This I Believe: We Are Stronger When We Know Who We Are
When you’re born, they give you a name. On April 9, 1967, I got mine. Deborah. It’s a nice name, but it went unused for most of 23 years. Like the names of presidents and prisoners, my given name was used only when I did something really good or really bad. Most of the time, I was just Debbie.
Debbie wasn’t smart enough to be a geek or depressed enough to be a weirdo or pretty enough to be popular or preppy. She was certain of the way, but not always as clear on the destination. She was also in love, and as she plunged along the path to Whateveritwas, she listened to the voices that dismissed it as first love, told her she felt too much, told her she could do better. By the end of her 22nd year, Debbie believed them. She was at the end of the path with a college degree and a real job. She didn’t need him.
She also didn’t need Debbie.
When you’re born, they give you a name. On April 9, 1990, I got mine. I walked into my first job, on my birthday, and Deborah was on my cubicle nameplate and the lips of my coworkers. I could have told them that Deborah was just the name on my resume and social security card. But I didn’t. Debbie may have been the one to walk the path, but Deborah was the one who reached its end.
Deborah was wrong, of course. The path hadn’t ended, just taken an abrupt turn. There would be many others. In two years, she would meet her husband, a man she would label a culmination though he was actually a realization blending everything she had been going toward and leaving behind. In six years, her son would reveal the inadequacy of her definitions of love. In 11, her daughter would show her that life cannot be managed or predicted. In 13, she would look death in the face but not recognize him. In 14, she would look her husband in the face and not recognize herself.
Along the way, I’d get another name. Deb. Shorter and easier. Or Deborah. Never Debbie.
Sixteen years after leaving Debbie at the end of the path, I’ve run into her again. Seems she was hanging out with that first boyfriend. “Debbie,” he wrote. He wrote other things, too—things that were different and important. Debbie was neither. Debbie was the same, the person he knew. The person I was.
As his pixels came together into words that explained the past and told a different story, Debbie spoke. “I told you so,” she said. “I was right,” she said.
Debbie was supposed to be shallow, stupid, insecure, immature. And so was he. But he wasn’t. And neither was Debbie.
I believe her.
It wasn’t my birthday, but in early October, 2006, I got a name. Deborah. Or Debbie. Or Deb. All of them are me. This I now believe.
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