I have a small tattoo on the crest of my left hip. I got it the summer of 2012, when I was about to break down because I was finally in sporadic contact with my Dad and I couldn’t handle the excitement. Of course, I also couldn’t handle the truth that he is perpetually going to fade in and out of my life, as he is wont to do. But it didn’t matter – none of my logical arguments and none of my anger at his absence in my life mattered, because I was in contact with my Dad. Love is funny that way, sometimes. It blinds us even as the truth glares at us centre stage.

When I was twelve, I went through a phase of wanting to know what everyone’s names meant, and whether they matched up with who the person was (or was becoming). In the course of my research, I realized that my fairly uncommon first name was not coming up in searches – which of course made me even more curious. Mine was not a name that belonged to my ethnicity, although, of course, at this point in time that seems a strange thought. Or maybe it was just me who, growing up in a sea of brown faces, wondered why I was surrounded by the Stephanies and Christines and Lorraines, all of them with syllables flowing into one another, when my native tongue pronounced its words with sharp, well-defined corners. Ma-li-it; tiny. Na-tum-ba; (he/she) fell. But I was being taught to blend the “ae” in Is-rael, and my tongue thought it mighty strange.

So I looked, and I looked hard. I found my name in a list of Polish names, which made me laugh. My uncles, so the story goes, had named my mother after their favourite teacher. I, in turn, was named after her. We have the same name, with slightly different spellings. I found it hard to picture my uncles with a Polish teacher. I scrolled down and hit gold – there was my name, the exact spelling of it, and there was a meaning. I meant something. I meant “hope.” For the next couple of years, through the torrent of emotional and psychological abuse that I stood in wearing only the flimsiest of ponchos, it was knowing that I had hope that kept me standing. I had a pocketful of hope, and it sustained me through bitterness and self-doubt, and eventually, led me to a better place.

Hope is funny that way, sometimes.

Where I was and what song was playing: A coffee shop down the street, and Sara Bareilles’ Love Song