To understand how I became Voltex, I need to give you a bit of an explanation. So let’s start off with a quote that might be one of the most commonly quoted lines of all time.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
I’m not going to get all melodramatic on you all here, but I think we can all agree that the quote above is one of the greatest lies humanity has ever told; yet still we tell it to ourselves each and every day. In some ways, words can mean a lot more than our actions (although the opposite, of course, is still true as well).
Words, and the letters that make them, have always fascinated me. I resisted reading for about five minutes (at which point I was handed the first Harry Potter book) and since then I have never stopped. What I read has changed throughout the years, and it is rare that I will stay up all night to finish a book, but I have never stopped reading. The meaning we give to these characters on a page (or a screen) is incredible, and the feelings we can inspire in others are as diverse as they are both fleeting and everlasting.
So, in tune with the meaning we assign to these characters, these words, I have looked at myself many times over the past several years in self-reflection, describing myself. I have done it both as a joke and as a serious endeavour; I have used hyperbole and I have understated; I have self-deprecated and self-advocated. I have become both delusional and realistic, simultaneously a king and a slave. I have changed much over the past five years, although some words can still fit me as well as they did back then, albeit perhaps in a different context.
As I describe myself over and over and over again, I find myself questioning everything. Eventually, I began to question my name.
You see, names are nothing more than a title given to us at birth, before anyone on this planet has actually met us. Often they are decided before we are even born; before we have even been seen by human eyes. Sometimes our names are a bit of an afterthought (or so it might feel), given days after we have entered the world because nobody could decide what they wanted to call us.
We are living in an age where, ever so slowly, it is starting to become the social norm that we can be open about our sexual preferences, and how we identify ourselves according to gender – the “typical” male/female balance has been revealed as being immensely flawed, disregarding many members of the population. And while we cannot control our sexual preferences, we can control our gender identity – it is an intensely personal decision, and nobody should – or can – tell you that you are something when you really are not.
Although it is a lesser issue (and, I admit, one that cannot be fixed, since at birth we know nothing), I believe names should be treated in the same fashion. We should approach them with open minds and be accepting to change, because at the end of the day, our names were decided by people who did not even know us. And perhaps, in time, we come to embody those names; perhaps, to those around us, we start to represent those names, and those names start to represent us.
But even so, I think they need to represent us to someone more important: ourselves. We have a word for when people assume identities that are not theirs, that either do not represent them or that they do not fill in – it is called “acting”. If you do not feel like your name represents you, if you are finding yourself unable to identify as that particular name, then you have become an actor. But if you are merely acting through life under this false title with nothing to stand up behind it, what is the point of anything you do? For you would become a nameless mask, tied to nothing.
Over the past five years, I have been undergoing a process. I did not, until nearly two years ago, even realize that the process was taking place – and until very recently, I was unable to fully comprehend it. And now, finally, I believe I understand – or, at the very least, I understand it enough to begin implementing the changes. I have been discussing names here; you see, the conclusion I have reached is this:
I no longer identify by my “real name”.
I am not quite sure what exactly occurred – or rather, I am not entirely sure that I am ready to look through all of the details myself (especially in a manner that is public). But nonetheless, the fact remains – I do not identify as “Duncan” any longer, except that I react to it out of habit.
Two years ago, I did the Leader in Training program at a camp called Glen Mhor. At the camp, when you become an LIT (or if you join staff and do not participate in the LIT program), you receive what is called a “camp name”. A camp name is like a glorified nickname, bordering upon a second identity. It is something that is entirely unique and something that is entirely you, for they are based upon your interests, your likes and dislikes, your actions, and the stories you have to tell. I was the final member of my group to receive a camp name, almost a full week after the second-last person to get one. Perhaps I was picky (although all things considered, I believe in this instance I had a right to be).
Let us backtrack quickly – back in the year 2010, when I first went to Glen Mhor, I left telling myself that I wanted to be a Counselor, and decided that I would work towards that. Part of my process was idly thinking of words to build off of for my camp name; some of these words were things such as vortex, tornado, cyclone, and the like (weather patterns tend to sound really awesome).
So, two years later, I was referred to throughout the LIT trip as “King Duncan”, or merely “King”, in reference to the character from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Naturally, when it came time to decide upon camp names, “King” was the first idea, though I discarded it, feeling uncomfortable with the allusion to royalty. We shifted from “King Duncan” over to the character of Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet, with my fellow LITs noting similarities in our personalities (I could not remember enough to wager whether those similarities actually existed). From there it was shortened to Volio… and for a long time (or at least, it felt long), it seemed like everyone was determined for it to stay there.
We went back to the drawing board, using “Volio” as our reference, and I, by this point, was determined to have my camp name at least begin with the letter ‘v’. Talk turned to storms and the word popped into my mind at the same time it did for one of my friends, and we both said “Vortex” out loud. It was settled; my camp name had been decided. We moved on.
“Vortex” was denied. Someone else, years before, had beaten me to the name. I bear them no ill-will, although it was frustrating at the time to be back down on the counter. However, the process this time was very short – deciding to pay homage to one of my favorite web series, I shortened it to “Tex” and handed it in, sure that it would work.
“Tex” was also denied. Again, I had been beaten to the punch, and now I was weary. I had gone for two weeks being labelled as “Vortex” and “Tex” and had, in all honesty, become attached to them in some respect. So I sat down by myself (although technically I should have been doing an activity with the other LITs) and pulled out some paper and a pen and started to write. I wrote several names down, modifying the word “Vortex” as little as possible.
The moment I saw the variation “Voltex” on the paper, I knew that was it. Deep inside, I could feel it – I could describe (heck, I have described) why every single letter was there. All of the things it represented. Pick something off of my personality and it fits in there somewhere. So I took it to my fellow LITs, I took it to my LIT Directors, and finally to the Camp Directors themselves.
It was approved. The fact that I could still technically use “Tex” as a short form was merely icing on the exceptionally delicious cake.
Time moved on, LIT ended. I began to use the “Voltex” title online, and considered using it in real life as well (I have not done so yet, although I am beginning to). Fast forward to September 2013, after I had just finished off my first summer as a Counselor at Glen Mhor. At this point I was still unsure of whether I would return for the next summer; but what I was slowly beginning to realize was that being “Voltex” made me far happier than being “Duncan”.
I ignored it for awhile, if awhile equals seven months. Finally, in April, after analyzing the situation, I decided that I had had enough; and so the slow transition begins as I cast aside my old name, and it is going to be long and it is going to be arduous.
I do not expect everyone to accept or be able to adapt to the change, particularly those I have known longest (my family comes to mind). I mean them no offense; but I do know that my family is one that often struggles with change (as I do myself sometimes). I do not care if those I go to school with become acclimated to it or not, since I will not see most of them again after June ends (although those who make the effort will be appreciated). And those from camp will, I think, find the transition easiest. Most of them know me as Voltex anyway – it would change little, and I am fine with that.
On Facebook, I am Voltex. On Twitter, I am Voltex. In real life, I am Voltex. It is what holds meaning, for me – it is what I identify with. No other name represents so much of me or for me, and it is the title that I have selected for myself. It was not something I was labelled before anyone knew who I really was – rather, it is something that I know represents me as a person. No other human being will ever understand the depths of how deeply “Voltex” describes me. I do not believe I am capable of explaining it all in a way anyone could understand.
Of the things camp has given me, this title might be one of the most “superficial”, but as it also symbolizes everything else that camp has done for me, I think it to be of the utmost importance.
And perhaps someday soon I will feel ready to dive into the details of why I needed camp in the first place. Until then (and until I find the original copy of the story where I first detailed the creation of “Voltex”), I say good evening to you all, and a hearty farewell.
I have more things to write and the rest of time to write them.