Since this is my first official post, I guess I should introduce myself. The first thing most people want to know about me is the deal with my name. The full story actually goes pretty deep—if I were a character in a book, I would even say it was at the heart of a character-building moment. I’m not saying my name choice was as dramatic as the murder of young Bruce Wayne’s or as emotional as Romeo’s eyes first meeting Juliet’s, but if there’s a parallel universe with a version of me who took another name, we probably turned out radically different.
The first thing I’ll tell you about my name is the last thing I tell most people: Sechin is actually my middle name. Few people know my first name, and that’s just fine because it’s less “me.”
“Sechin” is a Mongolian name, although you can probably see from my picture that I’m not Mongolian. It means “wise counselor,” and it was the title of Genghis Khan’s advisors. My parents picked this name because they were travelling abroad as students studying Chinese history and decided to give me a “fun” middle name. “What the heck,” I imagine them saying, “what’s in a name?”
There’s a lot in a name. To me, “Sechin” always seemed unique, exotic, whimsical, and perhaps even mystical. By contrast, my first name (we’ll say it’s “Norman” even though it isn’t) seemed formal, mundane, safe, and serious. One name was for use with strangers, the other for people who knew the real me.
My theory is that my parents used “Sechin” as a “crib name” that would be replaced by my “real” name when I grew up. Whatever the case, at a very young age I had the impression that someday I would need to assume my “real” first name, the same way I would have to tie my own shoes, eat brussel sprouts, and pay taxes. Someday I would have to become “Normal Norman.”
Back then, I the start of kindergarten seemed like the day I should start growing up. I thought I was so old! It sounds funny now, but it seemed like a huge step at the time.
I remember the teacher writing name cards for each of our desks. She asked my name and I told her Sechin, so she started writing that on a card. But then I remembered that I was supposed to be a big boy now, so I told her that I should probably go by my first name instead. So she wrote that on a card, too, and then placed both cards in front of me and told me I would need to pick one and stick to it.
It seems like such a minor decision, but I remember feeling the weight of a momentous choice. Each of those names represented a different path through life: the normal path with the normal name, or the unusual one with the weird name. One would allow me to fit in, the other—for better or worse—would mark me as different from the moment of introduction.
It took me a long time to decide, but you already know what I picked. The moment I grabbed the card that said “Sechin,” I felt an electric thrill of victory. That moment somehow rippled through all my subsequent choices, and it empowered me to take many of the roads less traveled. I’ve done plenty of unusual things: I’ve created daring and outrageous Halloween costumes, lived in China, trained in Brazillian Jiujitsu and obstacle racing, and—always above all else—followed my dream to be a writer. My experiments frequently leave me bruised (emotionally as well as physically), but the rewards have always outweighed the costs.
Maybe I’m leaning too much on this one moment, but I like to think that somewhere there is a parallel universe with a version of me that made the other choice. In that universe, “Normal Norman” Tower probably wears a gray flannel suit and drives a sensible car to his job as an investment banker. We have some things in common: we’re both hard workers, both insatiably curious people, and both eat brussel sprouts. But the big difference is that he keeps his middle name secret because he’s afraid of showing too much personality. He probably also hates his job and feels dead inside. I’m glad I made the other decision, because I feel exactly the opposite way.
But enough about me. I’ve never really talked to anyone else about their “formative moments,” so I wonder if other people can remember similar crossroads in their lives. If you’ve ever come to a point that split you forever from the parallel universe version of you, I would love it if you left a comment here to tell me about it. If you haven’t, I’d still love to hear you say “Hi!”