Nominative determinism is the theory that your name has an impact on your life and how it’s shaped. For me, that’s certainly true.
My mum named me Mulki after her cousin who is a doctor in the UAE. As a nurse, she looked up to said cousin and wanted me to be like her. I never knew the meaning of my name until I studied arabic some years ago. I also have a second name – Nadira, which my dad picked out. Though Mulki is my official name, dad called me by Nadira exclusively, up until I was 16! People would often get confused and think there was an additional daughter who was called Nadira.
Growing up, I hated my name ( and truth be told I still do); it’d be often mispronounced (Milky,Multi,Mukli,Milkyway,Multivitamin,Mjölk) and it was extremely rare. The first Mulki i met was a baby who was named after me ( I was 13) and I remember feeling sorry for the poor girl .
This led me down a path of figuring out who I was and since I never fit in anywhere, I was always on the fringes as the quiet freethinker. Oh, don’t pity me – I was practically born into the self-conformist maverick shoes. It’s all I’ve ever known. In fact, the reason for my being bullied throughout elementary was my defiance of the ring leader of the girls in my third grade. I wasn’t a follower nor a leader. I just wanted to be left alone to figure stuff out, and read or stuff 😛
Between mum and dad’s tug of war, my wishes and choices were ignored. I felt invisible. I grew to develop an external locus of control where I believed that I did not exert any influence over the events in my life, and that things just happened to me.
In my early twenties, I changed my name to Nadira and I loved it! It wasn’t as dramatic as a brand new name, but it was mine and I felt I belonged somewhere, for the first time in my life. I belonged to myself. So for 7 months, I was Nadira, and Mulki was cast aside with all the associated confusion.
I could take a step back and observe myself from a third person’s perspective, and that’s when I saw my pain and growing up in the shadow of my mum. I hadn’t developed my own values and my individuation process was hampered by the codependent relationship I had with mum. I could see that although I felt comfortable in my self-assigned role as the nerd loner, I survived by suppressing the pain and confusion that comes from not belonging or feeling loved.
I realized that I never for once felt that I was loved by my mum, which probably contributed to my iridescent and fluid identity. The more I investigated the thought, the more I saw the cause of my disconnection to my name was due to an emotional disconnection to the one who gave me the name; mum.
She took away my identity by giving me shoes to fill ( her doctor cousin ). I started researching the meaning of Mulki which involved some linguistics heavy lifting as it’s a derivative and not a name (ملك+ي)
And I came to the conclusion that it means ; my all. Meaning, that I was my mother’s all. And for the first time in my life I felt I was loved by mum. Shortly after, I had a long Skype conversation with her in which I told her that I had gone all my life feeling love-less, which was unfathomable to her as she thought that her love was quite obvious by virtue of her mothering me.
Needless to say, my brief exile ended as I willfully returned to my name and I felt like it was going to a home I’ve never been to.
I still like Nadira better 😛