“A few weeks before you were born, I had a dream,” my dad recalls on my sixteenth birthday. I have vague memories of having heard this story before, but he especially likes retelling them on birthdays like all parents. I move closer.

“I saw that I had a little girl, my daughter. She held my little finger with her entire hand and lead me forward. We were on a stairway, stepping upwards,” his voice feels hazy as if it is coming from a past entity. At some point in time, that girl in his vision morphed into me, his newborn daughter. 

Long before his marriage, he had decided what he would name his child if he had a girl. My grandparents had the honor of naming my elder sister, so my parents gave me the chosen name; Haniya. It is a Hebrew and Arabic name and literally translates into someone who is happy and “enters happiness into hearts.” It is understandable since many people believe names invoke certain emotions and they desire positive ones for their children. These connotations may or may not be realistic, but they are there. For instance, when I hear “Sarah”, I imagine someone with curly and bouncy hair. When I hear “Komal”, I visualize someone with a soft nature. My little sister says hearing “Palvasha” invokes the image of a broomstick in her mind (nobody knows why). 

If I have a daughter, I will name her Aurora or Celeste because these names sound ethereal and suggest someone extraordinary, capable, and wonderful. Similarly, my dad liked the sound of my name and believed it would resonate with the happy child he wanted to raise.

Sometimes, people ask me if I vibe with my name? If I’m happy and the bringer of happiness for others? That is a tricky question, I believe. It depends on how you gauge happiness and what it means to you.

I think of the girl who spends most of her time in her bed and in front of a laptop screen. The girl who is not well-versed in interactions and doesn’t know what to talk about with the guests. The girl who doesn’t cook or work or pray as she should. The girl who says the wrong things at the wrong times. She’s not happy; she is just sad and guilty. She can’t imagine being a source of happiness for anyone.

Then, I think of the girl who makes people thoughtful cards and gifts for birthdays. The girl who stays with her parents when they are sick even after her siblings have slept. The one that her parents mention proudly to their friends in their discussions about academic achievements.

She’d give up anything to help those she loves, and she has so much love inside her even though sometimes she can’t conjure the words to express it. She is resilient and kind. She is content and spreads joy for others.

I am both of these people, and my name thus reflects facets of my personality. It is an embodiment of my parents’ wishes and a reminder of my good side. I just hope one day I won’t spiral into thoughts or shake my head profusely when a new friend asks if I vibe with my name!

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