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“How do you pronounce it?”
“What’s the origin of it?”
“Why do you hate it so much?”
Those three questions are some of the thoughts that would come across people’s minds when inquiring about my last name. Growing up, I’ve always hated my last name. Mostly because nobody was able to pronounce it correctly on the first try. People would pronounce it in a way that made me double check if there were extra letters I was unaware of.
Maybe it was because in school teachers called you by your last name. My friends closest to me had last names that began with “A” or “W.” When it came down to presentations, my friends would always go first or last because their last names followed accordingly. However, since “H” followed in the middle, that’s where I felt I was at times. It’s easy to forget about what happened in the middle, but no one ever forgets the beginning or the ending. Apart of me felt like I was going to be forgotten with my last name.
I don’t want to say the main reason I hate my last name is because of my father, but he is ninety percent of the reason. The name was forced upon me from birth because it was passed down from the man who was supposed to be in my life forever. Every time I heard that name, it reminded me of not only being forgotten but being forgotten by him.
You see, I haven’t had a real conversation with my father since 2008. After he was no longer faithful to my mother, he not only left her behind, but his two kids as well. I always get a little sad inside when I see a father and child bonding. When my friends look to their fathers for male advice, that’s something I never received. I realized I needed that male advice especially in my teenage years. The time where I was still figuring out important matters of life while becoming a woman. Luckily, my mother and sister were always there to support me.
Not only did he leave us, but he also left that last name behind. To make things worse, after my father moved out of my house, I continuously saw him. Every time that I did see him, he would walk right by me like I was a complete stranger. When a friend came over my house and my father walked in, he only acknowledged my friend’s presence.
“Oh my gosh, he is a grown man, who doesn’t greet his own child? How does that make you feel Dayna?” Like how I felt when I was in the second grade and all my friends were being called first or last– I felt forgotten.
I hated that last name. It wasn’t until yesterday that I was at work and I was asked the annoying questions by my manager. How do you pronounce it? Why do you hate it so much? My manager told me without knowing the issues I had with my father, “I like your last name because I feel like I’ll hear it on TV with great things followed behind it.”
After giving it much thought, I got exactly what he meant. I’ve done fantastic things with this last name that I am known for in spite of him so that I am never forgotten. I’m looking forward to graduating (Jan. 19th 2017) with my Bachelors in Journalism, minor in dance, at the young age of 21. I didn’t depend on him and never will. While completing my degree in three years, I’ve had jobs and internships that I worked hard for. While mastering those interviews, I said MY last name to those bosses and made them understand the great things I was capable of. With this last name, I’ve worked for Cumulus Media, Hot 97, and Vibe Magazine.
It was easy in the past for me to think back to negative thoughts when hearing the last name. It was easy for me to say it reminds me of being forgotten and what my father did to my mental health. Choosing to take the higher road and focus on all the positive things I’ve accomplished, is the only step I want to take from now on.
So when people ask, “How do you pronounce your last name?” I say with a smile, “It’s Haffenden [HALF- EN – DEN].” I am great despite the failures of the man who passed it down to me and tried to make me feel forgotten.
I will be remembered.