Change Your Name, Change Your Life

While there is no magic cure-all to make a person completely happy or to make their life amazing, being saddled with a name you hate will almost always get in the way of any happiness you're trying to achieve.  So why not simply change it?

Picking a new name for yourself is not something new, strange, or even really all that different from the norm.  Celebrities almost always have stage names, certain religious traditions give their practitioners new spiritual names, and women have to change their last name every single time they get married (as do kids who are adopted).  I, myself, have had 6 last names: my born name, two foster family names as a toddler, an adopted name, and two married names.

Names carry weight with them.  With each new name I carried that identity as a new person.  When I was my ex-husband's name, I was a different person than I am now, with my current husband's name.  Not as a whole, but as a feeling.  It's very hard to be new when you're carrying around old weight (especially the weight of a name you don't like).  When I first got married to my forever husband (the one I am married to now), I hyphened my name (so in reality, I've had 7 last names if you want to count that one).  Even that gave me a different identity than the one before and the one I have now.  Men do not get this privilege, which, if you think about it, is kind of sad for them.  At times, the idea of changing your last name just because you're a woman seems sexist and antiquated.  But if I really look at what each name change has brought me, I am actually grateful.  Men do not get this privilege. 

I am grateful for changing my last name for many reasons:

I am not my father's daughter anymore.  I no longer fear men the way I did back then.  I no longer fear many things I did when I was I had his name.

I am definitely not my birthfamily's child.  I am a part of them, but not in the way you are when you carry a family name.

I am not my ex's wife anymore.  I am not the person I was (stubborn and unyielding) when I was married to him.

I am not the same person I was when I had my name hyphenated either.  My kids had their father's name, I had their name and my new husband's name.  It was a strange thing to feel separated like that as a family.

So when my husband adopted my boys, we all took his name.  And I am, once again, reborn anew.  The kids no longer feel as though he's stepfather, and we do not look like a remarried family.  We are just us.  And our last name reflects just how close we all are.

Last names symbolize your family.   My family has changed many times in my life.  So what do first names represent?

Well, they represent you.  You as an individual.  Our parents get to name us at birth, but I personally feel there should be a choice at age 18 (or any age after 18) where we are allowed one free name change.  It should be the norm to have a different childhood name and an adult one (if one wants to change it).  Many people in the world are abused as children, and our names can bring a sort of shame to us when others speak it.  I know mine does.

I was born Jessie Lee.  When I was adopted, they kept my born name (thank goodness too, otherwise my crazy mother would have named me Henrietta!  Who was named that in the 80's?? Nobody, that's who!  Plus, her cat was named Henri.  I would have been named after her cat.  Nice.)  Growing up, my best friend was named Jesse (his real name was Ryan Jesse James...and everyone called him Jesse.  Why?  I have no freaking clue.)  So I became not just Jessie, but Jessie Lee.  Everyone called me that.  It was like a full first name.  I had no private middle name anymore.

If your first name identifies you as you, then what does your middle name?

I see first names as public names.  Middle names are private.  They belong to only us.  Nobody even needs to know your middle name if you don't want to tell them.  They are ours and only ours.  Except, when your friend is the same name as you and all of a sudden your middle name becomes a part of your public name.

I never asked for that.  I never wanted that.  But it was thrust upon me as though it was okay to do so without asking me.  Sometimes I believe it was because I was a girl, and he was a boy.  That it was some sort of sexism on everyone's part to just assume that I'd be okay with it because I was a girl, and girls never get to keep their last names (unless you choose to do so, or not marry), so why not just make yet another decision for a girl without her consent?  But the reality of it is that I was raised by a narcissist who never cared about how others felt about anything and just did what she wanted without asking.  She was the one who came up with the idea to call me Jessie Lee as one full first name, rather than suggest Jesse call himself Ryan, which was his given birth name.

So I became Jessie Lee.  My mother still calls me that to this day (not constantly, but usually).  I am 41.  And I hate that fucking name.

When I was named, I was named that because my birthmother heard it somewhere and thought what a lovely name!  But what she didn't realize was that it going to be one of the most popular beginning/middle name combos in history.  It's up there with the other generic names such as Tina Marie, or anything with Ann or Lee as the middle name. 

Growing up, I was never one of the crowd.  I was different.  And I was very upset that my name didn't live up to amount of outcastery that my life did.  I wanted something unique.  Something different.  Hell, I just wanted to spell my name awesomely like Jysse or Jess.  I even tried writing my name like that all the time, I but I was scolded by teachers and parents, because that wasn't my name.  I knew then that I should be able to pick my own name, or at least the spelling of my name, as it was mine and mine alone.  Where else in life today do you get to own something uniquely yours but have no rights over it at all?  (I can name a few things, but we're talking about names here 😉)

So anyways, the moment I became an adult, I toyed around with new names.  I wrote blogs under these new names.  Some I liked, some grew wearisome after a year or so.  That's the trick with naming yourself.  You can't just pick a name and expect to love it forever.  What you love right now may sound tedious in a few months or more.  Picking a new name should be a long process.  Making sure that it not only fits who you are, but the spelling fits as well.  I've been "emray" since I've been 22 years old.  It was a shortened version of my chosen name meant for email addresses.  I started using it on blogs.  But then I changed it to Emma Rayne, which has been my chosen name for a very long time.  I do not use it in real life yet, but eventually I will.

So, why change it at all?

Jessie Lee is a victim.  She was an abused child who couldn't escape her circumstances.  Not only physically, but in her head as well.  She acted out her victimization with rage and revenge when she was hurt by others.  She obsessed over her pain.  She was blocked, and could not move forward.  Every choice she made was that of a victim, from how she still dealt with her mother, to how she treated others when in a relationship, or how she treated her friends.  She felt the need to be surrounded by people at all times to witness this pain.  She needed an audience to feel validated in her pain.  She was a drama queen who thrived on gossip and other bullshit.  She was a mess: in her life, her home, and her head.  She used everything to perpetuate this victim mentality.  And every single time she heard her name, she was reminded of all of it.   And she desperately wanted to be different, but had no idea how.

Emma Rayne is an artist.  A writer.  A healed (or at least on her way to being healed) woman.  Someone who only tries to add more healing to humanity instead of more pain.  She is a bit of a hermit, and only socializes on occasion.  Her words and actions are deliberate and mindful, instead of coming from a place of boredom or frivolousness.  She is kind, understanding, and doesn't let negative people get her down.  She gets that people who are hurtful are operating from a place of pain, and their actions/words have nothing to do with her at all.  She sees a world that is in pain and tries to help others understand there is another way to live.  The things that once fueled her now seem immature.  But she understands that she once operated from a place of pain, so she forgives herself.  She isn't perfect, but always keeps her eyes on the prize: she no longer desires to be a victim or a survivor, she just wants to be Emma Rayne.  A girl who once was different, but now is changed, and is happy.

I am on my way to being her.  I am changing, so therefore I feel my name should change as well.  I've been toying with changing my name since I was a child.  But I've been actively healing and becoming a better person than I was since 2012 (the year I fully moved past my father's abuse).  Then in 2014, my life started changing in leaps and bounds.  But I was still the victim (but then again, I had just found out I was a victim, so there's that).  And in the past year, my life has changed in ever bigger ways.  Every single year, I heal more, I grow up more, and I change more.  I became the Hermit of the tarot many years ago, isolating myself to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life.  It was incredibly lonely at first, but eventually, I adapted.  When I would go out into the world to make contact, I'd repeat the same mistakes as before.  So then I'd put myself back into isolation to analyze what went wrong and how I could fix it.  Each mistake brought forth new insight, and I'd grow and change a little more.  This went on for years.  But finally, now in 2019, I feel ready to leave my cave and take what I've learned out into the world to properly deal with life as it comes.  Instead of reacting to everything,  I now know how to respond (most of the time).  Which is huge.

I went into this as Jessie Lee, the one who felt broken and damaged, and am emerging as Emma Rayne, the one who feels empowered and strong.  I will still make mistakes.  I will still act as Jessie Lee sometimes.  The brain is a creature of habit, as no human can completely eliminate my negative parts.  But I also don't want to, because how could I keep growing and changing if I did not make mistakes?

Name changes can be made to help you emerge as a new person.  Or to empower you to be able to name yourself.  If you can give yourself that, imagine what else you can do?  You can change your first, middle, or last name and it can still have the same effect.  My youngest son's middle name was my ex's first name.  My oldest son's middle names are my dad's middle name and my ex's (and his father's) middle name.  My name was nowhere to be carried down in my children, because they were boys and I am a girl.  So when they were adopted by my hubby, my youngest said he'd make his middle names be my first name (in boy form: Jesse) and my ex's last name (which was my kids' last name up until that day).  I told them to name themselves, in case they hated their names  like I did.  I didn't want to saddle them with names I thought were cool and awesome when I was 20 and 24 years old, just in case they thought their names were dumb (my oldest has a first name that's hard to find on personalized items).  But they love their names.  Which I am very happy that I chose right for them.

But the rest of us who hate our names?  Why saddle yourself as an adult with something that doesn't bring you joy when you can just spent a couple hundred bucks to change it?  In the grand scheme of things, it's a drop in the hat compared to a lifetime of misery.

Some of people I know who have changed their names: 

My father-in-law's name is Alec.  He hates his name with a passion, so he uses his middle name: Tom.  Nobody calls him Alec.  Everyone calls him Tom.

My uncle's name was Gary.  He hated his name and went by the nickname Butch.

My husband's aunt's name is Elizabeth.  Graveyardgirl on Youtube's name is Rachel.  Both go by the nickname Bunny.

An old's friend's name was Tiffany.  She was sexually abused and hated her name as it brought about bad memories and triggered her greatly.  So she legally changed it to Cyrene.

Another old friend grew up abused and hated her name Brandy because of it, so she legally changed it to Mirabella.

Another friend I had went by the name Simetra.  It was her patron goddess Artemis, exept backwards.  I never knew her born name, as that was the name she went by.

Another friend in a group I run was born a different name and married a super abusive asshole.  She was also abused by her mother growing up.  When she divorced, her adult kids and her all sat down with a Irish name book and picked new names and then immediately had them legally changed.  Her new name is Ailish and she's loved it ever since.

My friend from grade school (I knew him all the way through high school) changed his sex from male to female when he was in his 30's.  He changed his name from Scott to Sabrina.

A woman who was in a group I ran changed her sex as well, and changed her name from Jessica to Fox.

My cousin's long-time girlfriend was named Sarah.  My old neighbor was named Howard.  Both went by the nickname Pinky.

And ex-boyfriend of mine was named Cookie, because as a kid he loved Cookie Monster and the name just stuck.  His real name was definitely not Cookie 😜 (although I have some not so nice names I like to call him when I talk about him LOL). 

Name changes can be less daunting by using nicknames or going by middle names.  But if you're really serious about shedding your birth name as much as I am, then you can get it legally changed to something of your choosing.  You can just change your first name, your middle name, or even your last name, or all of the above.  Your name is yours to do what you want with.  It should represent who you are or who you want to be.  The spelling matters, too.  Make sure, as I did, that the spelling is perfect, because one letter can change everything.  And while Ailish and her family chose her name in the span of ten seconds (for their own personal reasons that they do not regret), it's much better to live with your new name first.  Cyrene suggests to call yourself that for a year before changing it, just to be sure you love it.

Where to find new names?

I suggest to first look to your family.  Do you have anyone you'd like to be named after?  Do your family tree and see what names come up.  I've found odd names in my family tree, such as Jerusha, and Abijah, names I've never heard of before. 

Then check out baby name generators, or even fantasy name generators.  Then look to celebrity names that you can turn into your own (you can't legally change your name to a celebrity name, but you can take their name and add letters or take some away to make your own version).

Just don't pick Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, as Phoebe from Friends already has dibs on it 😜.

Then make a list of all your favorites.  And be sure to pick names that have meaning for you, even if that meaning is just a good feeling you get when you say it.  Are you choosing both first and middle names?  Then try out the names on your list with each other to see which ones mesh and flow right.  Also know, you can have as many middle names as you like.  I grew up with a girl who had four!  Go through your kid's yearbooks from school to see any new names that jive with you.  Go through your own yearbooks.  Go through your parents' yearbooks.  Go through your friend's friend lists on Facebook.  I once found an amazing name who happened to be my friend's sister that I saw on her friend's list on Facebook.  I wrote it down to use later in a novel (being a writer, I steal names all the time! LOL).  You can find some amazing names out there.  You just have to pay attention.

Here are some wonderful links to help you on your search for the perfect name:

And if you encounter anyone who says you're being silly or stupid for considering changing your name, just remember: their viewpoint has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and their own experiences in life.  People don't have to like your new name.  But it's not for them.  It's for you.

At first, it will feel strange and foreign to call yourself something new.  I suggest only telling new people you meet your new name.  That way you can get used to being called it out loud.  Then, find a way to get the people you know to get used to the name.  You can shorten your new name to a nickname if you like, if that makes it easier.  Then eventually evolve into everyone using your new name.  Whatever makes you feel most comfortable.  Names are meant to be used.  Do don't be afraid to use it.  Eventually, you'll get so used to it, you'll forget what it's like to be called your old name.

Changing your name may not be for the faint of heart, but it's also not really a big deal, either.  If one day, years after you choose your new name and you hate it?  Change it it back.  Or find a new one.  Nobody says you have to stay the same name forever.  It doesn't make you flaky.  It makes you ever evolving into something and someone new, with a name to show for it.

Here is a list of the pricing for each state to get your name changed (check on the county clerk's website in your county for all the forms you need--also know that you need to put your name change in the paper for a period of time before you can legally change it).  Know that you can file as a poor person possibly get it for free!  

State     Filing Fee
AK    $150
AL    $10 - $80
AR    $140
AZ    $230 - $310
CA    $435
CO    $83
CT    $150
DC    $60
DE    $85
FL    $400
GA    $200 - $215
HI    $50
IA    $180
ID    $88
IL    $100 - $300
IN    $100 - $200
KS    $166
KY    $50 - $100
LA    $400 - $500
MA    $165
MD    $145
ME    $25 - $60
MI    $150
MN    $200 - $320
MO    $100 - $200
MS    $100
MT    $120
NC    $80 - $120
ND    $80
NE    $83
NH    $90
NJ    $200
NM    $130
NV    $100 - $200
NY    $65 - $300
OH    $100 - $200
OK    $165
OR    $100 - $200
PA    $97 - $330
RI    $86
SC    $150
SD    $70
TN    $160
TX    $200 - $250
UT    $155 - $360
VA    $35 - $50
VT    $150
WA    $120 - $250
WI    $165
WV    $145
WY    $70

Have you changed your name or known someone who has?  I'd love to hear your stories!  How did you choose your name?  When did you know it was the right one?  How long ago did you change it?  Let me know below!!

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