A long time ago I used to be known as Robin Andrew Hawkes. It was my full birth-name. A name that I was proud of. A name that had both history and story behind it. However, when I was a young teenager I decided to call myself Rob, just Rob. I made every effort to stop using my full first name, and made even more effort to make sure my full first and last names didn't appear together. I've always regretted this. I've always felt sad about it. I've always felt like a part of me has been missing. So why did I do this? And why haven't I changed back?
A name of 2 birds
I was actually known as Andrew Hawkes for a few days after being born. It was a name given to me in part because my dad had a friend called Andrew who had recently died in an accident. It made sense to remember him that way, and it was a nice name. It didn't last long though.
One day while I was still in hospital, a surreal event happened that had a profound effect on rest of my life. A robin, the bird, flew through the window of the ward I was in and landed delicately on the curtain rail above my cot. Aside from the nurses freaking out because a bird was in the ward, no one could quite believe it. But there it sat, a little robin looking down at little Andrew. The robin was shooed out by the nurses and from that moment on I was known as Robin Andrew Hawkes. My first name as a result of some surreal moment, my middle name as a tribute to a family friend, my last name containing the history of my ancestors. A name full of story.
Ever since then I've had a connection to robins that I can't quite explain. I'm not a believer in a greater being, but I certainly believe that there are things that cannot be explained yet. In this case, perhaps because I'm looking out for it, I've always noticed robins. They seem to always surround me, whether living in the garden or showing up in random moments. Not just that, but when they do show up we often share a moment, some sort of connection – maybe the way the robin behaves, or just the timing of their arrival. I don't need to know the reason why that is, all I care about is that it feels special and I feel like I have something watching over me. Silly, perhaps. Especially for someone who doesn't believe in God.
Up until late primary school (elementary for those outside the UK) I was Robin, the smiley happy kid who was always getting in trouble. Not for being badly behaved, more because I was mischievous and always had a grin on my face (which made
lying about denying something incredibly hard).
Toward the end of primary school we all started to work out how to wind each other up, mostly through teasing. Everyone did it, it's just a part of being a kid. The problem was, I was more ripe than most for the name teasing because not only was Robin Batman's sidekick (second best) but at least in the UK we have a term called Robin red-breast, named after the bird. Coupled with the fact my last name (Hawkes) sounds like a bird too, the teasing was guaranteed. Then Robyn happened (the singer), and everyone assumed I had a girls name. Oh the joy.
Actually, I didn't mind the teasing so much. What I did mind was when some of my 'friends' realised that it could be used to hurt me, which happened to be the same time the bullying started. I was never physically bullied but I was always bullied mentally in a variety of ways, one being via my name. At that point I was so embarrassed and annoyed at my name that I decided to drop the birds and call myself Rob. Plain and simple. You can't bully a Rob.
It worked, but in doing so I lost part of my identity. Part of what made me… me. I never quite got over that, though the resulting years certainly helped make it easier to forget about.
It hurts to call me Robert
Fast-forward 15 years or so and I've made a professional career for myself under the name Rob Hawkes. I've written a book under the name Rob Hawkes. Hell, the vast majority of people in my life know me only as Rob Hawkes. I got so used to it that I very nearly forgot about my full name and how it made me feel.
It was only quite recently, within the past few years that I've started to reminisce about my name and consider changing it back. It probably started when I graduated from university and saw my name in full, looking formal and smart. I was an adult and by that point the painful memories of the name had worn away and I was left wondering why I wasn't called that any more. I didn't have an answer, at least not one any better than "Because everyone knows me as Rob, it's too late to change."
I would guess that most people wouldn't predict that my full first name is Robin. In fact, I'd bet that you would assume my full name is Robert. Everyone knows a Robert. Very few people have even heard the name Robin, let alone met someone called that. And guess what, it hurts to have people call you by a name that isn't your name. It's not me!
Back to my roots
I've always regretted calling myself Rob and hiding who I really am. Hiding the real me and the stories behind who I am. It's always felt odd to call myself Rob, perhaps even wrong, but I was used to it.
From now on I'm Robin Hawkes, a name that I'm proud of. To the outside, it's a small change. To me, it's one of the biggest decisions I've made. It defines who I am. Losing the Rob feels like losing a part of me, but gaining the Robin feels like I'm getting a part back that I've missed dearly.
I've already had friends telling me how happy they are that I've changed my name, how they always preferred the name Robin. It's really nice to get support for what feels like a massive decision, even if it seems small and silly from the outside.
Now to go about changing my name on what feels like every aspect of my adult life, both online and off. Starting with Twitter and Facebook, because you know, that obviously makes it official.
What about you?
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have a story behind my name, or a reason for changing to a shortening or nickname. Why did you change? Have you ever thought about changing it back?