I’ve shared this story before, but for those who don’t know, when I was younger it wasn’t a requirement to attend kindergarten. Because of that, my first classroom experience was first grade. I loved my teacher, I loved my school, I loved my entire first grade life. Well, most of it.
Two weeks into the school year I was sent to the principal’s office. Now you have to understand, I was a well behaved kid back then. Really, I was. For me to be in trouble was a big deal. My dad was a Drill Sergeant at that time in the military so I knew not to misbehave, and if I did misbehave…well, let’s just say it would be better for me to pack my bags and go live in the treehouse.
My dad was called to the school to discuss my behavior. I wasn’t in the meeting but I could hear their voices filter through the door and down the hall to where I was sitting. The teacher told my dad that I wasn’t paying attention in class, yet after he questioned her, he discovered that she was calling me by the name Penny. (Now keep in mind my name is Penelope and I had never heard the name Penny before.) The teacher chose to nickname me without even letting me know. So when she would call on me to do something, I wasn’t responding because she wasn’t calling me by my name…the only name I knew…Penelope.
I could hear the anger in my dad’s voice as he said, “My daughter’s name is Penelope and you will call her Penelope. If I wanted her called Penny, I would have named her Penny.”
My dad never let anyone nickname me. To this day people will still try shortening my name to Penny, and when they do I always respond letting them know that that’s not my name. I am Penelope. That’s just who I am.
There will be times when people will try to call you by a name that you don’t recognize. They may call you quitter, or lazy, or forgotten, or disabled. But those names—those labels—are not who you are. Don’t let anyone slap a “Hello my name is…” sticker on you with the wrong name written in the blank space. And just so you know, you aren’t Multiple Sclerosis either.
You are an amazing person living with a terrible disease. You are strong. You are fierce. You are able. You are greater than even you think you are. Take a deep breath, dry your tears and be YOU. I love the you that you are!