Monday, August 5, 2013

What's in a name?

I really wasn't sure what to post about today... I have a lot of thoughts in my head, but no real direction.  So I started trolling through my "drafts" folder, and found this post that I started last November.  It was written well before the wedding, so I've updated it quite a bit, but I find myself really identifying with these words that were written so long ago.

When June 22, 2013 came around, I did something really huge.  I irrevocably joined my life with this guy's:

Now, I know this isn't my wedding blog, and that I have tried to keep wedding chatter to a minimum over here.  This isn't really another post about our wedding.  This is about identity.

My entire life, I had always anticipated the day that I would get married, and take my husband's name.  I never expected to live my entire life, start to finish as Kristen Marie Seuberling.  That just wasn't a thought.  I knew someday I would undertake the arduous process of changing my identity, so far as the outside world is concerned.  This change in outward identity is massive.  A new name, a new set of identification cards, credit cards, bank cards, bank accounts, bills, a new signature, a new name to give, a new name to respond to.

The new license photo, which I think makes me look like a surfer-dude from the early 70's.

It's daunting, really.  I'm not just talking about the steps you have to take to change your name either, thought those are vast and exhausting.  What is scary, terrifying really, is that the outward identity I am known by is being forever altered.  I can't help but believe with my whole heart that the name we are known by shapes our overall identity.  Many cultures believe that the name you are born with holds particular significance in identifying your personality, and even shaping your personality.  To an extent, I absolutely agree.

My maiden name is long.  Let's all take a minute to acknowledge that.  When I got triple named as a child, it was a big deal, because it's 7 syllables.  Or 38,000 if you're from the south and highly exasperated.

My last name started with an "S", meaning I have always expected to be at the end of everything.  My new last name is Lehnig, putting me smack in the middle of the alphabet.  So weird.

My maiden name is hard as heck to pronounce.  Like, people I've known for years still sometimes say it wrong.  Shoot, I have relatives who admitted to me at my wedding that they still have to check the spelling of my maiden name before they write it, because it is so hard for them.  Despite being a type-A person, I've had to learn to forgive people for not understanding German phonetic structures.  I've also had to come to love nicknames that arise from people abusing the crap out of my name.  Heck, I was lucky enough to be nicknamed "Super" in high school after 6 months of intentional last name butchering.  I was happy when that one stuck for good.

 To tell the truth, writing and signing my new name still feels strange.  It feels somewhat fake, unreal, almost.  When I as changing my name with the DMV, they make you sign this really intimidating waiver regarding the giving of and reporting of fraudulent names.  Even though the reason for my name change is legitimate, I definitely paused for a second as I read over that.  Hearing people call me Kristen Lehnig is equally strange.  Thankfully, I have a job that requires me to write and sign my name almost constantly, so I have high hopes that in the not too distant future, this name will start to feel right.  It will start to feel comfortable and true, like a cozy fleece blankie.

I'm ready to find out who Kristen Lehnig is, what memories she will make, what new adventures she has.  I can't wait to see the strange ways that people will butcher this name, as any name in the world is liable to be butchered.  I'm part of the L-team now (the nickname I've given to Ammon's family, they just don't know it), and it's awesome to be a part of that collective identity.  I just don't want to forget who Kristen Seuberling was along the way, or the collective identity I share with my side of the family either.

Truly, I feel like this is one of those times in life where the saying "Nothing worth doing is ever easy" really rings true.  It isn't easy, but it is worth it [to me] in the end.


  1. I'm currently stuck with my ex-married name because I'm too cheap to change it. Changing your name when you get married is SO much easier than changing it due to divorce.

    When Iz and I get married I'm taking back my maiden name and hyphenating. I want to be able to keep my original last name, I don't want to lose that again.

  2. I miss being Whitney Border sometimes. It's weird, but she is a different person from Whitney Street.

  3. I've only changed my name a little bit. It will be 2 years at the end of this month, and I haven't legally changed it with social security. But I go by my married name on FB, and on my license. And at the bank. I think I will keep it this way. I didn't realize how much I loved my Cooper name until I had to give it up.

  4. I can't wait to drop Kilfoyle. Cannot wait. I'd marry a hobo on the street if it meant dropping.

  5. I sometimes miss my maiden name. It was definitely easier to sign, because I suck at capital Gs.


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