An open letter to all the Olivias from another commonly named child
Olivia is Saskatchewan's most common girl name for the 2nd year in a row
Olivia is the most popular baby name in Saskatchewan for the second year in a row. How will they feel being one of many? Maygen Kardash was an Erin in a sea of the same before she chose to change her name. She has some sage words for our province's latest crop of commonly named kids.
First, I think you have a beautiful name. Of course, I'd say the same to Olivia L., Olivia R., and Olivia S. (whose paths you may cross someday). Come to think of it, maybe "Dear Olivias" would have been a better header.
I, too, was given one of my birth year's most popular names. I was one of many Erins in 1980. I know that since you're a particularly clever Olivia you've noticed that's not the name in my byline. We'll get to that.
Let's start with us all having lovely names that aren't exactly one-of-a-kind.
I wonder if our parents considered how many of us, both Erins and Olivias, there would be. Growing up, I babysat an Erin whose house was across the back fence, was tormented by an Erin who lived kitty-corner and who also happened to be my best friend's older sister, peripherally knew one Erin who lived just down the street and played ball with another Erin from the crescent over.
None of that takes into account the Erin population at school. Or the boys.
Common or not, I love my name.- Maygen Kardash
There were a lot of Erins. There were also a lot of Jennifers, Jessicas and Sarahs. I'm not sure if any of them wished for a more distinctive designation, but I did.
I dreamed of being Cassandra — Cassie for short — or Mikayla with a "y" right in the middle which I imagined dipping far below the line as I penned a swoopy signature (both Erins and Olivias have letters that are all above-board).
Mostly, I felt like the Erins around me weren't much like me. I thought it was weird that we all had the same name.
Then, around Grade 9, as my brother was changing his name from Stacey James to S.J., taking his given name off read-aloud lists at doctors' offices and in classrooms and replacing it with the initials he always went by, it occurred to me that I wanted to be better represented by my name, too.
I experimented a bit with how I might re-spell my middle name and settled on Maygen over the original Megan, gifting myself an expressive "y" and hyphenating it with Erin to create a monster of a moniker. I insisted the whole mouthful be used until a couple years later when I said goodbye to Erin all together.
Now, having spent the majority of my life as Maygen, I've learned there are people whose names might be spelled a little differently but sound exactly the same when a Starbucks barista calls it aloud. You've probably guessed the punchline here, Olivia. Unbeknownst to me, although there were no Megans in my neighbourhood, it turns out I had changed my name to an even more popular name of the '80s.
But you know what? Common or not, I love my name. As I've journeyed along in life, I've befriended Erin after Erin, none of whom remind me of the kid I babysat or my friend's sister whose trampoline double bounces erred on the malicious side.
I'm not sure why names become popular — if it's some sort of groupthink, collective unconscious situation or if it's straight-up copycatting, but one thing is certain, Olivia: your name is loved by many. May you love it as well.