Y’all may know that I have a friend named Debra. Some of you know her. She used to be an officer in the Free State Project. She was a founding member of The Claire Files Forums (now the Mental Militia Forums). Today, instead, she has a life.
If you know Debra, you know that she’s definitely Debra. Or Deb. Never, ever Debbie.
But she told me a story the other day that surprised me. It’s a simple story about a name. But it speaks more volumes than the Encyclopedia Britannica (since Wikipedia, though much bigger, doesn’t have volumes). She gave me permission to share it.
As a kid, she was Debbie. And hated it. About the time she entered high school, the unsavory film “Debbie Does Dallas” hit theaters. As you can guess, she hated even more that she was a Debbie. I can only imagine the difficult time smart-ass peers must have given her for a while. But Debbie was what the world called her and Debbie was who she remained.
Then one day when she was college-aged, she was introduced to a Deborah.
When, reflexively, she called her new acquaintance Debbie (because of course, all Debras and Deborahs are immediately reduced to Debbies, just as all Charleses instantly become Charlies or Chucks and all Williams become Bill). The woman responded, “I prefer Deborah.”
And Debra — the soon-to-be-former Debbie — was struck dumb. She laughed as she told me this, but her astonishment at the time was real. “It was a bolt from the blue,” she said to me. “A revelation. The beginning of my liberation. You might think it’s ridiculous, but until that moment, it had never occurred to me, ever, that I had any say over what people called me. I just thought that if my family, friends, and the world wanted me to be Debbie, I was stuck being Debbie forever.”
That revelation led her to take more control over her own life. And each little act of self-ownership brought her more revelations about how much of her own life truly belonged to her and nobody else.
Years ago, I wrote an article titled “Whose Name is it, Anyway?” It’s one of my favorites (even though, as is usual with me, it does ramble on a bit) and one of the most informative articles I ever wrote. It’s about what I called the “tiny freedom” of being able to change one’s own name at will, without permission from government or anybody else. It’s also about the fascinating history of naming. And about having a name that means something to us and suits us at whatever stage of our lives we find ourselves.
Still, it never occurred to me that being able to assert control over one’s name or nickname would come as a revelation to anybody, or that such a revelation would set anyone on the path to greater freedoms.
But you never know. It’s amazing and wonderful how freedom can dawn. Sometimes, it just doesn’t take that much to start breaking free. Other times, small gifts are given to us when we’re already on freedom’s path — small gifts that end up making huge differences.
It’s so frustrating hearing people bitch that, “I can’t become more free because of X, Y, or Z.” (In one extreme case, a person whining about his plight online “couldn’t” become more free because his aging parents might not leave him $300,000, and without $300,000 he couldn’t take a single step — not one step! — toward any sort of preparedness or independence. That’s an extreme case, of course. But plenty of other excuses abound.)
Yet plenty of tiny, everyday miracles abound, too. Along with tiny, everyday acts that we take to free our minds & thereby begin freeing the rest of ourselves.
Do you have a story of one of those itty-bitty moments that turned into a life-changing revelation? How some small event or realization set you on an entirely new and more free course of life? Or how some small decision you made or act you took led to greater vistas of freedom? The comments section is all yours …