In many cultures, names carry a big weight. As a Nigerian, when we name a child we are writing a part of their destiny, or you are paying homage to the situation surrounding their birth. Sometimes you end up with multiple names because you’re the first born or you’re a twin or your elders simply want to call you something special. Whatever the case may be, you learn the story and meaning behind your name and you become very prideful of it.
My first name Ijeoma means good journey or blessed journey. It’s used colloquially at the end of a function when people are getting ready to head home. As you’re saying bye you can say ijeoma to wish someone a safe journey home. I was given this name because my mom’s pregnancy with me was very difficult for various reasons. My mom told me that her and my dad always prayed for me to have a safe journey into the world. When I was delivered safely and healthy, they named me Ijeoma. Even though this name was situational, it has still manifested in my life every day. My journey has been blessed every step of the way with family, friends, good health, knowledge, etc. It hasn’t always been smooth per se but I wake up every day one step closer to my dreams.
My middle name Nkeiruka means my future is great. This name was more prophetic while my first name was more situational. It’s interesting how people live up to their names even before they can full understand the meaning. Names are so powerful. That’s why they hold so much weight in our culture. I’ve lived up to this name since I was young and it’s always showed. People could always tell that I was going to be great in life no matter what I decided to do. I was your typical “most likely to succeed” student. I knew early on what it took to be great–my parents taught me. I only kept friends who increased me; I said no to anything that wasn’t going to propel me forward. Now I say all this stuff now, but it wasn’t always 100% true. I still have regrets in my past life. I’m BY NO MEANS perfect. But Nkeiruka has been a constant reminder of my ultimate destiny.
My last name Okoye doesn’t really have much to it. It’s a name in relation to a town market day. It’s very common in my culture, similar to a Williams or Smith.
I have a great deal of pride in my name, like many foreigners, because it’s not just a pretty name. It’s the foundation for my life. So I take offense when people aren’t willing to say my name properly or insist that I go by a nick name. It’s undermining. I’d rather correct you 10 times then just “let it slide.” I give people the benefit of the doubt because I don’t expect everyone to understand the depth of its meaning. In America, names just get thrown around, they might have a story, but they don’t have power. In Nigeria, our names have power to shape our lives. Next time you meet someone with a foreign name, ask them what it means. They, too, may have a story to tell.
I hope that you enjoyed learning about this part of me and have more appreciation for my name 🙂 -Ijeoma