I wasn't always called Poppy.
It started when I was 5. I've always been strong-minded. Feminist before I even knew what it meant - "Why does someone else get to decide what I am called?"
I liked my mother's name: Yan Yan, Sparrow. I didn't like mine: Yuan Yuan, Circle. 'Cuz moving to the suburbs of Minnesota I was self-conscious as a 5 year old being called "Circle" with my round Chinese face and my long thick black hair and the Other-ness of being bilingual. I felt exposed in a way that I imagine first-generation immigrants often feel. Even ones at age 5.
So I changed it. I wanted to be a bird also. So I named myself after my mother: XiaoYan Yan, Little Sparrow.
At age 5 I rigorously enforced this.
And then something incredible happened: people started calling me my new name.
Just like that. My 5 year old brain was blown.
At that very young age I had stumbled across what felt like the greatest secret: I make the rules for myself.
And so I spent the rest of my adolescence doing just that: I have a thought I speak up, I desire a change I manifest it, I become tired of my identity I create a new one.
In this way I cycled through a multitude of names. Nicknames, new names, reclaimed old names, Chinese names, English names, pseudonyms. I was trying on identities like outfits and I felt unbound. I felt free.
But something else was happening...
Little did I know, I was exercising a very important muscle: the muscle of non-attachment. A side-effect of not being able to sit still with any one name was that I also was not attached to any one version of myself. I was everyone and no one at the same time. Living with utter vitality and not taking myself seriously all at once.
Ah... and that, I have found, is the true pot of gold that I accidentally stumbled across as a 5 year old.
I'm Poppy right now, but who knows who I'll be when you see me again.
x a very circular poppy (for now...)