Embracing the Mystery: The Story of My Name Series

yli is My Story
Me, my mom (Laura), my dad, and my sister (Brandi)

My parents have somewhat conflicting versions of how they came to the name Shalin, but both have told me that they heard the name on a talk show, liked it, and that was that. Over the years, I have conducted my fair share of googling in search of the meaning and origin of Shalin, and have never found consistent, reliable information. I had always wanted a more grand, meaningful story behind my naming. But the simplicity and mystery in this story has given me the freedom to write my own story.

My first name is the second base of personal encounters. The first is my appearance. Both of which often spark confusion and curiosity about my identity. When I was younger, I often struggled with the entitlement others feel to questions like, What are you? That’s a pretty name, where is it from? Where are your parents from? No, like where are they from from? These days, however, I find amusement and also power in withholding answers to entitled questions like these. Unanswered questions are full of possibility. I embrace these mysteries as part of who I am.

My middle name, Mikkol, is after my mom’s best friend from middle school to adulthood. Considering my mom’s complicated relationships with her own family, it makes sense that I was named after someone she herself chose as her family. Mikkol’s home was a safe haven for my mom when her own home was not. So in a way, my middle name represents safety, survival and chosen family.


Left: Me, my five sisters and niece (Brandi, Sarah, Sophia, Dana, me, Cassie, Odin); Right: My chosen family!

Now, as an adult with a chosen family of my own, I understand the importance of finding familial bonds in others who make you feel safe, who feel like home when the world is hostile. I also like that Mikkol resides between my first and last names, that act as buffers, returning the favor of protection that Mikkol provided for my mom.

In a way, my name is a combination of all the most important people that have shaped me. They have given me some funny nicknames, too. Here are a couple:

  • Sha sha (self explanatory)
  • Moon girl (from my aunt Chanel)
  • Ruffy stuffy (unfortunately, my grandpa Marvin isn’t alive to explain this one…)


Being named is often the first act of distinguishing us as individuals when we come into the world. The stories that surround them – how they were chosen, what they mean to our families and to us, how they transform into nicknames – can hold a lot of significance and insight into family history and legacy, as well as who we are as people.

That’s why we launched “The Story of My Name Series,” sharing the naming stories of YLI staff. YLI is not a monolith – we are a collective of diverse individuals with multiple and intersecting identities, backgrounds, personalities, and life stories. Although many of our programs follow a similar youth development framework, our approaches – the shape and feel of our work – are deeply informed by who we are.

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