Given name: Kristen
Meaning: Lover of Christ
My parents say they came to Jesus because I was born. I don’t think they knew the meaning of Kristen when they picked the name. It was over Nicole, which they were thankful to not have picked after O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his wife Nicole a few years later.
I’ve never been a Kris, or a Krissy, thankfully. Always a Kristen. Lover of Christ? Always. Despite not wanting anything to do with the church, Jesus has always been my direct line to source, to spirit, to divine. He’s held me down through the darkest days. I reject the rhetoric and they dogma of the church, AND my relationship with God is magical and powerful and peaceful.
Middle name: Abby
Abby is my late paternal grandmother’s name, who died two years and two days before I was born. This is the woman who I’ve been told I resemble in countless ways. I’ve missed her for as long as I can remember.
The bane of my existence. It’s never simple, with a hyphenated last name. When I was younger, it always took me the longest to fill out those name bubbles on the SATs, and other kids thought my parents were divorced. In adulthood, I never know what my yoga class is booked under. Some people think Koester is my middle name.
It’s hyphenated because my mom thought Smith was too boring (But what a beautiful thing, to never have to spell your name! So simple!), so she kept her maiden name, Koester, which is her father’s name. I’ve never really understood why she wanted to keep that name so badly, since she couldn’t even stand to think of him and I only met him once.
My father’s family name was Abate, which was shortened from a longer Italian name. My dad’s dad died when he was two weeks old, and my dad was adopted by his step-father a few years later, giving him the name Smith.
Pen name: Kristen Abate
When I write I like to take the name that I would have if my grandfather hadn’t died before his time, the name that truly represents my family roots, the name that I wish I knew better. It alludes to something mystical, the part of me that is a dreamer, the part of me that lives somewhere in an alternate universe with my still-living grandparents.
Nick name: KS
Most people thinks this stands for Kristen Smith, actually, it’s shortened from Kristen KS, short for Kristen Koester-Smith. It became popular at my first job as a lifeguard and it was the first nickname I ever had that stuck.
Spiritual name: Priya
Meaning: Beloved of God
Priya was given to me from my yoga teachers who I completed a teacher training with. During training I had spoken about my relationship with God in the most honest way I could. I was raw and open about something I have a hard time talking about in this world where so much hate is born from religions dogma. I feel it’s necessary to speak my truth because what I feel when I connect to higher power is pure peace. It’s trust, it’s love, it’s surrender and it’s what saves me. It’s a huge part of who I am and who I am becoming. We can feel God, or source, or the universe, or whatever you want to call it within us–in a million different ways. We’re presented these tools and portals to connect, in whichever way suits us best, whether it be ritual, chanting, journaling, or taking a walk. For me, it’s always been prayer, and now, meditation.
I received this name for the purity and openness which I embody when I talk about my relationship God. And I’m so thankful for it. You can watch the video of the ceremony here.