Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Rose By Any Other Name

Just the other day, fate led me to discover an ancient hard drive of mine tucked neatly in a corner behind my not-so-neat side table. I consequently unearthed heaps of my old work, including this essay, which I wrote as a part of my college application requirements.

This piece dates back to 2011 (making me about sixteen years old when it was written, so I'd appreciate if we could all overlook the adolescent choices). I applied to Ateneo de Manila University, and proceeded to take up Creative Writinga period of my life that would leave an indelible mark in me. However, in the slim chance you were wondering, I did not finish, and am currently under college-dropout status.

The facts I reveal in this essay may be unknown to many, so in the event that you are in a confused state regarding the topic I am to discuss, this should explain.

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A Rose By Any Other Name

“What's in a name?” Juliet Capulet proclaimed. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”1 I remember clearly the moment in which I read these words. The strong reflection evoked by these simple phrases stringed together in passionate dissent remains fresh in my memory. What is in a name? Is it of such great importance? Does it define one, or is it simply a label which, if done away with, would not so much as alter a thing? Names we all must live with, despite whatever varying beliefs we may hold regarding its significance; it is inevitable we all possess one. Well, what if someone took yours away?

It was late July of 2010 when I had received word. It had been decided on long before I could even perceive the slightest idea of its existence. An understanding had been agreed upon. It was final: They were going to change my name. Once the complete and utter shock of the news had subsided, my initial reaction to the motion was indubitably to question it. Why? What's wrong with my name? Suffice to say, it was agreed that my name simply was not glamorous enough. Being in the entertainment industry, I was no stranger to the need to satiate the public's thirst for glamour; it was an effort I was forced to succumb to on a daily basis. But to take the very thing upon which my entire life was structured and treat it as you would the latest productsusceptible to immediate disposal if found unpalatable to the masseswas crossing the line. I was slighted, to say the very least. However, whilst wallowing in my self-pity and licking my wounds, a rather optimistic thought interrupted my hopeless tirade. What if that which I considered such a blasphemy was exactly what I needed?

When I was younger, I brimmed with an eccentric desire for amusement, and would go to great lengths, taking unnecessary risks along the way to attain it. Whether it was leading a parade of friends on the roof of the school building after classes, or climbing into an unlocked classroom through a previously locked window, I had always found myself in some sort of trouble. I was prideful, and immediately leaped through every open (sometimes closed) door on impulse, ignoring any form of sound advice that would contradict me. I was unwilling to hear what anyone else had to suggest if it would threaten to thwart my escapades. I held fast to my childish beliefs and would not release my grip unless experience would teach me otherwise. I had roistered in my stupidity, and soon became widely recognized for it. It was all downright blatant, heinous pride. Emmanuelle knew best.
Because of this, I pondered the possibility—a clean slate, a fresh start on life altogether. Who wouldn't revel in the proposition to eradicate from existence every single mistake committed in the past, and instead, armed with a wealth of previously acquired wisdom and knowledge, create an entirely new person? Who wouldn't jump at a chance to embody perfection? Part of me was mesmerized by the idea. I would be doing away with everything I was ashamed of: the remnants of my irresponsibility, foolishness, immaturity, and imprudence. But the pragmatic side of me knew better.

It was not until after getting a hefty number of fellow students punished with an entire month of community service, nearly finding myself suspended, and winding up in the hospital in a near-death state did I realize the gravity of my foolishness. My pride had been shattered, and I was left with no other option but change. In retrospect, I am saddened that it required me hitting absolute rock bottom to see how utterly pointless all my deeds had been. I had severed a great deal of relationships and wasted a significant amount of time and resources. Worst of all, I had compromised my own wellbeing, all in the pursuit of something that is fleeting—momentary thrill.

Unfortunate as this may be, it is due to this very realization, and the countless incidents I had to endure to unearth it, that I am who I am today. Yes, I suffered much, but because of it, I had emerged wiser than I ever was and stronger than I'd ever been in the past. I had mustered the ability to piece my life back together, and had found my way back to the road that would gradually lead to where I ultimately want to be. This time, I was not ashamed of my past anymore. Every single thing I'd ever done, all the hurdles I had managed to leap over, had become a part of me, and losing a name, I had thought, would be losing myself. I would be bidding goodbye everything I'd ever worked toward: the sullied reputation I had finally wiped clean, the accomplishments I had endeavored to achieve, the character my parents had spent years striving to build, and most importantly the woman who had to be subjected to much pain in order to arrive at who she presently is. Did I truly want to sacrifice this for a delusive “clean slate” in attempt to conform to the petty impositions of the entertainment industry?

Ironically, it was in that moment that I grasped the notion that, while names do possess power, they do not by any means define you. They may speak into your life, but only to a certain extent. They are incapable of determining who you are—rather, it is the choices you make that do. The individual that you are has been written in stone from the beginning, and no external force will ever succeed in altering it. The last remaining task one has left to fulfill is to live up to the identity he already owns. What is a new name? It is the exact same being, only with an unfamiliar label. Call a rose ironmonger; it will still be a rose. Call it scaffolding, excrement, epoxy resin, and yet it will not lose itself. Irrespective of the label you dub it with, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

1 – Shakespeare, W. (c. 1591). Romeo & Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2.