My life as Quin begins in my friend’s basement, hyped up on Coke Zero and living my best and most embarrassing life. The year is 2009, my haircut is awful, and I have just purchased a digital camera. Great combination! I put down my entire year’s paycheck of $200 and arrived at my friend’s house with the shiny red point-and-shoot that would collect all my memories for the next six years. The vast majority of these photos are mortifying, but I’m glad that I have them. Those pictures are funny in a way that I cannot replicate now. My friends and I didn’t care about our self-image in the ways that we might now. We were just existing in our own embarrassing ways, without regard to outside opinion.
I’m not sure if you’re getting this. Let me break it down with a meme.
Coke Zero: flowin’
I am forcibly removed from my former existence.
‘Quin’ was not so much a nickname I necessarily chose, but that I was given. I don’t remember the exact moment I became Quin. It just sort of happened, a spectacular occurrence in my small world. I imagine that as I was becoming Quin in that basement, I just kind of went with it and thought, “I can dig this.” That’s how a lot of things happen for me – I just go with them. I was never really fond of my actual first name – being mistaken for a Laura, Norah, Noreen got annoying after awhile, and my origin story as told by my Dad was never as cool as that of my siblings, who are triplets and (drumroll please) older than me! What?
Maybe being Lauren wouldn’t be as much of a drag if people would just say and write it down correctly. Even though I like being called Quin and not Lauren, I initially didn’t want teachers calling me Quin. I’m not entirely sure why – Quin felt like more of a nickname back then and not an identity, so it seemed too casual for the formalized interactions between student and teacher that exists in most of my education. This hesitation has led to a lot of confusion throughout my college life, with people asking me repeatedly if I wanted to be called Quin or Lauren. And to that I say, “Lauren? I don’t know her. Call me Quin.”
My switch to Quin on more of a permanent basis started at theatre summer camp, which started just a few weeks after the Great Basement Awakening. There were two Laurens in the group, which is something I don’t encounter as regularly as a Mary or Emily would. This other Lauren always came to camp with wet hair that somehow stayed wet the whole day. There needed to be something to differentiate us during the three weeks of camp, so in that space I became Quin. Later on, I would find out that Lauren dropped out of high school, moved to Alabama with her boyfriend (and then moved back to Illinois), and never seemed to leave her scene phase. So we’re very different people, but have the same original name.
I tried going by my middle name – Noel – which lasted all of twenty minutes. Something about it didn’t feel right. Hopping around from identity to identity felt exhausting. I wanted to know exactly who I was without searching for it. I wanted a self handed to me, no assembly required. Things are never that easy, and in hindsight I’m glad they weren’t. On that humid night in August in my friend’s basement, the identity of Quin was handed to me in bits and pieces. The nuts and bolts were mostly there, knocking into each other with a metallic clang, and the instruction manual had some hastily-written guidelines in a slanting and excited script. My future in this new identity was unknown, but there was some sort of road map to help me along the way. In this new identity, I could find a way to move past the quiet girl who weirdly knew a lot about horses and American Idol and become someone more authentically me – someone who reflected all parts of me, even the parts that were dormant inside me for years.
I’m kind of a pushover, and a lot of who I am now is based on what others have defined for me and infused into my personality. Different personality traits are ignited by different groups of friends, so I’m never really the same person twice. But I’d like to be Quin full time.
Being partially determined by other people isn’t a great thing, but I have grown into having the self-empowerment to take all the parts of myself and make them my own. What used to be me reading social studies books for fun, attempting to cram all the knowledge in the world into my head is now me looking at everything top to bottom to find something in it to take a picture of – seeing the unseen in the seen thing, capturing the forgotten. The Lauren of old is the person who will turn in their essay on time and is super quiet, but the Quin of now will thoroughly roast you via meme, while critically analyzing everything around her in order to turn it into fresh content. While also being pretty quiet, in most circumstances, and (usually) turning in her essay on time.