My Nickname Gave Me Friends

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Much like how Tyler Perry plays every character in Madea, I too live the life of several different people in one sitting. Many moons ago, I underwent the change from the shy, quiet Brandon to the gregarious and loquacious Brandon-Bobby hybrid.

Most people’s nicknames tend to stem from your birth name, i.e. Sam for Samantha, or Johnny for Jonathan. How did I manage to get stuck with the persona of Bobby for seven years and counting? When your back’s against the wall and you don’t know anyone in the terror of high school, you make friends by any means necessary.

When traveling on the fabric of space and time, we come upon a young, innocent and very handsome Brandon (minus the horrible haircut) who was entering his first day of high school. The private Catholic high school usually bustled with students who already knew one another after years of attending the same private Catholic grade school. I, on the other hand, came from a public middle school in another county. I knew nobody.

Throughout middle school, I was a shy kid who had few friends in class. The few I did have weren’t actually “friends.” A new school marked a fresh beginning for me, a slate to wipe clean and start anew. However, I was still a scared little sh*t that peed himself at the thought of making new friends. Afraid of pulling my shy-middle-school self over to high school, I knew I needed to open up and become a new person.

Yes, I know you shouldn’t change yourself for others, but I wanted to do this to help break out of my shell and embrace a new Brandon. I spent too many nights alone. The nights I didn’t spend alone consisted of watching old westerns with my grandparents…not the usual male sleepover filled with video games and empty bags of Doritos.

Sad and lonely, I just wanted a warm welcome at my new school. I couldn’t spend another four years like that. I wouldn’t survive the consuming darkness of my room day in and day out. Much like a cartoonist spends forever trying to conceive the perfect strip for the Sunday newspaper, young Brandon spent hours thinking of ways to fit in at the local jungle of a high school. Suddenly, I hatched the perfect plan to execute at lunch the next day.

After grueling hours of listening to teachers drone on about the cell body and hating everything about my writing class (go figure), the lunch bell sprung to life. I entered the impending horror of a high school cafeteria, scanning the room for a table that looked accepting.

I spotted the sophomore table on the left. After spotting the table, I did the inconceivable: I sat down next to them. They all stared at me and unanimously asked for my name. “George” exited my lips before they could even finish their sentence. They seemed slightly perturbed, but continued with their conversation, allowing me to include myself.

We spoke about all things nerdy, from Call of Duty to Pokémon, along with some “chisme” (Spanish for “gossip”). Suddenly, one of the guys at the table says, “Hey, I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

I responded, “Oh, it’s Bobby.” They looked at me with confusion because I initially introduced myself as George. “Nah I don’t know what you’re talking about it’s Juan, dude, sorry.” The table burst out in laughter. All day I called myself whatever I wanted, confusing and pissing off some of my classmates, while delighting others.

However, one nickname stuck.

Bobby. Bobby was my escape from the Brandon I hated. He gave me a chance to get a clean slate and become a new “me.” My mom might have been upset that I wasn’t using my birth name, but I didn’t care. I finally felt happy.

Bobby became an enigma throughout my four years; even my teachers started calling me Bobby. Loud and obnoxious, I didn’t carry a care in the world. Soon, I lived for making sarcastic comments in class. Pranking my art teacher became a daily occurrence, from flipping his entire class upside down to hiding all of his art supplies so he couldn’t teach class.

Nowadays, I don’t like people that didn’t know me in high school to try to call me Brandon. I’m still lucky that Bobby existed, though. Without Bobby, I wouldn’t have made incredible friends and memories that made it past high school, nor would the world know the Brandon we love (and hate) today.

In hindsight, I didn’t need Bobby be who I am. The crazy, bouncing-off-the-wall, sarcastic person bubbled inside me the whole time. Bobby was merely the catalyst who brought Brandon to life.

I’m glad I wasn’t afraid to be me, and you shouldn’t be either. Yes, you. You’re a really awesome person, full of cool stories, great music taste and everything else that makes you—you. Sure, not everyone will like you, but screw them. For every one person that dislikes you, you can count 100 more that love you. Unless you’re Justin Bieber, then everyone hates you. Although I no longer go by Bobby, if anyone ever screams out to their friend by the same name, I’ll look.

Brandon is a Junior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing and Media. He can be found raving about his fantasy football team that came in second place last season or eating something chicken related.

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