Is it really just a name?

What is in a name? A logical mind might suggest that every name, and really every word in any language, is just a made up spelling using made up inflections derived from made-up symbols. A more free-flowing mind would suggest that our names are a reflection of who we are. Names, just like any other word, do have meanings. But so few of us think about them in that way.

We may not think of our friend Nolan as “a descendant of a chariot fighter or champion. He’s just Nolan. And Mackenzie is our cousin, but is she actually a “child of a wise leader”? While some of our parents may not have given much thought behind the meanings of our names, some parents spent hours trying to find the exact right name for us before we were born.

My parents named me after my father (Daniel), and William was, to my knowledge, a fun throw-in. I was never overly fond of my name. I’ve been called Danny by most everyone in my life, save for the four years of high school where I went by Will because I viewed it as a chance to have a clean slate. But Will didn’t stick, and I’ve never really felt settled in my identity with that name.

When it came to social media, I was always trying to “brand” myself; anything to get people to call me something else. It’s not as if I have a great disdain for my name, my family or my life in general. I truly didn’t feel “right”.

So, I started digging. I wanted to know the origins of my name and understand more the disconnect with it. My first name, William, means “resolute defender”. Very apropos considering the layers of my life that I’ve been pulling back over the past few years. And remember, this is where I drifted to when I was feeling lost as a teen. But we’ll come back to this.

Daniel, on the other hand, means “God is my judge”. Now, I don’t begrudge anyone’s religious or spiritual practices, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. But organized religion isn’t my thing at all, and I’m still very much figuring out my path in the spiritual realm. Which, to me, points the finger directly at that name as to why it wasn’t resonating with me.

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I began my search for a name that spoke to me on my level about a month ago, maybe longer. I poured over web pages of names, their meanings, and really anything I could find about them. It sounds unromantic, but I didn’t want to just have a name that was elegant and looked good on paper. I wanted the meaning to back up this new era of my life. I wanted something that honed in on the changes I’ve made in my spiritual, emotional and mental life. And most importantly, I wanted to feel good when I introduced myself, to feel confident that this was who I am.

I love my family, and in no way is this an attempt to distance myself from them, nor do I desire them to call me by anything other than what they are comfortable with. And to be honest, I’m not sure when I’ll have this discussion with them. It’s a weird feeling trying to bring up that you don’t want to go by your given name anymore. But at the end of the day, you have to be true to your authentic self, and that is what I’m doing.

The name I chose is William (Liam) Silas Beaumont. I wanted to keep William because I still value that name, its meaning and hang on to those ties. But when I was known as “Will”, it never felt natural. Better than Danny, but not quite right.

Silas means “of the forest”. There is no greater peace that I find than being in the forest, amongst the trees, with my feet firmly on the dirt. I’ve talked about that ethereal experience before here. It fit so perfectly for me, and it’s a beautiful word.

Beaumont means “beautiful mountain”, which is in reference not only to where I want to live (near the mountains) but also the beginning of this journey for me. Two years ago, I took a trip to visit a friend in Colorado and it changed my life. To this day, I’ve never been in such a beautiful environment as the Rocky Mountains, and it started me on this long, slow, winding path.

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To those of you that aren’t happy with your names, you have the power. Don’t change it flippantly or for a superficial reason. Be yourself and let your name come to you, however that may be. And to those that have names that they love, congratulations. I know I love mine.

Alone But Not Lonely

This is not one of your typical “loneliness” posts where I tell you how to be happy when you’re single, talk about how great it is to be alone, or tell you how you need to find someone because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite.

I do a lot of reading, in particular on Medium, and I’ve noticed quite a few posts recently talking about the negative health effects of loneliness. And on the whole, I agree with most of the research (it is science after all). Loneliness does age you and if you are lonely, it contributes greatly to detrimental health, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and general poor self-confidence. Additionally, lonely people tend to have shorter lifespans. That being said, some of the articles like to conflate loneliness with being physically alone, and that’s just not the same thing.

Loneliness is a feeling. A feeling that you are totally isolated, sad and have no connection to the outside world. It is NOT the same as being alone. I can (and have) been in rooms full of hundreds of people and felt lonely. Conversely, I’ve spent an entire weekend in my car on a road trip alone and never felt more connected to the world.

Mostly, it’s about perception and where you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically within yourself. I have felt absolute loneliness, and I have felt a total sense of community without constantly scratching that social itch. And while I have never and will never claim to have all the answers (or any answers), I can talk about what has helped me. No solution is ever going to work for everyone, and anyone claiming they have a fix to a problem for everyone is full of shit. I honestly believe in the idea that everyone is doing their best with what they have, so I just want to help spread as much good as I can.

So these are the things that help me live my life on my own terms, connected with my community, without feeling lonely and isolated. If these work for you, then I’m glad. And if not, keep trying things. Again, we are not a monolith, so we all should be doing whatever works for us individually. I’ll start with the most important one:

You have to love yourself first. 

Unfortunately, none of the rest of the things matter until you figure this one out. A few years ago, I took a road trip to visit some National Parks in my area (Cuyahoga NP in Ohio and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky). I wanted to clear my head, but also take some alone time. And it didn’t really work. I had a good enough time, but it was just an okay trip. And I didn’t realize until a year later, when I took a trip to Colorado, that the first trip was lacking.

When I drove to Colorado, everything that could have gone wrong, did. My engine blew up in the middle of Kansas, I had to rent a tiny car to finish my trip, then catch a one-way flight back to Kansas two weeks later, two days before Thanksgiving, to get my car. I say all that to say, I enjoyed that trip a thousand times more than the first. And it was because I was more in tune and comfortable with who I was and loved myself more.

Loving yourself is the deal breaker. You can do all the meditation, all the yoga, eat the cleanest diet, and go to the gym every day. And all of that can bring self-love, mental clarity, and self-confidence. But if it’s not coming from a place of love, it will be tainted.

Seek joy in the activities you’re doing and let go.

Piggybacking off my road trip stories, another reason I enjoyed the trip to Colorado more was the intention of the trips. When I went to Ohio and southern Kentucky, I was trying to get away from things: my thoughts, my connections, my life. I wanted to be anywhere else. And it put an unnecessary pressure on the road in front of me. “I will clear my head. I will have a good time.” Forcing life isn’t an option.

When I went to Colorado, I had two goals: meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and experience the mountains for the first time. I had no expectations of my friends (we had a great time) and I had no expectations of the mountains (they were better than advertised).

That release of pressure and expectations contributed to my enjoyment of the trip, in the same way that doing so contributes to the joy of life. Seek out experiences of value and then let go. If it’s truly something of value, you will be guided in the right direction.

Social isolation isn’t an option.

I spend most of my time alone. Even putting sleep aside, I’d say I spend roughly 2/3 of my waking hours alone. And this doesn’t bother me because of what I do with those six-ish hours. I work in a service industry job, so I talk to 50–100 people every day. I eat at restaurants a lot and I try to create relationships with the people that work there. I’m not saying I’m a social butterfly, but I do interact with enough people to get my fill.

If you are more extroverted or don’t have your social needs met now, I’d suggest local groups based on your interests. If you’re a runner, join a running group. If you love books, check in with a library about any “Book of the Month” clubs. Even social media is a place to interact with people you see eye-to-eye with. It gets a bad rap, but social media is exactly that: social.

There are always ways to socialize more, you just have to know your limits. If you are socializing too much or not enough, you will wreck yourself. When I’m forced to be a social butterfly are the times that I’m most withdrawn. And if I isolate myself too much, I start to feel hopeless. Finding that right balance and respecting your own time will ensure that you keep your loneliness in check.

Rethink the way you interpret connection.

This was the biggest realization I had when starting to shift my thinking on being lonely. None of us are ever alone. There is always energy around us, coming from every living thing. When we drive down the street, we are connected with the other drivers around us. We have to be. If we weren’t we would disregard law and sense and put others in danger.

The place that I find connection in over anywhere else is in nature. Nature is one of the best places for connection because of the amount of living things that surround us. If I’m in my apartment, I’m surrounded by a bunch of man-made objects and a few neighbors. If I’m in a social setting, I’m usually surrounded by a bunch of people who are so sucked into their phones, they aren’t even connecting with the person in front of them. But when I’m in nature, unencumbered by technology, the only things left to connect with are the trees surrounding me, the dirt beneath my feet, the bugs and wildlife building homes and working together. And that clarity can improve your chances to connect with yourself.

When you start to feel connected to everything around you, it’s a lot hard to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle. Your sense of community grows and your loneliness fades. It’s so easy to limit connection to the ones we experience with humans, but expanding that to every living thing is a game changer.

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I want to emphasize that this is not an advice column and these are not guaranteed practices toward success. Too many people claim to be experts before dispensing knowledge that “should work for anyone”. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there’s something wrong with you.

I am just a man who has noticed some things that have improved my life, and I want to spread the good word. I’d encourage everyone to try different things to enhance their lives in whatever way they feel they are lacking. Just make sure to listen to your self when your decisions start to point you in the right direction.