Re’al: A Name
How I defined my identity using my name
I’ve always had a struggle with my identity and who I represent. I grew up in an African Arab society but raised with a western influence. I don’t feel like I belong in either environment but rather I’m a product of both. My name is Re’al, the name you see on my profile, Rola, is my nickname. And I chose to write my nickname for a reason. My mother named me Re’al, a name that probably did not exist anywhere in my country. For its peculiar nature, my name often comes up as a conversation topic and for a long time I despised that. It was one of the reasons why I felt like I didn’t belong.
Wherever I went as a child and whomever I met they always do a double take when I say my name.
“I’m sorry what? What is your name again?”
It’s a peculiar name in its pronunciation and meaning. In the Sudanese culture we tend to have loads of Arab names, since our ancestors are partly Arab and partly African. But Re’al was a first of its kind, the only other person I know who is named Re’al is our neighbour’s daughter, and she was named after me. Moreover, it is extremely common that the second question asked when getting to know someone in the Sudanese culture is what their name means. It is a beautiful habit that all of us have, we try to actually get to know a person by finding out the origin of their name. Knowing the meaning of the name somehow brings us closer to the person we just met. Sometimes two names could have the same meaning, and sometimes two different names could mean the same thing, hence a unique bond could be formed between two people. Usually for us the pronunciations of these names are easy, however when it comes to my name it sounds foreign. It sounds so different that the passport issuing officers will not write it as it sounds on my passport, but rather as “Real”. I have renewed my passport 3 times in my life, and every time I ask; they say the system will not accept the apostrophe as a character in a name…what?!
Growing up I always asked my parents to change my name to something more familiar, a name that people will accept and not make weird expressions when they hear it. And worse when they find out the meaning. For the first half of my life, the meaning of my name was a dispute in the family. Everyone disagreed on what it actually means, until finally my mother said that it means the offspring of the Deer. But that was wrong…
If you look up the name in Arabic, the definition comes up as:
1. The offspring of the Ostrich
So I corrected it for the second half of my life, I am now an Ostrich not a Deer thank you very much.
Re’al is similar to other words, words that some people use to tease me.
- Real Madrid: it is a football (soccer) club in Spain. A club that I do not support, I actually support their arch rivals. Hence, the teasing intensifies.
- Saudi Real: the currency of Saudi Arabia, not a favourite country of mine
Imagine my conversations with Starbucks baristas
So, for a long time, I did not like my name. I shied away from saying it in public to avoid the embarrassment that it usually caused me. However these days I am looking at it differently. It is fun to have a unique name, a lot of influential people choose to go by them. Beyonce, Oprah, Prince, Madonna, Pink, Voltaire,Pele…etc.
I was born with this name, I do not need to go searching for a name to define my uniqueness. If I ever become an influential human on this planet then people will remember my name for what it is. I have grown to love and embrace it. I do not shy away from the conversations about it. I search for poems written about Ostriches every once in a while to remind myself how interesting they are. My name represents my hybrid personality. I learned to include the meanings of the name as part of my identity, I am not a tall human but I am a strong and weird one, and I love it.
Re’al is my name, it belongs to me and I belong to what I want it to represent, creativity, strength and kindness.
Be nice to others
For things in this world won’t last forever
Same as the ostrich feather
Be nice to your enemies
For today maybe their last day
Like what happened to the ostrich yesterday
Love good virtue more than people
Love people more than good cars
and love children more than good ostrich
Respect diversity and variety
Respect the old, the antique, the new and novelty
As ostrich feather can be white, black or gray
Don’t let your worries be as big as the ostrich
Let your problems be as light as the feather
for anxieties will fade and dreams are within reach
Don’t be too attach to your looks or weight
Just be healthy, detach to the need of unworthy praise
Learn from the feather detached from the ostrich
Go with the flow as long as it’s a good flow
Be blown where the good wind wants you to go
The values you learn in life don’t lose or forgo
Wisdom From The Ostrich Feather: A poem by Champs Ulysses Cabinatan