A Mortal Or A Sail?

I know this title doesn’t make any sense, but let me explain:

I’ve had troubles with my name for over 20 years. I’ve used various nicknames, pen names and English names until finally one day English became my daily language and I could live under the Roman spell of my name.

For a long time I couldn’t really understand why my parents gave me this name. I wasn’t convinced by their explanation. The Chinese character pronounced “fan” in my name could be written either as 凡, meaning “mortal”, or 帆, meaning “sail”. For whatever reason my parents taught me to write my name as the “mortal”, and that was a wish, a very conservative Chinese wisdom: Don’t seek for divinity; Don’t try to exceed; Just be one of the mortals and play safe. “Mortal is good,” my mom told me. Ironically though, I was always fascinated by the people who left their names in the history book. I was attracted to greatness. Despite my family’s wish engraved in my name, I didn’t want to live an anonymous life. I wasn’t happy about the fact that my mom wanted me to be a mere mortal. I wanted to leave an impact, come on! Make a difference!

Then I turned 15 and needed an ID. Turned out that on my birth certificate my name was actually written as 帆, the “sail”. It was quite odd. Look, by 15 I had already developed more than 20 designs of my signature for various occasions - that’s surely someone who wants to leave her name in the history book would do - “Now you are telling me I should sign with a different character?!”

Ten years later, I found myself on a flight from Amsterdam to Helsinki, marking on a world map the places I had been to, and the places I wanted to go. I had unleashed my curiosity for the universe and the mankind, going farther and farther away from home, learning more and more about this hustle-bustle world.

I did become a mere mortal, precisely as my parents predicted. But they also endowed me with a piece of sail; On that day we looked up my birth certificate it quietly unfurled in my heart. Thanks, mom, dad.