What’s in a Name? Becoming Samantha

by Samantha Weintraub

photo-16-e1347573891574“Do you go by Sam, Sammie, or Samantha?”

That is an inevitable question when I meet people. I started as Sammie the New Yorker who couldn’t stop dancing. I was completely alive as Clara in The Nutcracker or Charlie Brown in a tap production. I longed to explore personas of characters from another world. There was so much unknown, and everything I did as Sammie was an attempt to make the world a little clearer, or to see it from another perspective. When I was applying to kindergarten, I had to take long tests. Out of curiosity, I asked the proctor why she was watching me put together puzzles. She thought I was being rude, and my questions almost cost me acceptances to schools. She misunderstood me, however. I was genuinely curious. Years later, as Sammie the reporter, I would address that strange testing situation in one of my blog posts.

It was that same curiosity that sparked my excitement when my parents announced that we were moving to Seattle. I was excited to take on the brave new world, until that first day of fifth grade. My twin sister Blair and I were the only new students. I longed for commonality with my new classmates, so I followed most of the girls by joining the soccer team and trading in my frilly dresses for jeans. I wasn’t Sammie anymore. I became Sam. I wasn’t happy in my new skin. I never excelled on the soccer field the way I had on the dance floor. I didn’t feel my friends liked me for who I was, and they certainly didn’t have my back when I was cyber bullied in seventh grade. My friendships were as false as my identity.

The only hints of that curious Sammie came out on the road trips with my dad to the mountains around Seattle. Speeding down a highway in the middle of nowhere in the company of my dad, I felt safe enough to bring Sammie back. My spirit to question stayed alive through my relationship with my dad. We would have conversations about everything, from the creation of the earth to the cause of the stock market crash.

I became Samantha when I returned to New York in the Tenth Grade. I recaptured my individuality through creative expression in fashion journalism, which I have explored through several internships. My experiences interning are an extension of the younger me playing different characters in dance recitals, and my personality as Samantha is a stronger, more mature version of Sammie. From a magazine to a fashion PR firm to a retail store design company, each position has opened my eyes to different parts of the fashion industry so I can understand how they all come together. At each internship, my supervisors noticed my curiosity and invited me to sit in on meetings. Seeing the senior staff at work was my favorite part of each job. Those meetings prepared and motivated me to assume my leadership role as Editor-in-Chief of my school’s yearbook.

To many, fashion has a connotation of obsession with materialism and vanity, but fashion taught me the importance of individuality. I created a blog to convince my readers to see fashion as identity, self-expression, and confidence – not materialism. Through fashion journalism, I found Samantha. I don’t need faraway road trips to feel comfortable in my own skin. As Coco Chanel said, “To be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” As Samantha, I will never again pretend to be someone I am not, even if it means I’m different than everyone else.

Samantha Weintraub is a graduate of The Hewitt School and will be a freshman at NYU in the Fall.

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