We Are Not Alone


(Source unknown.)

Ryan doesn’t seem a terribly common name, even if it is unisex. So few people know Ryans—at least around Podunkville, Connecticut—that when I tell them my name they have to do a double-, triple-, or even quadruple-take, attempting to correct themselves.

“Brian?” They’ll ask.

“No, Ryan.”

“B-b-BRIAN? You said Brian?”

RY-an. RRRRy-an. Ryan.”

“With a “B”?”

… Anyway, that’s sort of how introductions tend to go for me. It doesn’t peeve me anymore, really. Now it’s just funny. I fully expect to be, and indeed I am, known as Brian to at least a few people. Primarily a co-worker from Peru.

Have you ever been tempted to go online and look up your name? It’s a strange feeling. Next time you do decide to Google yourself, put your name in quotes (of course). I would then highly recommend clicking the “Images” tab—what pops up can be anything from stiflingly boring, absolutely hilarious, mortifying, depressing, or outright shocking.

The fact is that we aren’t alone with our names. Names, those things that encapsulate us as individual beings… you’d think there would be some inherent sacredness about them. No. Sorry. They’re nearly omnipresent, at least for the majority of us.

Imagine my surprise when I found out just how close to “Jon Doe” “Ryan Stewart” is:

Apparently I’m mostly a sports person, which seems odd, since in this particular incarnation sports are the furthest thing from my mind. But there it is—I’m a footballer, a footballer (“soccer”—doing my best to be culturally sensitive), I’m in the NHL, and I’m at least several tall black dudes who shoot hoops for the Detroit Lions and the Long Beach City College Vikings (what a mouthful), among other ball-handling associations.

I also have the pleasure of being a tech-savvy manager for some fancy Adobe software, as well as a Canadian songwriter. Yes, I’m Canadian. (Two of them, at least.) I’m also from Trinidad, interestingly enough. (I’m admittedly a little envious of this other Ryan Stewart. Trinidad sounds pretty damn good, especially with the ass-kicking (I mean that in a bad, bad way) winters we get here.)

So maybe I’m one of a few million people with Gaelic to their name. So what?

Considering this, I began crediting myself as “Ryan V. Stewart” in my blogs and such. There’s no way that anyone else could possibly be a “Ryan V. Stewart”, right?

Wrong again. But only by a hair: There are two—two—Ryan V. Stewarts other than myself. (Well, that’s what Google can detect with its wizardry, in any case.) Apparently one of them lives in Illinois, and the other one was arrested in Philadelphia for possession of heroin with the intent to distribute.

As intimidating as heroin dealers might be, I have to admit that, after finding this out, I had a little bit of a romanticized, albeit sort of morbid, wish to meet this guy. He’s what? Two, maybe three hours from me? Pennsylvania isn’t so far from yuppie-nutmeg-country. It would have been pretty jaw-dropping to meet another Ryan V. Stewart, much less a Ryan Stewart at all.

It was my intention, as an aspiring writer—of sorts—to quite literally make a name for myself, one that would stand out amid the crowd, the sea of John Does, John Smiths, Sarahs and Ashleys and Chads and Joes. What will I do now? I can’t really use my full name. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue too well. “Ryan Vincent Stewart” doesn’t have the same ring as “John Stuart Mill” or “John Lee Hooker”.

And you know what? It wouldn’t matter anyway. Because, apparently, there’s a Ryan Vincent Stewart in West Unity, Ohio.

Now what lightens the mood a bit is Vincent Stewart Ryan, son of Anthony Ryan, apparently a serviceman in the U.S. Army during WWII. After all this debasing of identity, I got a bit of a kick out of that.

It just goes to show that if you do enough snooping ’round digital space you’ll find all sorts of useless facts about people you’ll never meet, or who’ve been dead and buried for god knows how long now. Maybe that makes me a proverbial “creeper”, or just an asshole, or whatever.

All of this is ultimately the consequence of living in a  world of 7 or 8 billion and counting. What? You expected to be unique? You are one helluva ubiquitous snowflake, my friend.

Maybe, after all, we shouldn’t condemn celebrities for giving their kids such fanciful names as Pilot Inspektor (son of Jason Lee) and Jermajesty Jackson (son of Jermaine Jackson). Then they’ll go down in history without parentheses after their name on the pertinent Wikipedia page; they will be known for something more than the fact that they are the offspring of people who regularly bathe in liquid gold.

Maybe, after all, we ought to start naming everyone John Doe, or John Smith, or…



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