My name was supposed to be Maya if I was a girl and Kevin if I was a boy. Instead of Maya my mom named me China. She says the inspiration behind the decision was that I was born on Chinese New Year. Not to disagree with my mom, but I am pretty sure that my parents being liberal minded hippies had something to do with the decision too.
When I was a kid, I hated my name. Kids can be mean and when you have a “weird” name, they can be merciless. While attempting to use a Chinese accent, they would taunt me. You are full of rice, they would say. China has little cars and Chinese people in her, they would exclaim. Now I look back and laugh. At the time I couldn’t look at them for the lame insults that they were. It seemed like the end of the world. As a kid you want to fit in. Anything that makes you different from other kids makes you a target.
When I was halfway through third grade we moved from San Francisco to Berkeley. On my first day at my new school my teacher asked what I liked to be called. I took this as my chance to reinvent myself. I told her Cassandra, or Cassie for short. My inspiration was a character from one of my favorite television shows, Little House on the Prairie. It stuck, I used the name all the way through high school. I had a name I liked, an average everyday name.
Upon graduating from 12th grade, school officials informed me that because I never had my name legally changed, China would be the name printed on my diploma. I took this well. My name didn’t seem so awful anymore. I thought maybe it would be cool to have a new name. From then on I officially went by China.
Having a weird name as an adult does have some minor drawbacks. It is a little annoying because I always have to repeat my name after I am introduced. They usually give me a look and a raised brow because they are still unsure that they heard correctly. Some people insist on calling me Cheena. To them the possibility of me having some abstract name makes more since, than me being named after a country.
Overall I love my unique name. Having a different name is a good conversation starter. People are curious and want to know how I got such a different name. My name gives me an edge, it stands out and is hard to forget. As an adult all of these are appealing. Those can all be pluses when looking for a job or a mate. For all the same reasons that I hated my name as kid, I have now grown to love it as an adult. The best thing about my name is that in my whole life I have only ever met one person with the same name. How many people can say that?