Searching for information about myself, a few days ago I googled my surname, Malouff.
I was astounded to find it in the Urban Dictionary. The definition: “(Noun) A person who is very clumsy or awkward physically or socially awkward and queer.”
I immediately put that definition on my Facebook page as a joke.
My assistant, Caitlin, later told me that anyone can put a name in the Urban Dictionary and define it. I typed into the dictionary “Caitlin.”
The definition I found: “A person who is intelligent, talented. Also someone caring and kind!”
I felt bitter about my name definition being so inferior, so I went back to my surname on Urban Dictionary and gave the definition a Thumbs Down. I resisted the temptation to give my name a positive definition.
My first name has never been a gem for real dictionary meanings. John can be either a toilet or the customer of a prostitute. However, the ancient meaning of John is one who is gracious. That’s better!
When I googled my full name, John Malouff, I found, among other items, an obituary of a person who died in Fruita, Colorado, 37 years ago.
There was no photo, so I could not tell if I looked exactly like that person. I got a case of the willies just thinking about that nightmarish possibility.
On the topic of nightmares, I also found while doing the “John Malouff” search an article titled: “Your Worst Nightmare.”
I may take a holiday from searching online for my name. Instead, let’s search for your name – how do you spell that?
One non-google alternative to deciding on my identity is to define myself by the roles I fill in life. Back when I was a psychology intern, a supervisor asked a group of us interns to describe ourselves in terms of our roles in life.
The other interns described themselves as student psychologists or something else deep in meaning. I described myself as a softball player.
Before you think me shallow, I want you to know that I was then in the middle of my greatest softball season ever. Anyway, the supervisor never liked me after I gave my response.
Now I know, if asked, to define myself in roles that are socially valued: healer, educator, parent. Maybe this year I will have my greatest season ever in one of those roles.
When you think of the roles you fill, what comes to mind? Which role are you carrying out like a champion?
John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the University of New England.