Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's in a name.

My given name is Lewis Adam Lawrence. Lewis is a family name, one that I like a lot and plan to pass on to one of my son, should I have that opportunity. Adam is the name by which my parents intended me to go.

In the second week of my freshman year at UNC, I auditioned for a play called Mere Mortals with Lab! Theater. I performed a monologue about a man disappointed by his box of animal crackers. I was very nervous, and ended up improvising a line or two, but I felt it went over well enough. The director and stage manager, Abby Manekin and Geoff Bridges, respectively, decided it was easier to remember me by calling me “Animal Crackers,” which they then shortened to “A.C.” It took no time at all for them to recall A.C. Slater from the show Saved by the Bell, and by the time I got to the end of my callback, I had a new nickname. When I was cast in the play the very first group of friends I had in college knew me as Slater. They were all I knew, and all they knew was Slater. So I let it stick and went by Slater for the rest of undergrad. (On facebook I remained “Adam Slater Lawrence” to accommodate both my college and high school friends.)

But now I’m about to go somewhere new, where no one knows me by any name. I’ve prematurely introduced myself as Slater to a few Boston people, much to my parents disappointment. One day my dad rather pointedly told me that “‘Slater’ is what the people down at Carolina called you, but that doesn’t mean it’s what people in Boston have to call you.” Of course, given how little I keep in touch with friends from high school, my dad might have well as said, “Just because 95% of the people you love and care about know you by a certain name, that doesn’t mean that you should put any stock in it.”

So I’m at an impasse, a sort of identity crisis. Sure, Juliet famously asked, “What’s in a name?” but it turns out that when you’re faced with the idea of being called something that you’ve grown largely unaccustomed to for several years...well, quite a lot can be in that name.

I discovered, though, that being called “Slater” by people who were not from Carolina seemed suddenly inorganic. Maybe that’s just because I’m home for the summer and have become “Adam” again for a few months, but it is nonetheless strange to hear. So I’ve decided that yes, I’ll go back to being called Adam in graduate school. The rest of you can call me whatever you know me by - I’ll always place great value on the name Slater, as it became a fairly substantial part of my identity and who I am today since I grew so much in the years that I was known by it.

Maybe this all seems odd or unsubstantial to whomever’s reading this, but I recently learned that it actually means a lot to me, what I’m called, so I thought I’d talk it out. Plus, now you know where “Slater” comes from. As I’ve always said, it’s a much less interesting story once you’ve heard it.

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