What’s in My Name?

third year zachary pareizs

photo by Lauren Friedhandler

photo by Lauren Friedhandler

In one of my Freshman acting classes, my professor declared that I was not a Zachary— that Zachary was not my “true name.” Her prophecy has haunted me to this day. What if she’s right? What if I am not a Zachary and am instead some other person? If I wasn’t Zachary, then who am I? What am I?

My name is simple enough: Zachary John Pareizs. Pareizs comes from the great country of Latvia, where my grandfather immigrated from during the Cold War, and John is my Dad’s name. When I asked my parents about why they named me Zachary, my Mom replied, “because we both liked the name.” My Dad said that, “we didn’t want you to have a name that could rhyme with anything crude,” which, on current examination, is just a repurposed joke from The Simpsons. Zachary. It’s not an awful name. It is a variant of the name Zechariah, from the Bible, which means “God remembers.”

However, Zachary hasn’t been my only name. My other names have included:

  • Strawberry Zachary: A nickname given to me by my favorite babysitter as a small child. In hindsight, it is a play on the drink, strawberry daiquiri, but that doesn't make the name any less sweet. 

  • Zack Attack: A common nickname for those of us blessed with the name of Zachary. Given to me by the assistant director of my sixth grade production of Anne of Green Gables.

  • Zechariah: My nickname during my summer swim team at the neighborhood pool. Rationale unknown. 

  • Pareizs: Two Zacharys in the theatre department of my high school necessitated this going by my last name.

  • Parcheesy: A nickname based on the fact that Pareizs vaguely sounds like Parmesan. Originally from sixth grade, made a resurgence freshman year of college.  

Even now my name is a source of turmoil. Whenever I’m introducing myself, people ask, “Zach or Zachary?” and I never know what to say! I don’t care! Call me whatever, because Zachary isn’t apparently even my real name, but when I say that, people get upset and say, “No, I want to call you what you want to be called.” Then, I’m forced to say that I prefer Zachary. And I don’t know if I do. 

Since being told that Zachary wasn’t my real name, I have contemplated changing my name. What would be a suitable replacement, a new identity? I toyed with Rain. It sounded cleansing. But ultimately I was too scared. I’m not Lady Bird. I’m not bold enough to declare a new name for myself. I also don’t think I could do that to my parents. My name was the first gift they gave to me, and I don’t think I could just throw that away. I don’t know. Call me whatever.

Happy Monday