Our names are often the first thing we share with others. We all have various images that come to mind at the mention of certain names. These images may be of a person we know with that name, or a picture our mind generates seemingly at random.
I have always been interested in the naming process. I’d even tried to name my little sister, but my parents weren’t having it. As a child, I asked my mom why so many people we knew named their male children after people in the same house; “It’s tradition.” she’d say. Until my mom assured me I could name any future children as I pleased, I assumed I’d have to marry a man with a name I liked in the event we decided to have children and one was a boy. What a relief!
It was during sixth grade when finally, I was given a naming opportunity. My sole positive memory of my time in Catholic School was the privilege of choosing my very own confirmation name. In an effort to pick the perfect name, I spent months with my nose buried in the baby naming book my mom had purchased for me. The process wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, and I was disheartened to find my options were limited to choosing either a saint’s name, or a name derived from that of a saint.
I didn’t know many saints, and kept picking fancy french names. My pious sixth grade teacher was not amused. She wanted me to pick something basic. There was no way that was happening. I eventually settled on something saint derived but, at the time, unique.
As is the case with most people, I was generally accepting of my birth name. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but it was by no means awful either. It was overly common though, and each time I met someone who shared my birth name they were very much a tomboy. The name fit them better than I. This bothered me. Worst of all, many people called me an awful sounding shortened version of my birth name,which I hated! I did have my childhood nickname, which I preferred over the ugly built- in nickname that had come with my birth name; however, only a few people called me by this.
In my early twenties, I began to feel the persistent urge to change my name. At that time, a legal name change was a highly tedious and expensive process, so I held off. Nearly a decade later, I finally I decided to take the leap. I had no idea what name I’d choose, but the options were plentiful. To me, the possibilities alone were a source of excitement.
I knew I wanted something feminine and nature derived. Choosing my middle name was quite simple. In contrast to the simplicity of choosing a middle name, settling on my new first name took several months. I had it narrowed down to about five choices when I surprised myself by choosing an exotic version of my birth name. It would be an easy transition for everyone, and it just felt fitting and comfortable.
In the state where we live, I wasn’t required to go before a judge. The process basically consisted of filling out paperwork, sending it to the courthouse, waiting several weeks for the paperwork to return to me with court stamped approval, and going to the DMV for my new license. The entire process cost $380, and a fair amount of patience. It was tedious, but absolutely worth it.
You may be wondering what happened aferward; I’ll start with the negatives: my parents were mildly upset with me for a while, my sister made fun of the odd spelling of my new name, and a few people still occasionally call me the dreadful shortened version of my old name ( I suppose I need to ask them to stop doing that). That about sums up the negatives!
Almost everyone in my life made a seamless transition into calling me by my new name, even my 85 year-old grandmother. Alot of people who know me have told me the new name suits me better; I have felt that as well. The unexpected perks of my name change have been the frequent compliments I receive, and the always comedic question, “Are your parents hippies?”. More important than any of the aforementioned, was the sense of relief I felt when my new name was approved. I remember saying,” I finally got my pretty name!” (and then awkwardly remembering I was home alone, realizing that I’d never be cool, and embracing this fact as I twirled around the dining room, documents in hand).
I’m sure there are people who find my decision to change my name dramatic and self-indulgent, and that’s alright; they’re free to keep the name their parents gave them. For me, when my name is called it feels natural and reflective of my personal evolution. It’s who I’ve always been except a bit better, like the rosebud that finally began to blossom into it’s full glory after a long winter.
Have you changed your name? Has anyone you know done so? Would you consider changing your name? If so, which name would you choose?