I believe that every person is different in one way or another and people should not try to hide or change who they are just to be like everyone else. I am different than the norm here because I was born in Bangalore, India. The moment my mother first held me in her arms, she knew she was going to name me Poonam. Growing up in South India my name was nothing special. My neighbor’s cousin and a few girls in my school had my name. No one thought it was weird or was intrigued by it.
In 2001, my dad got transferred to Fairfax County, Virginia and my mother, younger brother and I moved here with him all the way from India. I was eleven years old. After a couple of months of moving here, the elementary school I was supposed to attend asked me if I was interested in changing my name. At that time I had a million things in my head, so I said, “No thanks, I like my name”. Little did I know that this was going to cause such turmoil in the future.
On the first day of middle school, I had to play the name game. I stood up and said “Hi, my name is Poonam” but no one repeated after me. The entire class, hesitated to say my name and I was embarrassed because my name was not like the other names and i thought that people were making fun of me. This is when I decided that I wanted to change my name forever.
I went home and told my mother, but she was not happy. She told me that my name means “full moon” in Hindi. She told me that she named me Poonam because I completed her life just like the full moon completes the phases of the moon. I did not pay any attention to her. Then she said that I had to wait till high school if I wanted to change my name, just incase I changed my mind.
When I got to high school, I was a different person; older and more mature. I met all sorts of people, I got to experience diversity first-hand. That’s when I realized that I was wrong all along. I knew that I would never think about changing my name again.
Now I know for sure that I am different from everyone else, but I am no longer ashamed of it because being different is great. Those are the principles that our nation is built on. I now hold my head up high and say my name with pride and have made friends because of it. This significant event in my life made me believe that everyone is different in their own way and should not be afraid to show their true colors. I believe that by accepting others’ differences, we see our own. I believe that America’s beauty is in its diversity, freedom, and individuality. This I believe.
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