My middle name is Bailey.
It's a family name. My great-grandfather had it, my uncle has it, and one of my (male) cousins has it. To my knowledge, I'm the only girl in my extended family with the name.
I used to not like it. I thought it was boring and bland. I've known several Bailey/Bailees throughout my life, and it just seemed like a really common name. I thought it was inelegant. I wanted a middle name like Elizabeth or Katherine, like one of the queens of history I was so fascinated with.
But my middle name is Bailey.
I'm really intrigued by what names mean. A classic feature of an adventure Story is the assignment of significant names. All significant characters in great tales have meaningful names. Often, they have multiple. Their given name is telling, but often they'll be renamed and given new epithets, titles, nicknames to reflect their spinning destiny, their role.
Think of Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the king in The Return of the King. Aragorn is his given name. As a child he was called Estel, which means hope. He is the hope of his people. When he is finally crowned (spoilers, but hey, the book is called The Return of the King), he is renamed Elessar, meaning Elfstone, for the elven brooch he wears upon his chest -- a gift from his future wife. His names are constantly spinning as his destiny unfurls, and they reflect both who he is and what he will be.
I like to take that view with our own names. Often, parents just choose their children's names with the view of whether or not they like the name (and, hopefully, whether that name will grow with them). But I find that names often shape who you are, who you will grow to be. They reflect personality more than we think. They mean something.
And my middle name is Bailey.
I looked it up one day. My first name means Princess; my last name, Tree-grower. I didn't know what my middle name meant, so I looked it up. It's an Old English word (as opposed to my first and last names; respectively, Hebrew and German [what an odd juxtaposition]), and it's an abbreviation of the word bailiff. A bailiff is a steward -- and if you think I didn't think of the Stewards of Gondor, you have another think coming. Bailiffs/baileys function in an administrative capacity, carrying out the tasks of the house or the palace or sometimes even a ship (then they're called a boatswain, or in Shakespeare, a bosun). They assign tasks to the other servants or the crew and oversee their completion. They ensure everything is completed to the letter: in some capacities, they're even legal executors.
One of my spiritual gifts happens to be administration. The overseeing of tasks. Attention to detail. It sounds silly, but I'm not joking; this is a legitimate spiritual gift that I have. It's a real thing.
And my middle name is Bailey.
A Stewardess. And not like a flight attendant kind of stewardess. Capital S.
Someone who carries out the tasks of the palace or the household, especially when the Master (purposeful caps, y'all!) is away.
When I first found this out, I think I laughed. How could I ignore this part of my identity? Even better, how could I ignore the way my name was knit to it?
I know my mama picked that name because she liked it, and she wanted to have me a name that's tied to my family. But I marvel at the sense of humor and destiny of God, because my name is knit to my personality and, I believe, my future.
Who I am and who I will be.
How could I dislike that name now? How can I view it with anything less than at least a rueful affection?
Your name is a part of who you are. Like it or not, for better or for worse, it will shape you. Maybe that's why, when some people are called ill-named, it has a particular ring of foreboding, like iron bells. Because your name is a reflection of who you are, but also who you will be.
I am intrigued by this concept, and I hope it never goes away. I want to pay attention to what my name means and how it unfolds in my life. I write a lot about identity here, because that's where the Adventure starts. And Adventure always involves a shift in who we believe ourselves to be, a shift in who we are, a veritable Identity Crisis -- in the very best of ways.
Our names might not change, but they can unfold, unroll like a dusty carpet. We are involved in the art of discovering and finding and searching and wandering along the road until our feet seize upon a Path. Our entire lives are Adventure-Stories, y'all, and we are living them out.
Let's not be afraid of an Identity Crisis. It only means that we are becoming more. That the Adventure is unfolding. And let's not be afraid of that, either.
Let's take it in both hands and breathe its scent and relish it and go.
Let us see how the Tale unfolds.