This column published in Highlands Today on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008.
Have you ever Googled your own name just to see what comes up? It's fun, and sometimes, downright scary. No matter who you are, or how unique you think your moniker is, there are probably people out there with the same name.
Most of them are normal, ordinary, people like you and me. But whether your search renders thousands of matches or just a few, it's likely some of those people will have very interesting lives. Checking them out can be great entertainment.
You may discover that you have the same name as an artist or a rock musician or a forensic scientist. One Joyce Minor is a college professor. Another is an actress (actually Brenda Joyce Minor).
It's also likely that a few of them, perhaps many if your list is long, may have blogs you can read. When you pull them up, you could find yourself reading the inane ramblings of a teenage airhead, the cerebral philosophizing of the next Steven Hawking, or the paranoid plotting of a serial ax murderer. Whatever it is, it's out there for all the world to see ... with your name on it! That can really freak you out. You find yourself obsessing over it. "What if someone I know reads this and actually thinks that paranoid prattler is me?"
It's also fun to Google the names of your friends and relatives. Just remember to take everything you find with a grain of salt because there are plenty of people who love masquerading online. Some have several names and personas. The valley girl blog that's all about clothes and boyfriends and who's doing what to whom may be written by the same person who blogs the angry ranting of a Nazi skinhead plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. And neither one is the real person at the keyboard.
It's also interesting to see if there have been books published or awards won in your name. There's a Joyce Minor who has written several spy thrillers and a Joyce Minor who is the head of Habitat for Humanity for eastern Kentucky. I happen to know that particular Joyce Minor is for real and, I'm proud to say, is my sister-in-law, a retired school teacher who travels all over the world supervising the construction of habitat houses.
I guess the point of all this is that your name is an intimate part of who you are. If my name were Susan or Kathy or Eileen, instead of Joyce, would I be the same person? If my surname were Jones or Taylor or VanZandt, instead of Minor, would that change who I am inside? Maybe we're really all like Bruce Wayne, capable of becoming totally different people when we put on the "mask" of a different name.
I think there's something in all of us that longs to experience life from inside someone else's skin - to see the world through other eyes - experience other realities, as if that would somehow validate our own. From the tale of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the Great Imposter to the "shapeshifter" on Star Trek, the idea of a person becoming someone else has always fascinated us.
Maybe it's just another form of the age old illusion that the grass must be greener on the other side of the fence. But I think it's more than that. It's a longing for significance. If I can find other people out there with the same name as me, and yet very different lives, then maybe there is a chance I could become something more, or different, than what I am.
Life is short, and we get only one shot at it. In the name of heaven, that's what's really scary!