2018-12-23 What’s in a Name?

I tend to place a lot of weight on naming things. I think names are important. For objects and ideas it’s all about standards and improving communication and understanding. For poems and other creative writing, it is the title that I spend a long time considering and I’ve attended entire lectures and group discussions about such things. I toil over titles and take great care in coming to and committing to one. In truth, sometimes it’s an issue for these blog posts.

When you write daily, things get stale and it’s tough to come up with clever titles day after say. I find myself gravitating toward alliteration, but there’s only so many “Sushi Sunday Status” posts a person can write before they are sick of Sushi (and statuses). As of now, I usually just try to come up with something that is brief and makes sense with what I’ve written. Then I just smile and nod and move onto the next thing. I have learned (mostly) to set it and let it go.

People’s names, however, are perhaps the most important as that’s our first and primary identification. Given names, chosen by mothers and fathers with all the hopes and dreams for a good life for their child in mind and family names typically indicating some culture or past heritage of the family line. Our names say a lot about us and, in a way, help define who we are.

I put a lot of thought into my children’s names. I wanted to have a name for my daughter, who was born first, that was not only a bit unique as my given name is but also not super strange so that she would get made fun of. I wanted to have it start with a Z, because I thought that was cool and I spent hours googling baby names and their meanings. My given name was fairly unique and though it had an impact on me as a child, because of what it was, as an adult I have come to appreciate it. I often get compliments from new people and strangers alike. “How pretty” they say. I wanted that for my daughter. I thought the name I gave her was sort of rare and could not have predicted the amount it had grown in popularity around the time of her birth. There was actually another girl with her same name in her kindergarten class at school and several more in the classes around her. So much for being unique. I digress.

The point is that it’s important and also interesting the way that life unfolds around a name or because of one or the changing of a name. As woman, we give up our family name when we marry if we choose the traditional route and If I think too much about that, I lean toward being against it. I suppose it does matter how much the original Family name means to you.I got married when I was 19 and not only was I way too young to make that heavy of a commitment but I was also too young to care enough about my Family name or the significance of it or the implications about belief that are implied when you change it or don’t. That was back in 1993 and I think at that time most women were still changing their names when they got married. It’s just what you did.

Also, facing facts, it’s not like I’m the bloody Queen of England where Family name is of utmost importance. I just watched the episode of The Crown last week where they had to both choose her new given name and the name for the family line when her father died – and it was/is a big deal. No, with me, at 19, it was just “do as your parents did” and that’s what I did.

It did make things easier for the kids, having one last name or not having to choose or hyphenate. Of course at this point, I’ve had my married last name longer than I haven’t by far and it’s just my name. It’s who I am, despite having been single (or not married) for the last 9 years and I rarely have thought about it. Now that I am on the cusp of getting married again, however, it has been on my mind.

In truth, the fact that my name will be changing has not really been a factor that was in question. I doesn’t make sense to get married and keep my old married name. It’s not like I have an established career or life where my name is THAT important. When I was divorced I didn’t go back to my maiden name because I’d had it for so long and it was also my kids’ last name, again making things easier. My name will be changing to that of my fiancé and so it will no longer be the same as the kids. That’s a little sad, still, I’m not deterred enough by that fact to do anything different, plus, the marriage is more than a year away so there’s still lots of time for thinking and deciding what to do. Right?

Wrong. About a month ago I received an email from a publisher that I submitted some poetry to and they were letting me know that one of my poems was going to be published in their next “Emerging Poets” anthology. I was to take a look at the copy and the bio and verify things were correct before it goes to print. First.. Wow! That’s kind of a big deal for me, having my first published poem. Second.. I took one look at the bio and was immediately faced with the question about my name. There it was, staring back at me from the page and for the first time, I really was forced to think about it.

If I’m going to pursue being published more, it would serve me well to have a consistent pen name. My name IS changing, but that’s not 100% of a done deal yet (and is also over a year away). My current married name is mine, but it’s ancient history and in that moment I sort of felt like a girl with no good identity. Among the questions swirling in my brain were these…
* Do I go by my first name alone? No, despite being lovely, it’s too short and would not do as a proper name all by itself.
* Do I stick with my current married name. No, that’s soon to be in the past and I want to look forward to the future.
* Do I use my maiden name. Perhaps, but I haven’t been that person in a long time and will never be again (though I do fancy my maiden name more than my current one).
* Do I go by one of my monikers, Miss SugarCookie or ShySpark perhaps? No, that’s probably not good for a serious author. Though, I could do a whole post about those Names and where they came from and their significance to me as well, because I have thought a great deal about them over the years (as opposed to my real name). Those are names I have chosen or accepted and am currently writing AKA. Or OKA (only known as). The other trick there is that this particular blog is “supposed” to be somewhat anonymous, which I realize is quite impossible to do with the way WordPress and tags and the internet and search engines work. Just the other day I googled one of my “names” and was straight away to this blog – like the 2nd or 3rd entry, so behind the scenes and in the vastness of the cloud, everything gets connected. I digress again.
* What option is left? My new name also came to mind almost immediately as a potential pen name and makes sense both for the future potential of my life and also merging my personal life with my writing life. Why not start now? I may not be getting married today, but that does not mean today is not a good day to start “being” married. I already feel married, as one half of a new whole – so why not go for it? It did put the screws to me as a bit of a leap of faith given that it is not really my name yet, but I can no longer be afraid of commitment. I just can’t. So I went for it.

I changed my name in the bio and also under the title line of the poem (where the author’s name appears because it is an anthology of a hundred or more different writers). I sent a note back to the editor indicating my change and a brief statement as to why. Then, about a week ago, I received a follow up email, letting me know the book had gone to print and was out on Amazon, with a link. That makes it really, really real. I thought again about the name and how I will feel opening to that page and seeing it in print. Quite significant indeed. I haven’t ordered any copies yet, and I am not sure why.

It wasn’t until that second follow up email that I thought about googling my new name, to see what might pop up. The combination of my current first and last name plus the fact that I have blogs all over the freaking place and am on twitter and facebook and instagram and yada-yada, means that I’m all I find when I search for that name now, but I had no idea what to expect when searching for my “new” name (which has a more common last name than my current one. I found one person with my same name who apparently had a twitter account they let lapse in 2010. That may have been a made up name, potentially, and the last tweets were something about having sex on and off camera which, of course, left a bad taste in my brain. Does that mean my new name sounds like a porn star or stripper name? I hope not – haha! I’m just glad that is all that came up and didn’t find anything worse or more on it.

Hind site being 20/20 (and after reading some of the other bios), it is clear to me what I should have done is stuck with ShySpark or at least included a link to my main poetry blog in the bio that way if someone wanted to find more, they would start there instead of just googling my name. I suppose I will learn all sorts of things as I travel along this new life path. Not all the lessons will be as easy or evident, probably, and that is the nature of life.

In any case, I can’t change it now, so it is what it is. I had a little laugh in my own head about my new full name the first time I thought of it (which was way before Jim asked me to marry him). It has alliteration AND it also rhymes – a mini poem in it’s own right. Just rolls off the tongue – Shyla Ann Shehan. I could not have planned that if I tried and indeed it feels somewhat like a good joke by the Universe. So that’s what’s in a name, or at least in MY name. We’ll see how life unfolds around that one. 😉

Merry Happy Christmas Holiday Eve Eve,
~Miss SugarCookie, AKA ShySpark, AKA Shyla

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