Sylvia. Silvia. Sylvie. Sophia. Sofia. Sophie. Saliva. Okay, maybe the last one isn’t as common as the first couple examples, but you get the point. All of these names have graced my Starbucks cups, have been called out by GSIs and professors in class roll call, and sometimes even have slipped out of the mouths of both friends and family members at one point or another. For the last 20 years of my life, I have lived with a name that gives off major old lady vibes and seems to confuse pretty much every person that has the unfortunate job of reading it out loud (don’t even get me started on my last name).
But regardless of these (mostly) minor inconveniences, I can’t imagine being called by any other name. The history behind my name and its quirkiness fits my personality to a tee. My parents were expecting a boy and had the name Maximilian picked out and ready to go. It was a surprise when I showed up a week after my due date not only late, but also a different sex than they were expecting. They played with the idea of keeping “Max,” but felt as though it didn’t quite fit their new bundle of chubby cheeks and mass of black hair. After much debate (it was a close call between Sylvia and Noelle), I was given a first name after my maternal grandmother and a middle name that was a variation of my paternal grandma. The full name on my birth certificate is Sylvia Marie Gisler.
I absolutely love being named after my grandmas. It feels as though a piece of them is with me always and I am constantly reminded of my role models and the type of woman that I aim to be. One of the best parts of having the same first name as my maternal grandma is the differentiations my family uses to keep us apart. My grandma is referred to as “Big Sylvia” while I am “Little Sylvia,” which is hilariously ironic due to our height difference of almost a foot. I am constantly in awe of how strong she is as a person and the lengths that she’s gone to keep our family together.
My mom and her family differ in many ways, from parenting styles to political beliefs, and there’s often tension at holidays and dinners. But despite these differences, she’s always ready to keep the conversation moving and regroup after a particularly heated debate. She has learned how to adapt and live in America after immigrating from the Philippines and was able to give her children the opportunities and choices that weren’t always available to her. I am proud to be called by her name.