I’m cleaning out my closet in preparation for a clothing swap that I am going to this afternoon. I’ve taken out a few things that I never wear, but I wish that I bring myself to be a little more ruthless. I have way too much clothes, I probably generally wear the same 15-20 pieces over and over again, everything else is unnecessary.
I am horrible for being an emotional pack rat, I never want to throw things out. I want to get rid of 95% of my possessions and live in a clutter-free house with a small closet that only has things that I actually like and clothing I actually feel good about.
I think mostly, I just want a clean slate. Maybe that is why I’ve been thinking so much recently about changing my name, moving and/or leaving town.
You haven’t been replaced. These people are only temporary substitutions for you. How can I expect to replace a smile, a laugh or your grace? You were unexpected but welcome. You have been an education to a boy who thought he had already learned everything. My ink would run dry before I ran out of things that I could say about you but out of all those things I would simply like to say I count each day lucky since I have met you.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” -Chinese proverb
Names carry weight, power and authority. Almost every culture in the world has folklore or mythology relating the power of a name, or being named one way or another.
For example, in ancient Egypt, they believed that cursing a person by name may destroy their soul. Similarly, if the name of a deceased person was inscribed on a statue of them, the statue was thought to hold that person’s soul.
Many religions past and present, require clergy to take a new name, leaving their mundane names behind. Neopagans do this, as many witches take a secret “craft name” that is known to only them and their coven, or closest inner circle. In some pagan traditions, a new name is taken at each level of training that is acquired.
In many North American aboriginal cultures it is also believed that everyone (and everything) has a secret name that may remain hidden, as it perfectly describes ones innermost nature. Though the name might be given in confidence to a loved-one, it is an extreme discourtesy to speak it aloud. The Kwakwaka’wakw indigenious people of British Columbia traditionally took both winter and summer names, to reflect the change in themselves and the season.
In the Grimms Fairy Tale, Rumpelstiltskin, the maiden (turned Queen) saves the life of her first born child from the knavish dwarf, by finding out and then speaking his true name.
Names are often given to bestow positive characteristics, be it of a deity, a mythological figure, a deceased relative or force of nature. I see names as a way of shaping and creating the realities that we experience. A name that you choose for yourself can act as a reminder of successes (or failures), or add authority to characteristics that we wish to manifest within ourselves. At the very least, a name can improve how we feel about ourselves.
I’ve never been particularly fond of the name I was given at birth. It’s not really horrible, but it’s just never much resonated with me - I don’t feel like Jessica Jean Jackson Thorp. I never really questioned it when I was younger, but lately I’ve been feeling more and more like it does not reflect who I am.
It has only occurred to me recently that I can change it. [Full disclosure: I was very much inspired by the amazing and luminescent Gala Darling, who wrote about her name change here and in her book, Love and Sequins.]
I haven’t decided on a new name yet, but I am seriously contemplating legal change of name, if and when I come up with something that I feel is the one for me.
Sure, it might be a pain in the ass, but it is within the realm of possibility to do so. I feel like in order to be entirely fabulous person that I want to be, a renaming is in order. I have outgrown this one and in order to reinvent myself in the ways that I want to I need to make this change. I also feel like changing my name is way of asserting myself as an individual that I want to be. I can choose who I want to be and give myself the gift of the magical, amazing attributes and characteristics that I want.
I was never given a choice in my name and it was chosen for me. I also feel that renaming myself is a means of bucking the patronymnic traditions that are asserted in this society through the expectation that I would have and use my father’s name, until I took another man’s (something I will never do). While I do currently have my maternal grandmother’s name stuck in there for good measure (Jean Jackson), it is her married name and still showing male lineage. I want misogyny and the patriarchy out of my name. That is not who I am.
My thoughts now turn towards the hurdles that I know changing my name will bring about:
1 - bureaucratic challenges: e.g. job references, doctors records, school records (especially if I continue on to the PhD level), banking information, government issued identification etc.
2- social challenges: e.g. friends or family who do not respect my wish for a change, and say things like “Oh well, you’ll always be [old name] to me”; especially on the family issue, I also worry about offending my parents by no longer using their names
3- constantly having to explain myself: in both of the aforementioned types of situations
Anyway, these thoughts are all preliminary to say the least. Though I very much encourage dialogue and feedback, please don’t try to talk me out of this. It is an extremely personal decision and I need everyone in my life to please respect it.
[Examples at the beginning of this post are lovingly borrowed from Phoenix McFarland’s The Complete Book of Magical Names]
If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,
And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.
The moon, too, abuses her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,
Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,
White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.
No day is safe from news of you,
Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.
I’ve probably posted this before, but it is my absolute favourite Plath poem.