As a previously married woman, who grew up hating her maiden name with a passion because no one knew how to spell it, nor did they know how to say it, I was happy to change my name when I married. And now, even though I have been divorced for four years, separated for six, I kept my married name for a couple of reasons – 1) because I had established my business with my married name, and 2) the hardships that can be caused through travelling internationally with children when your surnames are different can be too much of a challenge. So in saying that, the plan is to create a new identity once my children are adults, as my married name doesn’t belong to me.
People change their names for many reasons – ease of spelling, not wanting to be associated with a nationality or religion, sheer hate for their family and not wanting to be associated with them, to make a name for themselves, etc. And I’m sure ancestry.com is constantly overwhelmed with confusion when a name change is recorded that doesn’t coincide with a marriage or divorce.
But what stroke me today was how people come up with what they want to call themselves. Is it an old family name, or a derivative of? Is it something that has nothing related to their background? Is it a name that reflects someone they imagine they are? Is it something that is so far removed but still part of the family – like a great aunt’s, middle name, reduced to be more Anglosized? And yes, I write under a pseudonym which is the name I used when I was the most confident as a teen (Suzy), my middle initial (J) and a family name from way back (Brown), because to me, that’s what I want to see in myself. There’s still a family attachment to it, but it’s not identifiably me. I don’t know if I will change my name by de-pol in a few years time to by legally Suzy J Brown, or if I will invent something else, but I think knowing that I have the freedom to change my name to be whatever I want it to be is quite liberating. It’s freeing, it’s giving you a fresh start, no matter how old you are. Born with a name like Susan, I went through many derivatives of it over the years – Susie, Suzie, Suzy, Sue, Sooz, SuSu, and when I was yelled at, Susan. I struggled with what suited me, and what sounded happy, positive, and felt like me. And in someways, I still do… The thing is, I warm to people who call me ‘Suzy’ – even if I don’t use it in my everyday life, only for my writing. Those who call me ‘Suzy’ are everyone from old family friends, to clients, and even some new friends. To me, it has a sweetness and a sense of affection to it. It’s warm and welcoming.
As single mums, we do struggle with so many things in life, especially if we have lack of support from family. The key is to find your happy place within your soul, and if changing your identity frees you up to being the person you see yourself as, then all the better for you. People from your past will always know who you are, people in your future will only know the new you. Changing your name can make you move forward and dissolve the past, never to be spoken about again, or create new light. Either way, if life has had more downs than ups, I think a name change, when the time is right or you choose to move to a completely new place in the world, is a positive way to bring out the best in you.