I should begin by introducing myself: You can call me Murphy Daley.
But that is not my name.
When I was born—my mother’s fourth child—she named me Elizabeth. As she later told me, she chose that name because then I could be called any number of nicknames. Wikipedia lists almost a hundred names that can be derived from Elizabeth; Beth, Liz, Elly just to name a few.
MY family called me Lisa.
So where did I get Murphy?
Names are special things. You have probably heard that Native Americans will go on a retreat to find a name. They look for a vision or a sign to indicate a name with special meaning, one that will guide a person’s destiny. They often use the name of an animal or some other part of nature that will impart its qualities to the name-bearer.
Little Lisa—me—grew up and didn’t like the child-person she was to her family. I didn’t want to be called Lisa. I didn’t want to be little sister and over-protected daughter. I wanted to be someone more powerful and significant.
I wanted a new name.
Names—proper names—are very difficult to remember. I know when I go to an event where I meet tons of new people, I am at sea.
This is Bill…Meet Jane…and Dave, and Jim and Dave again…and Sue…
I remember none of their names.
My linguistics professor explained why. Proper names are without context. They exist as empty boxes, filled with your impressions of that person. For some, it is the face. I never remember faces. It is stories about the person or a vibe I get that helps me place a new person. The name almost never sticks with me.
A name is an empty container of a word, filled only with the opinions and expectations of others.
On the other hand, the container itself holds a little meaning. When I chose my baby’s name, I had to think of who held the name before she did and what mark had been left on it.
For example, after World War 2, very few children were named Adolf. It used to be a common name.
My daughter Veronica will remind people of the beautiful actress Veronica Lake and the rich selfish teenager of Archie comics. I’m okay with that, because she will soon remind people of her own magnificent self.
My name Murphy was a silly nickname that a college boyfriend gave me. No one else called me that for several years after.
But then I moved. I came to California and got a job that required a name tag. They were ready to print “Elizabeth,” my legal name, on the tag. I stopped them, ready to tell them to call me Lisa as my family did.
Then I felt a surge of power. No one in that building knew me. I could tell them to call me anything. I was at the helm of my own ship.
“Put Murphy on the name tag,” I instructed the shift manager. She accepted this with no comment.
I was Murphy.
Walk tall. Act like it’s always been this way.
People really liked the name. No one forgot it. They played with it, calling me Murph and Murphster. Maybe they even liked me!
This story I am sharing is meant for the purpose of letting you get to know me. However, time is too short for that purpose. I have cracked the door on the story of my name because I want you all to know yourselves.
I am not the person I was asked to be. I am myself, and I chose who that person would be. You all have to same power of self-determination. Grasp the wheel of your destiny and make your stand. Something as small and significant as one word can be a start.
[this was my icebreaker toastmaster’s speech]