What’s in a name?
When I was eight years old, my great grandmother gave me a pin with my name on it. It said Angela…”bringer of truth.” This was actually quite upsetting. I was a very literal child, and assumed this meant now I must tell the truth all the time. Adults like truth, except when you say things like “This food taste like throw up”, or “I’d rather die than eat liver. “ This was highly confusing to me. Tell the truth, but not really. (There is much to say about truth, but this blog post is about names.) So I immediately decided I should change my name. Renee is my middle name, and it means born again. I could live with that. That sounded French and all, perhaps because it is. But names are hard things to change when it is others that use them, so I stuck with Angie.
Three years ago, I began the process of divorce, and it was an incredibly difficult process of losing my name. We all have relative names that are contingent on relationships. I am a daughter because I have parents. I am a sister because I have siblings. I am a mother because I have three children. Here I was losing a relative name, wife, because he no longer wanted the relative name husband. Also, there was what felt like an identity crisis. I didn’t want to keep my married name. It didn’t feel like it belonged to me, and I didn’t want to be identified by it any more. At the same time, going back to my maiden name was weird after 16 years as one name. It was then that I realized women get names on loan. We borrow our father’s names until we are old enough to marry, and then we borrow our husband’s names in theory for the rest of our lives, but too often in reality, temporarily also. It was also this recognition that I no longer belonged as a part of any group. I became Just Angie. For me, while I legally returned to my maiden name, I chose a new last name that would never be taken or given away.
During this time of struggling with who am I if I am not a wife, or a Mrs. Something, I saw that what was really hurting me was all the names I had taken over the years. Words others had labeled me with or names I had taken because I believed them. Shakespeare attests that a “Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”, but honestly, would a rose be willing to open up to share it’s beauty if it believed it was stupid, ugly and worthless? I also saw around me how many people grabbed and clung to names as their identities. I saw women in similar circumstances now using the word victim to identify themselves. It was as if instead of saying I was a victim of something, it was becoming a state of being for them. This actually frightened me. How do I get a good name?
One of the first steps I took was going to Collin College. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this place. I thought that I could prove myself, and just get new names. Good grades made me affirm, I am smart. Excelling made me feel like I am strong. As part of my own personal journey, and for emotional health, I took drama classes. At first I took them to learn how to escape my own life, but what they actually taught me was to look into my own heart, the ugly bits, the pretty bits, the confusing bits- it all. It was there I learned from one of the most life changing people I have met, Shannon Kearns, that I didn’t need new names. I needed to accept the true names. She showed me that it wasn’t about becoming someone else to gain value, but about owning my place in life- who I was created to be. She saw beauty and value in me and not only spoke it into my life, but called it out of me. My life has never been the same. My identity is no longer found in the names others give me, the good or the bad ones. My identity is no longer tied to success or failure. My identity and my value is all based on that I am Infinitely Loved, that I have everything I need to be who I am called to be, and being who I am created to be is the most joyful and beautiful experience of my life- and even better than that- me being exactly who I am created to be calls out to others to be who they were created to be also.
Hi, my name is Angie, Infinitely Loved, who loves well, bringer of truth reborn, who feels colors, who loves walking barefoot in puddles, and loves to feel the texture of trees, excited to be exactly me.
So, what’s your name?