I have always been a weirdo, but when I was younger I’d try to hide this fact as much as possible, which just made things worse.
Of course, my weirdness could not be contained, so sometimes it’d reveal itself in overt ways, like the fact that anyone I was friends with in high school called me “Kaisa”.
The origins of this nickname are pretty dorky. I was obsessed with “The Golden Compass” when I was 13 and told my friend Julie that I thought it’d be cool if I could change my name to “Kaisa”, after one of the daemons in the book. Julie, being inarguably cooler than me, agreed to this idea and introduced me to pretty much everyone I knew as “Kaisa”. Pretty quickly it got to the point where “Kaisa” actually felt like my name.
I was proud of the nickname. I always thought Jessica was boring and there was something special about my friends who called me “Kaisa”. It made me feel like they knew the “real” me.
When I got to college I considered my options. I could be “reasonable” and just introduce myself to people as Jessica, because technically that’s true. But I felt remiss to let go of the comfort of that nickname – the one that made me feel more like my true self. So I started introducing myself as “Kaisa” at Vassar, and because it’s such a pro-weirdo school anyway the name took off and I think everyone on campus knew me as “Kaisa”. I’d even go by that name in classes.
It was at that point that I thought maybe I had hit on something. Like I could be “Kaisa” for the rest of my life, and then I’d be unique or something.
Things got weird for me when I started to enter the internship world. I experimented and at an MTV internship decided to go by “Kaisa”. This raised a lot of questions when I was filling out my paperwork. “Wait, your name is Jessica? Where does Kaisa come from? How do you say it?” I could tell people felt uncomfortable and awkward saying it.
It started to feel like too much to explain. Something felt inorganic about fabricating my name over and over again. It was one thing when I was organically introduced in high school as “Kaisa” amongst close friends, and it was even fine for trying to reinvent myself at college, but it became another, weirder, way more awkward thing to try to carry it on for the rest of my life.
I weirdly felt relieved when I went back to being “Jessica”. Maybe it was nice to not want to be a different person for a change and to be comfortable enough to just be myself.
I do have a few very close friends who only ever knew me as “Kaisa” and they still call me that to this day. For all the weird things I’ve done to find myself (including a brief lesbian phase in which I looked like a little boy) I think being “Kaisa” for a while was one of the best because that nickname grounds me in my past. It’s nice to have friends who have been through it all with you and to feel like they really know you because they refer to you by a name that, no matter how far you’ve come, you can still respond to as if no time has passed at all.