Diversity Story Slam: Vatche Yousefian

Vatche Yousefian portrait
Vatche Yousefian DPT ’21/Photo courtesy of Vatche Yousefian

My Name is Vatche

 

“HI, MY NAME IS VATCHE.” “Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Spell it out for me.” “Okay. V-A-T-C-H-E. Vatche it’s like ‘watch’ but with a V instead of a W and an E at the end.” People would always give me a troubled look when they asked for my name. Stare it down as it’s engraved on a name tag as if I was a display on a museum. “Where are you from?” “Here.” “Here?” “L.A., California. Granada Hills. The Valley.” “Where are you from? Like your parents?” “My mom’s from the Valley, and my dad was born in Tehran.” “Ahh.” They would just nod and look the other way.

A person’s name is their identity. It carries weight with it as much as a 180-pound individual standing before you. It holds more than location, it holds legacy. The legacy of my ancestors marching across desert lands because they were told to do so or be killed on site. The word is ‘genocide,’ but people never whisper its name or question it. They look the other way like when you tell them your father was born in Iran, so they run away from the conversation like they were the ones on fire.

They call me everything but my name. They say I am exotic like a zoo animal. They say they won’t be able to remember that name so that I remind them about watches and that it means “flower” in Farsi. In Armenian, it was a name of royalty. I would be the only Vatche in the class. The only Vatche at work, but somehow people forget the name even though it is unique.

So, we try again. My name is… The ability for my family to breath in America, More than legacy it is a person standing before you, Reminds you of flowers, Not so exotic but more human than ever, He has a smile, a family and wants to be a doctor. He wants to be able to know you for more than your injury, your sickness, your disability. He wants to know your name, because he wants to remember you for more than a patient. “Hi, my name is Vatche Yousefian and I’ll be helping you out today. What’s your name?”

—Vatche Yousefian