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When I arrived at my college dorm freshman year, I introduced myself as Jonathan. When someone would shorten my name, I would say “No, it’s Jon - ATHAN!” In fact, so determined was I not to be called “Jon” that within a few weeks my friends began calling me “Athan” (and, eventually “The Than”).
Jonathan. This is my name and my identity. Except for my husband (who calls me “JP”), its the only way to catch my attention or find me in a crowded room.
It wasn’t always so. Growing up I was called Jonnie. I loathed this name for as long as I could remember. To me “Jonnie” meant, weak, fat, wimpy kid. But “Jonnie” it was, on birthday cards, school rosters, at boy scouts. You name it.
My arrival at college, hundreds of miles from where I’d gone to high school, unknown to a single other student, was a brief moment to seize the day and change my identity. It sounded funny even to my own ears when first I began referring to myself as Jonathan, and I even had to practice signing my name differently (there were no computers back then!).
But now, for over thirty years, my name is what it is. Even my family gave in decades ago, and all refer to me by the name that is mine.
Of course, another identity I had (and for MUCH longer than the dreaded “Jonnie”) was “fat”. Despite all the fad diets I tried and efforts to change my shape, in my mind and head I was always fat. Fat Jonathan. Ill fitting clothes, embarrassing photographs, physical discomfort — these were the things that defined my personal self-image.
Losing weight in 2002 and then keeping it off for 9 years was a real mind-bender. Unlike college, where my name change was completed in a day, it was much more effort and much lengthier of a process to identify myself as thin. It actually took a dedicated effort to remind myself (often out loud) that I was a “skinny guy.”
Eventually, like my name, it became a part of me.
Although at the present time I am not physically thin, I do still hold on to my thinner identity. It gives me hope and comfort to know I’ll get back there one day. And if for the time being, someone thinks of me as “fat Jonnie” that’s okay.
In my heart, I know who I really am.