I have experienced a revitalizing journey with my name.
I was once embarrassed of it. I hated it. Jamila Kesi.
Jamila: Arabic for Beautiful
Kesi: Egyptian for Born of a Troubled Father
Why does it sound so foreign? Why can’t anyone read it right? “The ‘i’ is like an ‘e’” – “juh – MEE – luh”. I used to write that on little slips of paper for teachers because I was a good student and (duh) I didn’t want to seem disrespectful. I just wanted someone to get it right. I wanted to be comfortable with it. I wanted it to identify me just like everyone else’s did. Simply and organically. Instead it felt difficult and strained and again, so foreign.
Then, I experienced a false acceptance with it. I let people call me any variation of a nickname they wanted. Mila, J-Millz, Mila J – yeah there were some terrible ones in there – anything to feel identifiable. But I discovered that when you let others pick your nickname, you allow them a certain degree of molding – in a subtle way, a bit of their own persona gets meshed with yours. That wouldn’t do. So I got defensive about it. “Yes, I just go by Jamila. No, juh – MEE – luh, not juh – MIH – luh” *side eye* That sounds gross. The comic book imagery in my mind illustrated me marching to and fro with staff in hand smiting those daring to call me Jamilla, or Jamilia, or Jamie. Like seriously, did you just not see the ‘la’, or just not care to try?
I have reached the point where I have come to embrace my name. It fits me just right. It embodies me. It’s my own and I have finally accepted it. The final revelation came from the last long talk I had with my father. He explained to me that when I was to be born, he experienced great transitions in his life – a wandering period of sorts characterized by searching, striving and grasping for something to connect to. It’s funny that he told me this story with me now being 21 and questioning almost every aspect of my life. The wandering is parallel. I don’t want to be an engineer, I am not quiet and timid as I thought, I may never want to be married, I may be gay from the waist up (boobs are marvelous), I prefer night to day and right brain over left. I get myself now. I embrace myself wholeheartedly now. Which may be the time I began to love my name.
Everything that has seemed difficult and frustrating about me since youth feels simple and organic like I imagined it should. All the struggling to understand my difficult and awkward characteristics made sense when I realized that I was not designed to think or be like anyone else. My name highlights that. It is a gateway to the wonderful nuances of me. For this reason I’ve chosen to self-title my blog. Nothing is as descriptive and as ME as Jamila Kesi.