Search Blog

Feb 6, 2013

What’s in a name?

How I am addressed is often an interesting tale. My professional pseudonym of “Dj” is not my legally given name, and more curious is why just a colloquial nickname became associated with my professional career. Today, there are few who even know my legal name, save the classmates on Facebook. However, this is not the story I plan to share for this post.
My topic today is names we select to give ourselves or perhaps I should say, “Personal brand.” Often others give us names, sometimes jovial, sometimes cruel. But we have opportunities in life to give ourselves a name. Examples are when we pick an email address or register a website domain.
This is the story of why I chose “Knight of the Living Dad.” I’ve told this story before, but it has been a while and I think it merits a retelling.
During a difficult and dark time in my life, I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I had just gone through a divorce. I don’t think there is such a thing as an easy divorce, so I don’t mean to compare my sob story to others.
However, entering this new chapter, I had lost my wife, my home and soon after had lost my job. My older daughters had been asked not to associate with me because they were not legally obligated. My youngest and biological daughter I only saw two days out of fourteen. I was bitter, angry and full of vengeance over what I perceived to blame for my marital demise.
Atop of all of that mess, in the final year or so of that fallen marriage, I had engaged in some chemical substance abuse. Even after choosing to quit, I struggled with seeing that as any sort of a problem. In the post-divorce life, I would cling to that crutch from time to time too. I was wedged in a place where I let my past grasp me and define me. The real problem was that I didn’t like who I was.
As many men do with their new-found singleness and extra time, I filled it looking for cheap thrills: drink, women, video games. Although, I won a lot more games than women, the point is not about how bad the things I did but rather how bad the things I tried to do.
At the time “Myspace” was popular. (Those over thirty will remember what this was.) The site allowed a user to change his display name frequently, and I used this as a gimmick to attract attention to myself. A “knight” theme developed. I was “Girl’s Knight Out” and a “Knight to Remember” and several other tragic puns I have now forgotten.
Robin Williams describes an encounter with Koko, the gorilla, and jests about a vulgar potentiality. He chimes that for a moment he justified his thoughts by saying, “This would make a great bar story.” While my post-divorce life did produce some interesting “bar stories,” there are none I really want to tell, and this new chapter of my life had made me quite miserable despite that any “listener at the bar” might think I was living large.
It was Valentine’s Day, and I was alone. But this became the day of one of the biggest fights I ever had. I was destined to lose because my opponent was God.
He and I had done battle before, and He always kicks my butt. This time it was about who I claimed to be versus who I had allowed myself to actually become. Somewhere in the yelling at the ceiling and at the cracked statuette of Jesus on my mantle (the only punch I landed on God from a previous fight), He had Ralph Waldo Emerson argue in His stead, who said: “What you are thunders so loudly above what you say that I cannot hear you.”
He got my attention, and a more civil debate continued. Much of it was about being a “knight” and being a protector as a “dad.” There was discussion about how video-game super-heroism did not have to be limited to fantasy; there were ways to have all the wonderful conflict of the outcast hero in the real world and specifically as a “dad.”
As this encounter came to a close, the background music was Mike and the Mechanics “Living Years.” The song lyrics say “It’s too late when we die.” At that moment, I flashed back to a conversation years before when my mom told me some significant details about the family that she had not shared while I was a child – nothing shocking, but her reasoning for telling me was she didn’t want me to discover these particulars in the estate after they had died and be upset I had never been told.
Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got
It was that moment everything came together, the reason God took a right-hook to the statue. In my role as a dad, not only was I to be a “knight” – but not one that stood as a distant guardian. I was to be an active participant in the lives of my children. They needed to know who I am and not find out by reading it in my obituary one day. Moreover, I needed to be a person who my children would want to know.
It has not been a perfect role, and I have made many mistakes even since that day. But from that instant forward, I branded myself the “Knight of the Living Dad.”

1 comment:

  1. Awesome story! ...And that from someone who has hidden self through pseudonym... ;) Thank you for sharing! Many can learn from your trials so it's wonderful you can be so vulnerable in your writing.