“No” Dad said, “you have to sign your entire name.”
“That is my name”
“No, like what is on your ID.”
“Yeah, Dad, that is it.”
This was more than a year after my divorce.
Ah yes, the big D. The turning point and legal process that began almost exactly 5 years ago and eventually led me to this place. This is long enough without delving deep into the divorce yet but suffice to say: the EX and I are cool but yea, public failure on the record and it was the reason I am now just Joanna June.
Most of us are all saddled with our formal name yet it comes to define us in so many ways. I heard recently from a new Impossible League friend Deborah that she draws an extra measure of strength from her name as it means in Hebrew “bee” or “bumblebee.” She writes, “I’ve read that the flight of bumblebees defies all that we know of aerodynamics…. But, to Mark Twain’s point, nobody told the bumblebees this so they buzz around just the same!” Deb unquestioningly loves her name and uses it as a reminder that she too “can fly!”
I love that sentiment. I think that your name should be one you are proud to own and share.
“Joanna June” has always been a part of my moniker but I am not the progeny of a long line of Junes.
June – what was my given middle name – is in honor of my paternal grandmother. She actually laid the groundwork for me by creating her own sobriquet (yay new words!) by dropping her given Erma in favor of her middle name. My grandfather teased that the first thing she ever said to him – when he asked her name — was a fib.
When I married, I dropped my maiden name, keeping June, and added the EX’s surname. My aunt quips that her second husband (to whom she has now been married over 30 years) gave her his name as a wedding present. As her wedding present to him, she accepted it.
Upon my separation, I was logistically faced with the mountain-of-pain-in-the-ass-paperwork-question which plagues women almost exclusively… Name: _____________?
I am thankful that social media was still in it’s infancy and so I had few website and email address concerns, but the drivers license, passport, social security, charge card, auto title/insurance/loan, library card, work/gym/other memberships, logins, bank accounts, professional biz cards, resume, email… etc etc etc… The cyclone of ID change is quite enough to make one think long and hard. You never want to have to go through it again, ever (see again my Aunt).
Individually, I had had to wrestle with: What am I now to be called?
Which morphed into: Now who am I to be?
Keeping the status quo was obviously out of the question. Do I go back to my given surname or… what?
I became somewhat adamant that I didn’t want to “go backwards” to my maiden name. Through the emotional lens of the time, it seemed like I was trying to return to what I once was and not embracing my future self.
My brothers, aware of my love of coffee, joked that I should tack on “Starbuck” as in “ah, yes, of those Starbucks.” I appreciated the lightheartedness but presenting myself as a coffee heiress didn’t quite suit.
Some were similarly amused by possibilities while others were bemused to shocked by my daring to part with tradition not to reclaim my given cognomen (but ditto for the decision to divorce in the first place). There were even quite hurt feelings of family, including by the ones that named me. My mom penned an email that pulled me up short saying that she felt “rejected by my choice.”
Yet I knew it wasn’t about anyone else.
Or at least I wouldn’t allow it to be about anyone else. This was about me and my opportunity to make a personal statement and choice. Selfish? Hell yes. It is my effing name, how much more self-centric can you get?
No other person weighing in had to walk around introducing themselves with the result of the question.
So I looked at what was important to me.
I wanted to turn one aspect of that hard, sad event into a positive symbol of my life change. I wanted it to be something I was happy about. The building blocks were there obviously. I didn’t completely, revolutionary change it to something entirely different, true, yet I made it my own. As I did with my life.
So I became Joanna June.
I am incredibly happy with the decision I made. I love the alliteration and I get complimented on it often. I love that it is truly mine because I chose it. I, like Deborah, draw strength from the symbolism of my name. I love that it inspires me to be proud of the life and work I attach it to.
A store-counter-impulse-purchase at the time which I now wear often is this necklace which quotes Shaw:
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”
Creating my own name was an important step in my process to Be IN. With this reflection and writing — attaching my real, full, entirely my own name to this space — the work continues.
If you have a special name story please share it in the comments – love those.
Or was there another event that you think continues to define your self-in-process?
*** PS: Editor’s note (if you have made it thus far): With this post I am marrying (funny use of word!) my “old” life and new blogging personality. I am also moving the site over to WordPress after being on tumblr – only 11 days past my self-imposed deadline and epic failure yesterday to make the move. I hope you enjoy the redesign, it is still a little in process. I have been flying slightly under the radar for about 6 months and the leap is scary but it is time to Be IN – all IN. So special welcome to those that know me as videojo or just Jo.
To you all: Thanks for reading and being part of this journey.
Images via flickr under Creative Common License: What’s in a Name? by Jack Dorsey and others by moi.