Meaning in the Mundane {29}: On pseudonyms.

Each of us has power and a truth to tell, whether the name we use is given or taken.

Soothing cat image.

I know that a lot of people here use pseudonyms. I usually do — I use them everywhere else. And I think about changing to one here every day (whoops, now you know, I guess…).

Now, I have great respect for the pseudonym. It protects our inner life from our public one and, in a somewhat paradoxical twist, affords us a level of authenticity that can sometimes only be found under an assumed name.

When I started here, I was faced with that moment of indecision — what to call myself? I won’t say I meditated on it, but I did sit with it for a good while, asking myself why I was so drawn to writing under a pen name, and I realized it was because I was ashamed. I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t want other people — meaning people I knew Back When — to know that these words were mine. I suppose there is an element of worrying about being challenged on a narrative that I believe, and one that defines much of how I go about my life now — but in truth, I’m in a constant state of re-evaluating that narrative anyway. (I don’t take any of my memories as truth for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I’m obviously biased.)

No, mostly I just felt ashamed. Like I should hide. Like who was I to think anyone would want to read what I had to say? But I could create a persona who was smart enough and eloquent enough and badass enough to say the things I wanted to say without it having to come from me…

and that was where I stopped.

Because even with a pseudonym, it’d still be coming from me. The difference was that by using one I could have this different voice, this smoke-screen I could hide behind to talk about truths both momentary and perpetual. A buffer — plausible deniability.

And so I chose, as you already know, not to use one. If it becomes dangerous, I suppose I’ll have to re-think the intelligence of this decision, but right now it feels like a triumph, like I was finally able to stand up and speak, in my own voice, albeit one that often trembles, falters, and fades. It’s mine, and it has power of its own.