TL;DR: I have a secret identity. While I use my legal name (Sonya) at University, I was raised as Sophie. It took me two years to consistently get my own name right. But now I feel like the two personae I kept so separate are melding into one strange and confused human.
When I was born, my Mother wanted to call me Sophie. She right away got a lot of push-back. In the end, it was one of the rare instances in my Mother’s life wherein she caved to peer pressure. She settled on the name Sonya.
She then proceeded to spend thirty-six hours giving birth to the black-eyed, cone-headed, smash-faced monstrosity that was my infant self. The name Sonya went on the Birth Certificate, as planned.
After around two weeks, the fog began to lift. She suddenly realized that she had done all the work pushing this thing out. She was going to be the one keeping it alive, and mostly intact. And she would be the one want talking to it and yelling at it for, like, at least the next few years, right? She was gonna name this thing whatever she wanted. So Sophie it was, from then on.
Except no one changed the Birth Certificate.
I grew up as Sophie. I was always Sophie. In school, at home, at sports; Sophie.
But then came University. I went from an institution with less than a thousand students, to those with over forty thousand students. I was still Sophie. I sent off my applications.
The ensuing rejection letter from the University of Ottawa broke my heart. Everything ended up working out, and I spent some very formative years at Carleton University. But I will never forget crying in my friend’s arms, and the feelings of inadequacy that haunted me over the next few years of my academic career.
When I decided to go into Nursing, I had to face the dreaded admissions office of U Ottawa again. While handling one of the frequent and varied administrative snafus, I was asked if I wanted to put that portion of my documentation under “Sophie” or “Sonya?” The woman then commented that “Sonya” had an incomplete application from years before, where none of her documentation had been submitted.
Essentially, during my first application process, my documentation had gone under Sophie Wolski, and Sonya Wolski’s incomplete application was rejected. I don’t know how long I just stood there in shock, but I’m pretty sure the admissions officer started to get nervous.
And so, to ensure that this sort of crazy, life-altering hiccup never happened again, Sophie was purged from the system. From that second on, in any kind of academic or professional capacity, Sophie Wolski didn’t even exist. I was Sonya. Always Sonya.
Initially I lived a weird double life. I was the same high-pitched, mischief-oriented Sophie I’d always been. But every once in a while I’d have to pull on this strange, ill-fitting Sonya costume and pretend to be a calm, coordinated, educated professional. Half the time I was so self-conscious introducing myself as Sonya, I looked like a a fourteen year old boy trying to do a presentation in front of the class on how he couldn’t yet grow chest hair. The other half of the time I blew it, started saying the wrong name, drew it out like I was having a stroke, then tried to cover my mistake by apologizing for my chronic exhaustion. First impressions. So key.
But over the course of my degree, I started to get more and more used to this Sonya character I played. I would do things that Sonya would do without having to carefully calculate every move. I mostly started to get my name right.
I’m still Sophie. I still like to get into things I shouldn’t, and joke around, and eat blue things. But more and more every day, I am becoming Sonya too. The lines are getting blurred, and I can’t always tell who’s talking anymore.
I have gotten so comfortable introducing myself as Sonya that I sometimes accidentally do so outside of work/school now. I continue to look like a stroke victim who can’t remember their own name. So, at least I’m consistent in that regard.