ll take people a few tries to really get rid of those pesky red underlines that make people uncertain if they really understand what you’re all about (or how you’re really spelled).
If I haven’t beaten enough out of this spelling metaphor or gone on enough tangents, come to my office hours and we can discuss all the possible ways to spell Arlene (Arleen? Arlean? Arelene???). Also, please never misspell your professor’s name in an e-mail.
Happy studying and good luck on the first round of midterms in the upcoming weeks!
- Arlene Ho(: