Hi my name is Geoff, Geoff Smith. That’s Geoff, with a G….yes, G…E..O..F…F.. I’m also known as Geoffrey, or Stephen Geoffrey L Smith (to my insurance provider, the DMV, and in my passport), or to childhood Highland Park friends….just plain Smitty (in fact, this was my only real name up until I went to college at 18, it’s still a kick to hear old high school buddies call me by that name!).
I have introduced myself to new people in person and over the phone (managing accounts, paying bills, etc) many times in the past few months. It’s all part of establishing a life in a new city, with few connections and a life to build. Geoff, Geoffrey, Stephen Geoffrey – I have to pick which one to start with depending upon the scenario.
Geoff with a G, has always posed challenges. I could have easily been Jeff, as opposed to Geoff. Trust me, it would have saved hassles going way back. I envied my elementary school friend whose name was spelled J.E.F.F. I still remember the first time my name was mispronounced publicly. I was called something like GOLFF Smith ….I was 7 and it was August, 1963 and I was called up onto a stage to receive a trophy for being the batboy on a little league team that earned first place! I can truly describe the scene in great detail as it was associated with personal embarrassment. But….that’s another story.
“Hello, My Name is …..” gets more complicated when I have to use my legal name – Stephen Geoffrey Smith – which I must use in all legal documents. Currently I’m in the middle of a quandary. While exploring health insurance online the other day I locked into a health care inquiry and I used both Geoffrey and Stephen Geoffrey in the online information queries, now I’m getting confusing documentation in the mail and I think I’m in for a bit of bureaucratic hair pulling of my own making! I have a feeling this quandary will take some fancy shuffling to untangle, the letter sits next to my computer for a task on a rainy day. Health care….now that’s another something to reflect upon!
So, introducing myself regularly is part of the returning process. “Get used to it”, I say, there’s more to come I’m sure.
I’m playing basketball at the Y regularly. I am meeting a bunch of folks and the pattern of conversation(s) is often the same – sports talk, job talk, how long one has lived in Asheville talk, etc. It’s all pretty standard as a flow. It’s all good and it’s all expected. In those conversations I am just plain “Geoff”! I’m getting better, more efficient, with those conversations the more often I see the same people! But, how much to share is part of the calculation. “Recently moved here”, “thirty five years overseas”, “originally from the northeast”, “education”, “Michigan basketball”, “we’ll beat ohio state this year”, “wife and I”, “two sons”…… I want to share enough to be friendly, sincere, and hopefully to sound both reasonably intelligent and possibly interesting to connect with. It’s like crafting a personalized elevator speech, actually several situational elevator speeches!
We’ve been busy exploring. When we’re exploring, we’re meeting people. It’s all new, it’s all good and it’s all part of establishing connections, building something. I’ve worn name tags to several events in the past week and I even stood up and introduced myself to a large group the other day (I use Geoff or Geoffrey, depending) We were at an event in a house of worship and though I provided the concise summary just as I’ve been doing post pick-up basketball in the YMCA locker room, I introduced myself as “Geoffrey Smith”. A full name introduction seemed to comport with the atmosphere of the room!
We were at a talk the other day about aging and ensuring “happiness” as one ages.
He used the word Mission. Ugh…. I feel like I’m in the process of recovery when it comes to the words Mission, Vision, Purpose. Can’t I just say something like, “Hi my name is Geoff with a G, I’ve toiled with commitment and energy in the world of education for 40 years, If possible I would like to claim “Mission Accomplished” and leave it at that”? Maybe now my mission is to knock off a bunch of triathlons, stay fit, play basketball, wait for grandchildren, love and support my wife, volunteer here and there…… I suppose, in reality, this idea of mission/purpose will surface to a greater extent and I’ll create peace with it over time.
Another identified factor is around connections and relationships to community. This is particularly interesting and, frankly, challenging having returned to the US and moved to a new city with few connections. All overseas educators who remain abroad for extended periods of time must confront the reality of shallow roots, and diminished communities the longer one is overseas. Yet, you develop a rich and extended community, with friends and associates scattered around the world. I need to count on these long distance relationships and my extended community for connections. That’s my reality.
Anyway, as I settle into finding my way over time Geoff with a G is all about trying to building a life in a new and interesting locale. If Geoff with a G doesn’t work, I’ll try Smitty or even Stephen Geoffrey L, or Geoffrey L, or whatever works!
I’m lucky, privileged, and hopeful.