What is *not* in a name

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.

Andrea Galvani

Andrea Galvani

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 😛

Waiting game


I’m done. I waited all my life- all 25 minus thetimeihadnoconsciousthoughts years waiting to be affirmed,acknowledged,loved. I did all the tricks,memorized all the words,aced all the tests, perfected all the manners and etiquettes – for what? All I wanted was some acceptance from you- the people who invited me to this cold place. All I wanted was the knot to be tied so life wouldn’t escape me- so that I could be full. It was like a balloon that’d I blow up and give to you to tie, and you’d let it go for me to run after before all air escaped it, only to repeat the same process hoping that this time you’d tie it so I could play with it. It was always a next year, a next goal, a next level- and I was gullible enough to believe that the next would be the last.

I’ve been very very patient and tried to hold up both myself and you. I tried to piece myself together every time I fell apart while apologizing for my frail nature. I’d work relentlessly to kiss your feet because a broken piece of my heart fell on them. I never wanted to believe evil of you – never. Even now, more than 15 years of heartache and pain, I still feel a pang of guilt, albeit vaguely.

I don’t love you. That was the toughest thing I came to realize. I wanted to. I want to. When people speak of their loving relationship with their parents, I feel sad because I know that I’d never experience that. And I’ve done everything possible to piece our relationship together- everything. But in the end, I had to choose between my life and you. I thought my death would do neither of us good, right? Because that’s what it came to- I felt there was no point in my living. I felt useless and worthless. Yet, I am sorry about how things are and I wish you could understand me and my pain. I’ve been a good kid all my life, so why is it that you vilify me now that I’m not the way you wished me to be?Why is everything I’ve done not good enough? Why am I never good enough? Why do you always see what you hoped I could be instead of who I actually am?

I never realized how strong and amazing I was. I never ever ever even thought that could be me. But somehow, everything I did, you took credit for. There was never a school you chose for me; even from the age of 8, I knew what I wanted and I’d insist on it come hell or high water. I was always sensitive and caring and diligent. Hard working. I was the pride of my school, but because it wasn’t acknowledged by you, it never registered with me. I always thought my accomplishments were incidental. Whenever I’d accomplish something, it’d always be a that’s good, but you can do better. Why? Why did you rob me of my efforts, however feeble they seemed in your eyes?

I don’t really give a shit anymore. I’m indifferent. That’s worse than hate, you know? Indifference.But I still care for you. I just don’t want you to care for me. Ever.

It’s made me stronger, you know. And all those efforts were never in vain. You might have discarded them, but I’m out looking for them. I’m going to give them a home in my heart, where they’ve always belonged.

Emotional orphan

I was emotionally orphaned.

My mum told me that I was a very fussy baby who’d cry nonstop. So she made sure I was fed and clean – physically cared for – and just leave me be when I cry ‘for no apparent reason’. I believe we are all born with fully formed souls and personalities and we spend life learning to accept ourselves. I think that first year when my body was cared for but my mind ignored, something within me broke. Shattered to smithereens. Because when I turned one, I changed drastically. I became reticent and quiet. Still. If I were told to sit down, I’d sit there for hours until told to get up. That’s not normal for a one year old is it? I don’t think so.

My dad was much more compassionate than mum. He was a doting father who wouldn’t let me cry. He observed my every move to try to decipher my language. He even kept a shorthand notebook for my baby babble and he’d be my translator of sorts. They really tried, my parents. I was a very sensitive and old soul and they had to improvise because I wasn’t like normal infants. I was even scared of the dark! I was merely a couple of months and I’d freak if the lights were turned off. 😀

I was 1 year and 8 months when my twin brothers were born. It threw everyone off course, because they were unplanned. Not only that, but mum almost died giving birth via c-section. She spent the first 6 months or so in and out of hospital. My dad had to work. We lived in a small southern town of Sweden where we didn’t have any relatives to help out. It was hard. I think the sudden change of dynamics where I was pushed off the only child seat and relegated to the background in the face of the clamour and mum’s illness, affected me very deeply.

One day I blurted out something that couldn’t have belonged to my mind and be spoken by my tongue. I wasn’t even 2 years yet, when I addressed my parents and a family friend who were in our midst;
‘ hooyo mid, aabe mid, aniga baabah’. Which is Somali for ‘ mum one, dad one, me nothing ‘, pointing out that my parents’ hands were occupied with both my infant twin brothers and I was left alone.
Heart wrenching and mind-boggling as it was, the family friend was utterly devastated and scooped me up immediately, sobbing at my words that I was too young for.

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