My name holds different meanings for many people. I have been told that my name is beautiful, but I have also been told that my name does not fit me. I have received perplexed looks from people when my name is called out and I am the one to stand up or raise my hand. I learned that names hold certain expectations, and with a name like Shazia Khan, people may expect to see someone different. Some people expect to see a girl wearing a hijab or someone with darker skin, not a wispy girl with pale freckled skin wearing floral dresses and marvel superhero shirts. The moment my name is uttered so much can be revealed.
Shazia Khan, where are you from?
You can guess I’m Muslim and South Asian with my name.
If you turn to the Internet, you would find out that my name means unique and aromatic.
If you ask my Mother, she would tell you that she named me long before I was even born. She would tell you that she was reeling from the death of her first-born child when she watched a movie with a spunky girl named Shazia and fell in love with the name. She would recount that years later she uttered my name the moment she found out she was having a girl. She would laugh and confess that Shazia contained the first three letters of her favourite Pakistani President, Zia-Ul-Haq, and that may have also been a small reason she chose the name.
My father would tell you that my name means the scent of flowers, which bloom in abundance in his childhood village in Kashmir. A few Starbucks baristas will tell you that my name is a nuisance and not worth getting right during busy hours. My name can be the alarm bells at airports and the slip of civility for people with fear and hatred in their hearts.
What matters most is what my name means to me. It took me years to realize that a name can be a source of alienation and belonging. Having a different name as a child means constantly trying to fit in while feeling “other”. I remember times when I would wish my name were Sarah instead of Shazia, something that would be easier to pronounce and accept. As I grew up, I started understanding the significance of my name and the legacy I carry of the strong woman who named me and the ties to my culture. I became proud of my name, and encouraged people to pronounce it right. My name means unique and I have come to lean into this meaning and wear it with pride to honour the history behind it.
Thank you for reading my musings.