… From My Name

My name is wrong.

Bryz-Gornia. A name straight out of your bowl of alphabet soup.

I’ve had comments on my last name throughout my entire life. Back in elementary school, I recall my second and fourth grade teacher (she was the same woman) asking me what would happen if I were to marry a woman that also had a hyphenated last name. Would we hyphenate our names together, creating some sort of god-awful conglomeration that would never fit on any government form, personal check, or arcade game high score list? I politely smiled and said no, even though I thought it was a pretty dumb joke.

In middle school, I had an acquaintance that was very immature and loved pranking me. A good example is that he tricked me into visiting a non-nude porn website while we were in the computer lab one day. Very funny, and I’m still not fully sure how that got past the school’s firewall. Anyway, he also was the person that first realized that the second half of my last name sounded very similar to the disease “gonorrhea,” so he started calling me “Bryz-Gonorrhea.” It really bugged me at first, but the amusing fact is that as people have tried calling me the same as I’ve reached my mid-20s, I just laugh at them and call them a hack while telling them the nickname has been around since I was 11.

In high school, my coaches for baseball and basketball loved referring to all of us by our last names. As you might imagine, “Bryz-Gornia” was a mouthful and thus they chose to shorten it to simply “Bryz.” My teammates quickly adopted the name, and then it spread to my friends that didn’t play sports with me. Pretty soon, the only people that referred to me by my first name were the ones that didn’t know me very well and my family. Even my teachers got in on the act and knew me as Bryz, and as my siblings entered high school, the nickname was passed on to them as well.

Then in college during my freshman year, it took less than a couple months for my neighbors in the dorm to realize that “Bryz-Gornia” totally sounded like a disease. Symptoms were created, Urban Dictionary definitions were invented (and fortunately deleted), and Race For The Cure t-shirts were designed. Thank you, Poland, for making such a humorous name.

And then I learned that my name was a lie.

No no no, I don’t have the wrong name. It’s just spelled wrong.

I recall this day vividly. Sometime when I was in high school, I was with my family as were eating dinner at the local Timberlodge. My brother and I had recently discovered this NHL player by the name of Ilya Bryzgalov, and he was the first person we had ever seen with a surname that was even remotely close to our own. However, we found it interesting that his name was not hyphenated and yet ours was.

A common question I’ve fielded throughout my life was how my name was created. Which parent was “Bryz” and which was “Gornia?” I would explain that while hyphenated names worked in that manner, mine did not. My mom’s maiden name was Bender, so our last name was entirely my dad’s in spite of the hyphen.

Us kids also did a little research and we realized that from online records, there were far more results for “Bryzgornia” than there was for “Bryz-Gornia.” Thus, with this knowledge at our side, we interrogated our parents on what was going on with our name. They responded that it had to do with our grandmother, who had chosen to put the hyphen into the name “because it looked nicer.” To be honest, 5 consonants in a row does look pretty odd.

My dad even joked that knowing our grandmother, it was entirely possible that she never legally changed it. Therefore, once us siblings asked if we could change it back, my dad said that we should just follow in grandma’s footsteps and not even bother doing it legally, either. “Just start writing it the other way!” he said.

I didn’t think he was serious, so I never actually followed suit. However, I kept that conversation in my head as I contemplated whether or not I should change it. I continuously waffled for the following 7 years or so until I brought it up the whole story to my now-wife a few years ago.

As we discussed it after we became engaged, we settled on a solution. She would change her name, but there would be a catch. I would need to change my name as well. No, we weren’t going to add our names together like my elementary school teacher had joked. No, I wasn’t going to adopt Abby’s name. We were going to fix “Bryz-Gornia” by removing the hyphen.

In the past, it was me and my brother, but this time it was Abby and me that approached my parents with a slight twist. Instead of asking why the name was the way it was, we instead wanted to know if they were indeed okay with us changing the name back to the way it was originally. My parents confirmed that they didn’t mind, and in fact added that my brother and two sisters were considering doing the same.

Abby and I started formulating a plan. When we were married, we would deliberately request that the name be spelled as “Bryzgornia” on our marriage certificate so Abby wouldn’t have to change her last name twice. We discussed whether going to a courthouse and getting it legally changed – a la Chad Ochocinco and Metta World Peace – would be necessary. How many companies would have to be notified that we wanted a new spelling? Should we even bother?

Eventually, we settled on this. The marriage certificate is as I mentioned above. We will need to change our driver’s licenses, though Abby will do hers after our honeymoon while I won’t bother until my current one expires. Social Security will probably come into play. I figure I’ll have to tell my school that I want the nameplate on my classroom changed, though I figure that this would be the smallest priority of them all.

Therefore, as you may have noticed on Facebook and Twitter before reading this far, both Abby and I removed the hyphen from my – excuse me, our – last name. The funny thing though is that my youngest sister Kyra actually beat me to the punch, as I noticed her name was already missing that little dash on Twitter. Abby and I were second and third, and I’m willing to bet that my brother and other sister will follow our lead within the next few years.

It’s been over a day now with my new name and it looks so terrible, I think I’m starting to understand why my grandma threw in the extra character to make it look better. Nevertheless, I’m not going to have any regrets on this one. I’m a firm believer that resistance to change makes adapting much harder, so I know that I should just let it go and give it some time. Whether it takes days, weeks, or months, I know that looking at, spelling, and signing my name in its new manner will eventually become second nature.

So, just like my grandma did decades ago, my name is now questionably legal. Or if you’re Abby, it’s barely legal. Despite the name change, it’s good to know that the Bryzgornia disease will continue to spread.

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… From Bucket Lists


As the New Year approaches us, resolutions are being put into place. I should exercise more this year. I should eat healthier. I should try to make new friends. Etc. etc. etc. I’ve tried doing resolutions in the past, but they’ve never come to fruition. Like many before me, it lasts about a month or so, and then one day I decide I don’t really feel like carrying through. Then that day turns into a couple days, and before I know it, I’m two weeks behind. Oops.

As for a bucket list, the irony is that they typically contain something that is much more ambitious, and yet I think they’re still easier to achieve. From the movie The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman created a list that involved travelling around the world, and then they gradually crossed off everything from that list. Granted, it helped that Nicholson’s character was a billionaire that funded the entire trip, but they managed to succeed in doing everything that they desired.

Now, there are certainly things that I would love to do sometime in my life. I would like to go skydiving someday. Visiting another continent would be nice (odd that I’ve visited every state in the U.S. but have never left North America). However, I’ve never considered these to be part of a bucket list. I’m only 24 years old, for god’s sake, I think it’s a little early for me to be finding things I must do in my life.

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… From A Gamble

Few succeed from being complacent.

A few weeks ago I was watching the Minnesota Vikings lose yet another game this season. I don’t recall the opponent, but I do remember that I was at my fiancee’s parents’ house, watching the game with her father and brother as she planned on going shopping with her mother.

Occasionally I would text my coworker throughout the game. Most of it was just us ranting about the game, but for reasons forgotten I pulled out this line during our conversation: Few succeed from being complacent. About 20 minutes later, the Vikings went for it on 4th down and failed. I texted her to complain, and she responded with the very line I had said earlier.

I joked that she was just throwing that in my face, making me sound like a hypocrite, but she said that she completely agreed with the musing. We continued watching the game, dropping a text whenever we had pressing thoughts to share, and the Vikings ended up losing as expected.

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…From Friendships

Just like a voyager, I move from town to town

For I’m a puzzle piece with no box to be found

I wait for the villagers to call me their own

But perhaps a nomad always is what I’ll be known

Last week, my students were discussing the various cliques and which classmates belonged to them in our school. Now, they didn’t specifically use the term “clique,” but preferred to use the simpler “type” to describe these groups. This guy was with the jocks. That girl was in the popular group. That quiet guy in the back was one of the nerds.

As is usual in my classroom, a conversation about the students suddenly involved me. The group that was having this talk zeroed in on me sitting at my desk and wondered aloud where I belonged. However, it didn’t take very long for one of the boys to quickly exclaim, “Mr. B-G, you don’t really have a type.”

I asked him to explain himself and here’s what he said. “You like sports but you’re not a jock. You’re into video games but you’re not nerdy.” I cut him off before he went any further, not because I didn’t like what I was hearing, but because he was saying exactly what I’ve known for years: I don’t really fit in.

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… From Collections

I collect CDs from my favorite artists.

Being a fairly young teacher can be odd at times. For one, I have a friend from working at Target Field that is just as young as some of my students. Second, I teach at the same school that currently enlists my youngest sister as a student. I could go on and on and on.

However, there is one of these oddities that will probably take years to dissipate, which is the constant flow of questions that come from my students. Within the first couple weeks, I was already receiving inquiries about my personal life, specifically about my fiancee. “What does she look like?” “Do you think she’s beautiful?” “What kind of butt does she have?” (Believe it or not, but that last question came from one of my female students. I had to have a discussion with her about appropriate questions in school.)

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… From Doppelgangers (An Update)

My doppelganger is professional golfer Rory McIlroy. 

A couple years ago, I did a post about doppelgangers and how I was having trouble participating in Facebook’s “Celebrity Look-A-Like” Week, because I was completely lost with the celebrity that would receive the burden of representing me for a week. However, it was a drunk fan at a Twins game that helped me realize who I could easily impersonate.

I was working at a game in 2012 when a heavily intoxicated male approached me, circa late 20s in age. Though he was slurring his words, he wasn’t bothering anyone and the two of us were having a good conversation. Then a friend of his arrived and all of a sudden, the first guy got a big smile on his face.

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…From Food

My search for accessible beef curry is over.

I’m a big fan of the TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” and way back in 2008 they had an episode titled, “The Best Burger In New York.” In that episode, the gang orders a new burger at their favorite bar and everyone likes it except Marshall, who says it’s just “okay.” He then recounts the best burger he’d ever eaten in New York City, which occurred shortly after he moved to the Big Apple. However, he is unable to remember where it was located, as being new to the city, he had no idea where he was when he found it and when he left. All he remembers is that there was an autographed picture of Regis Philbin on the wall with an inscription commenting on how good the burgers were.

Marshall then makes it his goal to find that burger once again, and he visits just about every place in New York City trying to find it. On his journey, he runs into Philbin, who reveals that he’s been searching for the same place. Throughout the episode, they keep striking out with bars and restaurants, until finally they find the correct place at the very end.

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