Japanese parents make a wish for their children and embed it in the characters of their child’s name.
When I was born, my parents chose the character 民 (“mi”), which means “people,” as the first part of my name. In so doing, they wished that I’d become a kind person, a good listener and a trusted leader who would always be surrounded and protected by ‘the people’ and who would bring joy to ‘the people.’ Inherent in this character is a reference to democratic society, where all people’s voices are heard and valued.
The second character, 穂 (“ho”), means “rice,” the staple food of Japan. The year I was born, the Japanese government passed a law that discouraged Japanese farmers from producing rice in an effort to grow the market for imported produce. As proponents of local, sustainable agriculture, my parents fiercely opposed this law. They valued rice fields as symbols of Japanese culture and understood the role rice fields played in preserving water and providing animal habitat. By giving me this name, my parents hoped that I would become a protector of Japan’s unique ecological and cultural heritage.
The wishes my parents had for me almost four decades ago are still with me today – in fact, more strongly than ever. When I was in Nepal interviewing Nimdoma Sherpa, I was struck deeply by her words: “I am a Sherpa, a mountain person, and I always wanted to live up to my name in my own way.” Nimdoma’s words inspired me to rethink what it means to live up to my name.
In addition, my birthdate is the day that US Congress officially recognized as Women’s Equality Day. The older I get, the deeper I connect to the meaning of my name and my birthdate, which calls me to create a vision for myself, my community, and the world.
For now, honoring my name and birthdate means finding everyday ways to give back – to give back to those I met while traveling and to give back to the environment by reducing my impact. Further, it means working alongside others, especially women of color to create a more equitable world where all people are thrilled to achieve their dreams.
To learn more about these everyday commitments, see my commitment.