Living in Japan has been an amazing experience in more ways than one. Although there is little time left before I return home, there is still so much I want to do before leaving. I want to climb Mt. Fuji, visit Kyoto, eat some of Jiro’s sushi – the list goes on. But, nevertheless, I am grateful for all the things I was able to accomplish here so far.
One of the biggest changes, and one of the most unique experiences I had in Japan, was probably the most mundane for your average person. I’ve gone by the name DJ since the day I was born; I’ve seen pictures. The big banners didn’t say “Welcome David!” when I returned home for the first time from the hospital, but rather, everything was “DJ” in big balloon letters. And that’s how it’s pretty much always been. Outside of the first day of a new class when the teacher says your name and asks what you prefer to be called, I have never chosen to go by the name of David.
Until I came to Japan. I really don’t know what made me decide to try it. It might be because pronouncing DJ the Japanese way is a bit difficult, and David is just easier to say for all parties involved. Or maybe it’s because I wanted to try something new, and Japan was a place where I could easily pick up the name, and drop it easily at the end of my stay if I didn’t like it. Trying that at ‘Bama was always a no-go. The moment people hear that you have a nickname used by others, they switch over to it. Doesn’t matter what you originally introduced yourself as, doesn’t matter if you emphatically say, “My friends call me…,” practically speaking the italics out loud. Nope, people go for nicknames. Or at least, most of the time, as I found out.
And overall, this has been a valuable learning opportunity for me. I have learned, quite strongly, that I do not like to go by David. I realized this fact about 5 months into the exchange program, but by then the damage had been done. It’s one thing if some people call you by your nickname, and others don’t. The people that use your full name will hear the other version from someone else, and just go with it. But if you introduce yourself by your full name to everyone, and then later decide to mix things up – it doesn’t go quite so smoothly. Changing your name is hard – just ask any company that has tried to rebrand. It doesn’t matter that Pibb Xtra had its name changed 14 years ago. People are still going to call it Mr. Pibb.
This post may not seem particularly Japanese-flavored. It might not seem appropriate for a series of blogs called “Bama Bloggers Abroad,” but I think it can fit. People talk about studying abroad as being this big, potentially life-changing experience, and as an opportunity to “re-discover” or “re-invent” or “re-jazzercise” yourself. Really anything following re- will work. And it definitely can be all of those. In my case, I went with “renaming.” It’s a small thing, and probably not important to most, but it was something I found out about myself in Japan. It was something I could only really do in Japan.
I’ll be coming home shortly with a lot of things. With a better grasp of Japanese, with plenty of souvenirs and new friendships with people from all over the world. And I’ll come home with this – a name I’ve always had, but maybe never appreciated before. Thanks for reading.
(Did you see what I just did there? I didn’t suddenly turn Australian – IT’S THE TITLE. THE TITLE OF THIS POST)
(IT’S FROM THE THEME SONG TO CHEERS)
(Hope you got that – some people I ran this post by beforehand. Did. Not)
(But you totally did because you’re awesome)