I always wanted a nick name. I tried to cautiously insert one myself. That strategy never works. Instead, I was always called my name with the last “A” dropped off. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it either. And it didn’t qualify as a true nickname.
I was 29 when I finally succeeded.
“You should do it now when you are moving,” my friend said. We were sitting on a rocky beach in Seattle, talking about my fruitless pursuit of an alternative. This was a last hurrah trip shortly before I was to take another job in another area.
For the rest of the trip, she began introducing me with a new name.
It’s one thing to play along with a friend, it’s another to decide you are going to change your own name. The decision came impulsively with the first person I introduced myself to in my new town. “Hi, I’m A…,” I said. The name sounded foreign on my lips … insincere … strange. But the person believed me. They accepted that answer and shook my hand without blinking.
At first, when people called me by my new name, I had to remind myself of who they were talking to. A few times, the name would float in the air unanswered, until the realization bubbled to my mind – that’s me.
It’s been five years since then and something funny happened. I became that new girl they called by a shorter name. The new name fits me now, as if I was a toddler who grew into big shoes. Now my old name sounds foreign and unnatural. As a group of friends used the old name recently, I had to remind myself that they were talking about me.
My friends from my past life give me sideways glances when they find out. They insist I am who I was. My new friends are incredulous I ever had another name. They insist I am who I am now.
It seems silly that I would change my name at 29. It did to me even as I was making the change. But looking back, I realize I needed that new identity at the time. I needed to start fresh. To disconnect from the person I had become. To take a new paint brush and fill in the letters of who I was with new colors.
It was in giving myself a new name, I found the person I wanted to be.