Choosing Hope: How I Found My Name
After divorce, it was time to face the world on my own terms
I was married for 10 years, and when I got divorced I thought a lot about my name. I was born with one name, and before I got married, I was excited to change it to my fiance’s name. I loved the transformation to being an “us” instead of being the person I had been in the years before us.
Ten years later, I found myself wanting nothing more than to shed that name, the dry used shroud of what we’d become. I had been through the worst five years of my life, and they were finally ending. As I made my way towards the promise of new things, I wanted my name to reflect the journey.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve delved into writing and memoir and stories and social awareness, the more I’ve come to understand how much words and language matter. We carry our names with us every day, they are the first step in the dance of presenting ourselves to the world.
It was a given that I didn’t want to keep my married name. But I didn’t really want to just revert back to my birth name either. It had been a decade since I had been that person, and she was a shadow of the person I was meant to be.
Beyond that, I really wanted a name that would reflect the person I was becoming, the life I was growing into. Divorce is grief and loss, but it also slips you unexpected gifts. After years of trying to be what everyone else needed, it was time to declare who I was going to be on my own terms.
At first, I thought about choosing something random but intentional. I made lists of words like beauty and love, and looked at translations of them in other languages. I liked some more than others, sometimes the ideas were good but the words themselves didn’t roll across my tongue quite right. I sought something strong and resilient, something light and beautiful that would remind me why I was inspired and how I’d survive.
I wanted my new name to reflect the people who were most important to me.
I had a long time to think about it. My divorce wasn’t finalized for 17 months after the end of my marriage, so I had all of that time to daydream and scrawl new possible signatures in my notebooks and journals. Bella, Bellezza, Vida, scrawled across the margins of my planner. Friends semi-jokingly suggested Einhorn as a nod to my affinity for unicorns.
At some point, I realized that as fun as it might be, I didn’t want to just pick a name out of thin air. I wanted my new name to also reflect the people who were most important to me, to have some tie back to my family. I considered old family names, of my grandparents and grandparents grandparents; Kimnoch, Carmichael, Hayman, Hale.
I pondered and doodled and contemplated, but when it came to me it was strong and sudden. It’s not hyperbole to say that my mom and her husband saved my life. After my divorce, if I hadn’t had their love, support, and spare bedrooms, I don’t know what I would have done or where I would have ended up. They made sure my children had food to eat, we had a roof over our heads, and most importantly that we were safe and loved. Without their support, I don’t know how I would have found the way to really leaving.
Despite the fact that my mother is one of the most important people in the world to me, we haven’t shared a last name since she and my dad divorced when I was five. When I thought about the people I wanted to be tied to, there was no one I could think of that meant more to me than my mom and her husband.
They were my core, my family, the ones who were there for me. They disrupted their own lives (not once, but twice) when my life fell apart, and gave me a home and a family while I tried to piece myself back together. They made sure that my children and I were surrounded by warmth and positivity.
It was just a bonus that they happen to have such a cool last name.
So much meaning in four letters, it was what I hadn’t had for so long, and was finally finding again in my life. It embodied perfectly the ties to my family and the gifts they gave me in the wake of my trauma and pain. At the same time, it was the path to my future, lighting the way for my heart to be reborn and bloom again.
Names are funny things. We give our children names, mostly before knowing who they are and who they will become. Sometimes those names fit perfectly, and other times they don’t and nicknames or middle names step up to pinch-hit. Our surnames are even stranger, tying us to families of origin regardless of our degree of familiarity or involvement. Our names stay with us, often unchanging as our brains and hearts are broken and re-made.
It fit like a glove, it felt right from the moment it sparked in my soul. Natural and comfortable, there was no adjustment period, just a settling in to who I had become. The path I chose wasn’t the easy path, it wasn’t traditional, or straight, or where I expected to go. But I would choose it again, 1000 times more. I would choose this person I have become, and I would chose Hope.
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