According to my sources, today is "Name Yourself Day." Most everything I read mentions that today is a day you can change your name if you don't like the one your parents gave you. I can see that if you have the same name as everyone else around you, but that is obviously not a problem I have. I've only met one other Rabia in my whole life and she was an Afghan refugee I met through a school I worked at. We didn't have a whole lot of conversations because I don't speak Farsi and she didn't speak English.
I'll start with the obvious: How to pronounce my name. I have heard lots of different pronunciations over the years. I've been called Robyn, Robbie and Rabies(haha, I've never heard that one before!!). My neighbor of ten years still calls me Robie (with a long "O" sound). (*Side note: In high school my best friend's name was Robyn. At one point she was dating a boy named Robbie. My poor boyfriend had the darndest time trying to talk to the three of us when we were all together!!) Anyway! The pronunciation: RAW (like uncooked) bee (buzz buzz) uh (uh...). Put it together RAW-bee-uh.
The funny thing about telling people how to pronounce my name is that they then want to change the spelling. I can't tell you how many times I've spelled my name for someone and then pronounced it only to have them say, "I'm going to put 'Robia" over here on the side so I can remember how to say it." Inevitably, the next time I talk to them, they call me Robia (long "O" sound again).
I lived with people mis-pronouncing my name and mis-spelling my name for a LONG time. Even my own brother used to spell it wrong all the time. I'm used to it. Learning to gently correct people has been a great lesson in assertiveness. Having a unique name has also been a great conversation starter when I meet new people. The story I tell is actually kind of funny.
I have an Arabic first name and a German last name, but I am neither Arabic nor German. Technically I am Native American on my mom's side from an Alaskan tribe. My parents met where all girls from Alaska and boys from Iowa meet: Afghanistan! They were both in the Peace Corps. My mom was a nursing teacher, teaching young Afghan women how to care for themselves and each other. My dad taught English. The story goes that with each new group of volunteers the current volunteers would go out to meet the planes. Apparently the pilots always let the prettiest girls sit up front in the co-pilot's seat. That's where my dad first saw my mom. (That's the way he tells it anyway!)
My parents got married, had a kid (my brother John), moved around a bunch and 9 years later had me. My mom named me Rabia after one of her former students in Afghanistan. As I've heard it, the choices were between Rabia and Nadia. Before I was born, my older brother used to go around the house chanting "Naughty Nadia! Naughty Nadia!" And that's how I ended up as a Rabia. Thanks John!
When I was in Sunday school growing up, there was always a class about Saints. The teachers would always talk about which Saints the students were named after. My dad taught me to explain that I was named after a Sufi Saint. That didn't always go over well.
Also, if you ask my dad who I am named after, he will tell you that I am named after Christopher Columbus. Actually all of us are named after Christopher Columbus. Mainly because Christopher Columbus was named in 1451 and the rest of us were name sometime after that. (I get my sense of humor from my dad, can you tell?)
I like my name. I've never had to use my last initial. I've never heard people ask "Which Rabia?" I can weed out telephone solicitors like nobody's business!! "Umm...Hello. May I speak with Rah-ray-robe...Mrs. Lie-ber?" "Sorry, no one here by that name!" It gives me a great story to start conversations with when I meet new people.
Do you like your name? Would you change it if you had the chance? Or do you go by a nickname?