What’s Your Name?

As I recover from a nasty ankle sprain, life slows down a bit. It’s going on two weeks now and it really stinks for an athlete like myself. My mission to be pro skimboarder (I train like one at least…sort of) is on pause. lol. No more skimboarding all day or rushing to run club late at night. Music and TV become my refuge. Occasionally, a good read comes up but it’s music this time that really strikes a cord and makes me think about things in a creative way for once in a long time despite working full-time as a graphic designer. The irony I know, but that’s for another discussion.

The stanza from the song “Name” by the Goo Goo Dolls really hit me hard while listening to my Spotify playlist while I was working on my computer recently. Part of the song goes something like this:

And scars are souvenirs you never lose

The past is never far

Did you lose yourself somewhere out there

Did you get to be a star

And don’t it make you sad to know that life

Is more than who we are

Sure, the song is about a relationship and the anonymity of the girls’ name. On a deeper note, a person’s name tells a story that few actually know. Past experiences, present goals, and the future all collide and define that person’s name and the romantic relationship the lead singer represents in the song. In some sad way, it is a bit existential as indicated by the final line in the verse, but I like to use this specific stanza to reflect more generally on our maturity through life and the paths we choose that ultimately define who we are and what we’re capable of. I’ll even make a leap into design, if I can ever stop typing after waking up at 4AM just to conjure up some mumbo jumbo bottled up. lol.

And scars are souvenirs you never lose

The past is never far

Scars are really a symbol of the past. The fact that the word ‘souvenirs’ is used makes you realize that it can in a way be a nice reminder and one that often pulls people into the past even in the present. How many of us know someone who lives in the past? That high school football star who never made it in the NFL always describing fame and glory in his youth. Or those neighborhood friends who never leave the neighborhood despite the neighborhood community changing and leaving them? It’s bitter sweet to be on this path in life particularly if those scars are just reminders of failures of things you tried to hold onto or achieve but missed the mark on. I have a nasty scar myself on my left shoulder from multiple rotator cuff surgeries after trying to ollie on a skateboard at age 13. It created a snow ball effect of future basketball injuries while I tried to become a varsity basketball star in high school. For many years afterwards, I tried to use these failures as reminders that I can overcome things to eventually become an all star athlete. In some way, it is still a chip on my shoulder that motivates me and keeps me going to the gym day after day to train. Ironically, my nasty sprained ankle currently is a result of me trying to do a 360 shove it instead of an ollie on my skimboard. Both failures though are really first attempts at something I wasn’t familiar with or even prepared to do. I eventually learned to ollie on a skateboard and even did a kick flip in high school. So all hope isn’t lost and I ultimately used skateboarding as “the gateway drug” for skimboarding. While you might be saying, who cares, this “drug” enabled me to appreciate nature and actually lead to my obsession with nature and sports photography. Often the past can be used to constructively mold the future. However, no matter how far you “lose yourself” the past seems to always rear it’s ugly head. I can see this as an experimental episode on the comedic TV series Frasier titled “Weekend Warrior – Where One Weekend Isn’t Enough”, which I’ve been watching a lot on tv lately. lol.

Did you lose yourself somewhere out there

Did you get to be a star

Success in life is preached in school and losing yourself in your passions or motivations is what everyone seems to be taught in school. On the flip side, gangs, drugs and evil influences can also create that lost aspect in life. In the case of the song “Name” though I get more of a positive meaning. Particularly, when it begs the question, “Did you get to be a star?”

This is totally relevant in our social media driven culture. For me, it was the dream of being a professional athlete. For today’s youth, it’s being an instagram model or having a large social media following. Who necessarily needs to be on TV to be famous anymore? As long as you have an iPhone anyone can be famous and getting lost is all part of the game.

On a more professional take, it’s fame, fortune and recognition in the design world and often a tunnel vision approach to living. How many of us know designers or professionals who work for fame and fortune all their lives? It drives them whether it’s money, status or influence. Unfortunately, our world feeds this mindset to always be the best and become a star. There’s more to life isn’t there? More importantly, there are more positive things we can use our talents for whether it’s helping feed the hungry, volunteering or just being a good samaritan.

To me this is the point where I’m at in my life, understanding those who live in the past and those who work for stardom. I think we all use instances of both paths in our current life to be successful. The past makes you who you are and your work ethic creates value for success whether that’s helping a company make money or putting yourself in the spotlight. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Just look at the attitudes of your co-workers day to day. No matter how professional we seem, emotions and our limitations frustrate us and often lead us begging the question, is there more to life? More importantly, how can I improve not only the work culture but motivate myself to seek that “path to enlightenment?” (I referred to this in my previous post about how skimboarding is an analogy for design progression and can help you reach this euphoric state of mind)

Without further ado, I think we can finally get to that last line:

And don’t it make you sad to know that life

Is more than who we are

In the last verse, I alluded to this meaning of life. The great thing about this song is that it can be interpreted as an existential question or a religious one.

The existential outlook in some ways debunks all my positive thinking and vibes mentioned, at least in the long term. Who cares, they say, you only live once. Do what you makes you happy and it really doesn’t matter how you leave the world after you die. Party On Wayne, Party On Garth!

Many people continue to “party” their whole lives. I agree this thinking sort of has a self-deprecating undertone that’s really indicative of the post grundge movement in music. It’s not to say this is the wrong way to live. Many people have this philosophy and are really cool people to hang with.

The religious outlook is very obvious particularly to a Christian like myself. The realization that God created things and allows us to have a spiritual nature motivates you to be a better person and give more of yourself despite the urge to take more for yourself from this material world as you get older. I won’t go into the specifics but you get the idea that there’s a greater purpose and meaning in life.

All in all, it is those who truly believe this line whether existential or religious that make the most interesting uses of their lives and future paths. Ultimately, this is the last path in that proverbial “fork in the road” we all encounter. Will you live in the past, work for fame and stardom, EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT or find God as a guiding light in your quest to define your Name?

Next time you fill out an application or form and have to write your first and last name, remember the verses from this Goo Goo Dolls song. We can always take a new path but you only have one Name. Make it count.

Peace out,

Vince

P.S. – The header image I uploaded is one I took at Big Bend National Park. The narrow road throughout the tunnel and the surrounding landscape are very symbolic of the past, present and future. The blue sky and hazy mountain view symbolize the divinity people choose. The tunnel of course is our road to stardom and the shrubbery and mountainous terrain are the past obstacles that often stall and distract us from the road and eventual existential or religious life we’re ultimately after.