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An Oath To My Name

By: Chenwei Ren

Of the 7 billion people living on Earth, I doubt another Chenwei Ren exists in the United States. Likewise, of all the infinite combinations of words my mother could have mixed and matched to name me, she chose Chen and wei.

Who would’ve guessed? Of course as my family moved to this new and foreign country called the USA, they had to forget to give me an English name.

For the longest time I’ve always wanted to change my name. It just makes me stand out, and makes me easy to be mocked. As a kid, while my friends had “normal” names such as Chelsea, Sofia, Jennifer, I was stuck with Chenwei. Chenwei. Chen-way. What a laughing stock.

As I write this paper, there is a red squiggly line under my name suggesting there is an error with the word; even Google Docs questions my identity. Perhaps not only Google mistakens my name, but humans do too.

I absolutely dreaded attendance. It’s always during the first day of school, or when a substitute teacher is present, people would wait for my name to be called, and laugh at it. “Chenwee? Is Chenwee here?” I vividly remember teachers calling out loud, in all sorts of accents, all sorts of voices, all sorts of student voices, too. Even my closest friends, as a kid, would jokingly call me “Ching-chong Chenwei.” I thought it was a funny joke since we were kids back then, but now knowing the ignorance of kids for others, it really hurts me. I've gotten made fun of due to my name so many times, people mispronouncing it on purpose so many times. This caused me to hate my name more than anything else.

Let me rephrase: hated. Past tense.

To me right now, my name is a definition of myself. It is one of the key pieces of who I am as a person. It’s like a puzzle piece that once struggled to fit in, but as I learned to love this name, the piece fitted it. In Chinese, the characters in my name means morning and smile. My mom thought of it since I was born in the morning and she said my smile was as bright as the sun, so she wants me to smile everyday. This name that was given to me reminds me of none other than myself, who I aim to be and what I want to live up to.

Sometimes, when pronounced in different tones, Chenwei can actually mean the Chinese word for “becoming.”

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