Last month, I learned that Gina (jeena; जीना) means “to live” in Hindi. I’ve always been fond of my name, but never really found a meaning that sat well with me. Baby name dictionaries say that Gina is a shortened version of Regina (meaning: queen; I like to keep my distance from monarchies), Georgina (I’d drop the George at the beginning, given the chance), or Virginia (my energy is about as virginal as Venus herself). And while I’ve loved that my name is fairly uncommon, is full of potential puns (you know *exactly* what I mean), and fits my ginger hair perfectly, I’ve left the meanings to the books while I work to just create my own.
I don’t believe in coincidences. Things always happen precisely as and at the exact moment that they were intended to. Divine timing is one of my life philosophies. So when my friend Piyush told me the Hindi meaning of my name, just as I felt like I was beginning to actually live, I felt that little sparkle that tells me that magic is happening.
While I’ve lived a pretty full life for somebody my age, I am not sure I ever really lived until last month. I’m still trying to figure out what it means “to live” but I’m recognizing that the journey is just as significant as the discovery.
I came to the other side of the planet to study yoga. And while I understand that in yoga, the long term projects are the ones where we learn the biggest lessons, I never was able to apply that same philosophy to life. It’s a bit silly of me, considering that I know that yoga is not just about Asana (the physical poses) and is instead an entire life philosophy. I apply this logic of long term work to my practice daily, but in life, I’ve always wanted instant results. I ask and I should receive. Perhaps that was the Regina in me, treating the universe like one of my subjects rather than embracing the journey of life.
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. In fact, there’s a photo of me in a box somewhere on the other side of the globe. In it, I’m sitting on a rocking chair of my kindergarten classroom, wearing royal purple, holding a book and and a forced smile, looking directly at the camera. In my teacher’s writing, on the Polaroid strip, it reads “when I grow up, I’m going to be a: writer.”
I avoided this fate at every opportunity. I know I have a talent for writing but I’ve always likened the process of it to torture. In high school, I mastered the art of what I call “B-essays” (a portmanteau of Bullshit and essays); these essays were written with what I considered to be zero effort in about as little time. In college, I majored in English because it was “quick and easy.” Writing just flowed off my fingertips if I was given an assignment, but I begrudged every single moment of it. A bachelors became a masters became a PhD. And I still hated writing. Yet, at the end of that educational journey, I have a career as a writing professor and a degree on the wall that reads “Rhetoric and Writing Studies.”
I’ve written less than any academic I’ve ever encountered. Despite it being “easy” for me, I avoid it since I lack the impending deadlines and people-pleasing praise cravings from professors. Save for a couple of poems written in particularly beautiful or horrible moments, my portfolio of writing is sparse.
Part of learning how to live has been applying this philosophy of yoga to the rest of my life. And the place the universe keeps nudging me is into writing. I have an idea for a memoir, but I just want it to be written. I don’t want *to write* it. That’s like wanting to drop back into urdhva danurasana without practicing backbends.
Yoga, writing, and life don’t happen in the end result. The end result isn’t the point at all. It’s what the world will see. It’s what others will consume. But to live is not for others. To live is to become fully the self.
Jeena is to become fully the self.
Gina is becoming fully herself.