How often is that saying repeated? I seem to hear it all the time and still I never really know what anyone is talking about. It could me in reference to a drastic weight loss plan, a new outlook on life, or a career change for all I know.
In my case, I am using it very literally. I have just changed my name. I have just become a new person. Again.
This is actually my first legal name change, although my common name has changed twice before. So I am now on name number four in 26 years, and I hope it will be the last one.
I believe that I probably have a pretty different outlook on names than most people. While it is typical to define phases of your life by the events that took place in them, I also define them by which name ‘hat’ I was wearing at the time.
Misha has long been refereed to as my “baby nickname”, but I also like to think of Misha as the time when I developed the list of personality traits that I value most. I held tight to that growing list, trying to be the best person I could be, for me. While I may have missed the mark in several cases due to youthful over eagerness, there was most often an extreme earnestness that could be found somewhere in my motives.
The next name was the result of a revolt I threw when I learned that my legal name was not in fact Misha. I was pretty sure that EVERYONE had been lying to me my WHOLE life (okay, I was a little dramatic at times). So I switched to the legal first name, and made sure everyone knew that Misha did not actually exist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have known that the years between 5 to 12 when I went by that legal name would be the years of most painful life lessons thus far, and I would afterwards run gladly towards the escape offered by another assumed name in order to find my true identity again.
At 12 I found that next name. By a stroke of luck a friend decided to use the short form my middle name one day in order to disguise the end destination of notes being passed in grade eight. It was new, it was definitely unique, it sounded masculine but had an unexpectedly feminine spelling twist, and it was mine. I jumped at the chance to assume this new identity that appeared to encompass those strong personality traits I had believed were lost and was still trying desperately to project. So I consciously became her, the girl who was unafraid to be independent, the girl who spoke her mind, the girl who was proud to be smart and athletic. In short, I became the confident girl I had wanted to be through all those depressed pre-teen years. By the time I entered high school, I was her.
I do not mean to say that I had it all figured out by grade nine and that high school wasn’t without its own score of drama and occasional insecurities. But I had figured out who I wanted to be again, and I was just had to iron some of the inevitable teenage personality wrinkles in order to get there. I was finally confident to be me again, something I just couldn’t get to under the spell of that legal name with all it’s unhappy connotations.
The last 14 years spent using this new nickname as my common name have been great. I can’t stress that enough. However, a major change has been brewing in my personality and life again over the last 7 of those. The beginning of this one can easily be pinned down to the appearance of my husband in my life.
It has been a gradual change as we have grown up a fair bit together over those 7 years. We met on the Track and Field Team in undergrad, and had a great time together in that phase of our lives. Since that time we both gone to professional school and entered our careers, a very different place in life than we started. I thank him for giving me the time to adapt to having our well being and future together as my primary concern. Moving from always looking out for No. 1 to looking out for our future was a very big shift for me, but one that has felt effortless given the time we took to get there together.
So here is what I hope will be my final name change, to a married last name. I still have my unique and personally empowering nickname as my common name, but I have moved into the stage where I believe my family unit will define me just as much as my personal interactions.
The choice to change your name after marriage (men or women) is inherently personal and should be well thought out. This can be a contentious issue these days, and I know my relationship with names is unique, so I believe everyone’s should be as well. After all, unlike a nickname, it is a legal decision. In my case, I know it is the right move at this point in my life because for the first time in the history of changing my names, when I finally stopped analyzing all the trade-offs (career, feminist history, personal paper trail, vs new family unit identify, ect. ) this one was easy. Finally, I am not aggressively assuming a new name, I am instead simply coming home to the new life we have created together, and that makes me smile.
2012 is still a new year, one that will forever mark this new me.