Tapping into your inner genius
In her What’s In A Name? post Safiya asked, Do you like your given name?
I don’t ever remember liking mine.
My given first name, Daryl, means ‘beloved’ according to the name dictionaries. That’s beautiful, and I am beloved. I like the way my given name looks in print, with its fairly unusual spelling (vs Darrell or Darryl). But it never seemed to fit me.
Maybe it’s because my dad gave it to me. My dad and I have a good relationship now, but things were so rocky between him and my mom, he was gone by the time I turned three years old. Obviously I don’t remember a lot of that time, but I didn’t have many fond associations with him when I was growing up.
Whatever the reasons, I was already trying to change my name by the time I was five or six years old. I had narrowed down my career options to detective, explorer, fighter pilot, or cowboy by then. I was always trying to get my mom to call me Pete or Bob, which I thought were good cowboy names.
(Bob Keeshan was the actor who played Captain Kangaroo on my favorite show. The Captain was definitely not a cowboy, but I loved Mr. Green Jeans – the somewhat cowboyish folk singer on the show – and I guess I figured ‘Bob’ was a more reasonable ask than ‘Mr. Green Jeans’.)
Changing my name
The first time I changed my name and got it to stick was in 10th or 11th grade. I was going through a major identity change (aren’t we all at that age?). I was also getting really good at basketball for the first time.
At basketball practice, my teammates would call me “D” for short. It became my on-court nickname and then…I don’t really remember how I convinced people to start calling me “Dee” outside of the gym, but I did. I don’t remember telling my classmates not to call me Daryl. I do vaguely remember just not answering people if they didn’t call me Dee.
The year I graduated high school I was accepted into this program created by Prince Charles called Operation Raleigh. I got to spend three months in the wilderness of Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, cutting walking paths through the bush, searching for endangered birds, and having amazing adventures with other young people from around the globe.
When I hit camp in Te Anau, I introduced myself as Dee, and that was pretty much that. By the time I returned to the States, Dee was my name.
But even before that people seemed to resist using my given name. My mom never approved of it; she usually called me “honey”. My favorite grandmother always called me “Dares”. Even my high school basketball coach refused to use my given name in the classes he taught, calling me ‘Durwood’ instead.
It wasn’t until my horoscope column blew up in New Orleans in my mid-thirties that people started calling me D.K. I had chosen to use my first two initials as my nom de plume because it felt cool and writer-ish. And also because it resolved the two biggest problems with “Dee”: first, that people always assumed I was a woman; second, that people never seemed to hear it right on the first try. “Steve?” they would ask. “Tee?”
Maybe it was a hangover from the Dee days, but my son and I were at the local Starbucks a few months ago. It was Saturday afternoon noisy, and when the barista asked for “a name for the order” I blurted out my son’s name. In the moment it felt more energy-efficient than saying “DK – the two letters” or “DK – the initials”.
Well, Hawk was outraged. “That’s my name!” he said. How dare I use his name on our joint order?
We went back to the same Starbucks a couple of Saturdays later and ordered the usual – a double tall latte with whole milk and long shots for me and a chocolate chip cookie for Hawk. It was cacophonous in the store again. And when the barista asked for “a name for your order” I blurted out, “Jimbo.”
Hawk started giggling. The barista looked at me funny. And then wrote Jimbo on my cup.
I don’t know why “Jimbo”. I don’t know anyone named Jimbo. I used to call my old Buddhist friend Jim McKnight “Jimbo” occasionally. But when it came out of my mouth, I liked the sound of it. I liked how it felt when the barista making the drinks called out, “Latte for Jimbo!”
My kids thought it was hilarious. We’re always trying to crack each other up and we got so much mileage out of Jimbo on road trips that it became a habit. If a stranger in a restaurant asked me for my name, it was gonna be Jimbo.
Then I started noticing that Jimbo has a different vibe than DK. I am often somewhat timid and reserved in public, especially in places where there is a lot of noise or psychic chatter. But when I walk into a situation with Jimbo activated, people treated me differently. The part of me known as Jimbo isn’t timid at all. He’s not loud or pushy, but he’s calm and assertive and confident in a way DK sometimes is, but often isn’t.
I spent the first week of 2018 in New Orleans, staying in a hotel near the Freret Street corridor, a revitalized boho strip that was just a washed-out memory when I last lived in the Crescent City. The start of this year was not a very ‘up’ period for me and that trip to New Orleans was particularly challenging.
You probably know I love my coffee. My wife calls me a snob, but I detest drinking watered down, generic coffee. I know what I like, and that’s what I want. So my spirits were lifted when I discovered there was a Mojo Coffee House on Freret, two blocks from the hotel.
They have these oversized blue mugs (my favorite color) and I decided I wanted to get one. It would enable me to make good coffee in my room (of course I had brought my pour-over cone with me!) and it would be a nice souvenir to have at home. But they were charging $20 for the mugs. I went back and forth over it for a couple of days, struggling to justify spending that much money on a coffee cup.
A couple days before the end of my stay, I woke up and decided to buy the damn coffee mug. I walked over to Mojo and ordered a latte. “What’s your name?” the barista asked me. “Jimbo,” I said.
“Jimbo.” She rolled the word around in her mouth before purring it out. She smiled at me, appearing both amused and intrigued. “Coming right up, Jimbo,” she said.
“Hey, I think I want to buy a Mojo mug,” I said. I explained that I used to live in New Orleans and that I had frequented the original Mojo over on Magazine Street.
“OK, give me a minute,” she said.
I wandered off and looked out the windows.
“Hey, Jimbo!” she said, still savoring the sound of the word.
“Here’s your latte, Jimbo.”
“Thank you,” I said.
She held up a coffee mug. “This mug just came out of the dishwasher and it has a little chip out of it. We can’t use them once they’re chipped – they just get thrown away,” she said. “But I could just give it to you. Or you could buy a brand new one, but they’re like $20 with tax. Up to you, Jimbo.”
She smiled. I took the chipped mug. I thanked her.
“See ya later, Jimbo,” she smiled.
It’s just about seeing yourself differently
Many people in my little backwater “Christian” church and school were aghast when they heard that I was going off to New Zealand with a bunch of young sinners from around the world. After graduating high school, I was supposed to be heading off to Bob Jones University, where I would meet my future Christian wife and get prepared to serve the Lord.
But Dee had other ideas. His dreams of being an explorer were being resurrected by Operation Raleigh, and there was no way he was going to miss that boat.
I’m not going to change my name to Jimbo. But it’s interesting how this part of me that jumped out in an unguarded moment resonates so strongly with my energy when I was 15, 16, and 17 years old and first deciding to live my own life.
And interesting that it happened at a time when I was finally emerging from a long period of seclusion and inner transformation that often felt oppressive in a similar way to the fear-based, judgmental, shaming environment of my teenage life.
I don’t think I would even consider Jimbo to be a full-blown alter ego. I see him as the confident, more extroverted part of my soul who has always been part of who I am, but for multiple reasons is asking to play a bigger role in my story going forward.
We all have these confident, capable parts within us. But they can’t help us unless we call on them – or hear them when they call on us. Safiya and I think we’ve discovered some pretty foolproof methods for helping you get in touch with the resourceful elements within your soul. Wouldn’t it be great to know that whenever you need a little extra dose of confidence, tenacity, persistence, or daring, you can just activate the part of you that feels supremely comfortable expressing those qualities?
We still have room for you in our Who Do You Think You Are?! webinar series that starts March 25…