Nicknames and Belonging

For me, nicknames are something special. They symbolize a deeper understanding for another, a certain trust that warrants an entirely new title. When one is bestowed with such a title, the gesture seems to say, “I know you and I accept you.”

Looking back, I have had four different nicknames. The first was granted to me by my parents and it was the way I would introduce myself when I was little. “Nanelle” conjures up fond childhood memories–mother daughter adventures, an unstoppable duo. Christmas home videos hearing my dad behind the camera repeat the name again and again. That was me, my parents told me so.

The second name came several years later from my high school volleyball team. On the court, in that uniform, with those girls was where I belonged. Those people were my friends, the ones that shared my passions and knew me best, I thought. Because of that, I took cues from them and didn’t question them when they branded me with a new name. “Paddington” in honor of the British bear was my new identity on the court. I don’t even remember how it came about.

Then came the blessed day I moved on to my new dorm floor when I became an RA in college. After one of the girls yelled “Nel” to me down the hall, it stuck and that was who I became on 6 West, and other places on Moody’s campus.

As I settle into my new home in Haus Jesse, I’ve experienced similar feelings of belonging when two girls in the dorm have called me “Dani.” And what’s funny, they’re girls I would not expect a name of affection from. Regardless of the insecurity I feel in this new place with new people, I’ve already been coined a title that for me carries great significance. Whether they barely say two words to me when I drive them home from school or put up walls of protection when I inquire about their families, these girls are home right now and exactly where I belong.

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