Many third culture and cross cultural children struggle to find a sense of personal and cultural identity. To me my name is part of this. I have changed my name five times. My Q blog musing is about this Quest for a name.
Names are important to me and closely linked to identity. It’s something I spend lots of time on when writing a new story. My own name history is an example of how confused I have been about who I am. It’s also an example of my restlessness and quest for stability and meaning in what felt like neverending being ripped up and moved around by my parents. My name is something I have tried to gain control over, to own, to make mine.
I have two first names. Traditional ones. Long ones. My eldest sibling got a Icelandic cool first name that few had then. My second sibling has a more biblical name, bit still special and cool. When I arrived, I guess my parents had no choice, so I am named after relatives on both side. I am the only one named after my Icelandic grandma. Today this is something I appreciate, since I’ve felt she was a person I’d liked to have known more. But as a child, it felt like my name wasn’t mine.
When we came to Norway from East Africa, I must already have been searching for a sense of identity. It must have increased when we started moving around in Norway. As a nine year old I pondered for long if it was possible to make shorter nick names out of my first names, to make them seem less old-fashioned, to seem more me, not the relatives I was named after.
At last I decided to switch what name I went by. Up until then I was called only my first first name. After this my second first name: Margret. It felt more like “me”. Stubbornly I told everyone to call me this, and it worked. Mainly because we moved quickly after and I could introduce myself in the new place with this name.
In addition to this, I have formally changed my name five times. It all started when I was born in East Africa, where they didn’t accept Icelandic name traditions. So my first change of name was already then. The second change was when I was eleven and became Norwegian citizen, making my name more “Norwegian” in the same process. My mother remarried and I got my stepfather’s name. Then he died and I got my mother’s maiden name. That was my third change. The fourth change was reintroducing my Icelandic last name. I strongly wanted my “Icelandic” first names back, but I wasn’t allowed. The fifth change was all about getting my Icelandic name back.
Now I have the same name as I was born with. The circle has ended. I’m back where I started. But yet I am not sure if my current name is me. I have an Icelandic name, but that is only one part of me.
Thanks for reading.
The picture is taken by me at Gustav Vigeland Museum in Oslo.