What is in a name?

I remember in the early days of starting A Way Out, the charity I was a part of founding in 2002; we spent a long time working out what our name should be.  You see a name is important.  Without a name, you can’t register for a bank account, you can’t apply for funding, you can’t become a legal entity.  Your name is central to your brand, it becomes what you are known as, tells people who you are.  A Way Out was about providing a way out for women and young people from addiction, poverty and sexual exploitation; our name had to link to that.

It was also important in leading the charity to have the right “title”.  I needed my own name that gave me significance, a name or title that gets you through doors, gets funders or decision makers to meet you, gets you round tables, gets you invited to the right parties. Yes, there is a lot in a name. 

I didn’t realise when leaving A Way Out though, how difficult not having a name could be.  Ever since leaving A Way Out, people have wanted to know what I’m doing next.  I have started a new journey of place regeneration and community mobilisation, but for the moment, none of this is solid or formalised, it hasn’t got an agreed name and I haven’t got a title.  And that’s the problem.  You see, the world seems to want a solid thing, with a secure name.  It expects you to do something and to be something, and usually something of significance.  People want a nice neat box to put you in, something that says, “oh so that’s who you are” “so that’s what you do”. But without a name or a title, that is much more difficult. 

I am not sure if anyone heard my radio interview with John Foster last week.  You can listen on iplayer here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0217pwg for another few days I think (it’s 2 hrs in), but if anyone was listening, you will see how strongly this need for the tangible came across. “So what are you doing now?” was the question I was asked time and time again.  I tried to share about the journey I was on, the things I am getting involved with, the things that are capturing my heart, but he kept on questioning… “But what is it? What are you going to do next?” He wanted the solid. He wanted the box. And so in my interview, I gave him the something tangible that he was looking for.  I told him about my political hopes.  I had other beautiful stories I could have shared of communities coming together, local amenities being saved, festivals being planned, events being imagined, artists collaborating, movements beginning, ideas for area transformation being dreamed.  But instead, we talked about my journey into local politics.   I didn’t mind, I have lot’s to say on that subject too, but I found it interesting, that this was the path we took. 

All this, has now got me thinking though.  How far is the expectation to “be” and “do” something secure and significant, or to have a solid name or identity, actually affecting our society.  I wonder how many dreams are never dreamed or journeys never taken because the attachment to the solid is too strong or the expectation of the world around us, too great. I wonder how many people feel they are not good enough, because they are not doing enough, or being enough? 

I am really enjoying engaging more with artists at the moment, they seem to be the one group of people, who are finding an ability to stay in the “transient” and “fluid” spaces much longer than the rest of us, to create, to innovate, to imagine and to dream, without the expectation of going and being or doing something other than just being themselves.  I wonder what the world could look like, if a few more of us were allowed to live like this.  How many more new stories might emerge?  How many changes could we see, not just in society but in ourselves?  It’s an interesting question isn’t it but what are your thoughts? Are there expectations that are limiting us? Or is the solid and secure, the only way, really, in the end?

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