How and why I changed my name

by Calvin on May 1, 2012

On Friday, I got a letter from the authorities in Denmark that my name is no longer Lars Holger Pind, it is now Calvin Jeremia Conaway.

That naturally begs the question: Why did you change your name? And how did you come up with that particular name?

Here’s the story.

I’ve never been really happy with my old name. “Lars Pind” has a certain graphic quality to it that I like, a punch, but it also just feels quite “not me”. Add in my middle name and it becomes a joke.

When last year I got divorced and moved to the US, that was a welcome opportunity to revisit the issue. Besides, try being named “Lars Pind” in the US.

At Starbucks when I order a green tea soy frappucino, they usually write “Larce” on the side of the cup. When I subscribe to a magazine by writing my name on a form by hand, they almost always change my last name to “Pino”, because they’re convinced the d in “Pind” must be a typo – how would you even begin to pronounce “Pind” in English? Like “Pint”? Or “Pinn”?

Anyway …

So I wanted to change my name, and so naturally I consulted with a numerologist, my friend Ruben.

I’m not sure I “believe” in numerology, but I’ve experienced enough by now to just trust in things I don’t “believe” in. If my aunt Tonna believed in it way back then, and people I trust believe in it, then there’s probably enough to it that it’s worth it to just trust life and go with it. Almost everything I now believe or know to be true is stuff that was right there all along, I was just very very busy resisting and pushing it away because of spiritual betrayal.

So Ruben did the math, and he was like “Holy shit, this is bad!” Apparently, there’s some number that is really crap, that he said corresponds to the Tower in Tarot. Don’t know much about this, but he says it’s really bad, and I had like four of five of them in my numeroscope. Bad shit.

So he came up with some new numbers for me – 19, 19 and 24, respectively – that my names needed to match.

That was in February of last year. We spent about an hour together in my friend Yon’s apartment in New York, when he showed me the old numbers and the new numbers, and explained to me how horrific the old name was and how great the new one was going to be. And it sounded awesome. Then he got to the part about actually changing my name, and I was terrified.

“Wait, you’re not saying I need to actually change my name, are you?”

“Yes I am, that was kinda the point.”

Crickets.

“But what are all my friends going to think? What about all the people who know me by my old name? What about my parents? What about my children?”

And then it took me over a year before I finally changed my name.

First I had to come up with a new name I wanted. That took me 3 months. Then I had an immigration lawyer that said “let’s not change your name until you have your visa”. That was a convenient excuse. Of course, I still don’t have the visa, but, hey.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I had finally had enough and just filed the papers.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How did I come up with the new name?

Armed with the numbers, I did what any respectable person would do: I downloaded lists of male first names and last names in the US, and wrote some Ruby code that’d run through the list and extract all the names that matched my numbers. I also wrote some HTML and Javascript that would let me type in names and give me the corresponding value to help me test out various funky spellings of things.

About the funky spelling thing. It’s common practice when you’ve consulted with a numerologist, to try to keep your old name, so I’d become “Larrss” or “Larrce” or “Lahrse” or some other funky variation that would allow people to pronounce it the same but it would have the right value. That didn’t feel right to me. If I’m changing my name, I might as well go all the way. That’s the kind of guy I am. An all the way kinda guy.

It’s also common to pick very descriptive, spiritual-sounding names – “Abundiencia” or “Loveiam” or whatnot. That didn’t feel right for me, either.

I wanted a name that was a relatively “normal” name, but distinct, and something that felt me.

So I looked over the lists of common first names that matched my number, and I liked the sound of a few of them. Calvin was one, obviously. I also like Jannek, Paco, and Pascal (my first real programming language). I briefly considered “Villars” as a way of keeping my old familiar Lars, but like I said, I never liked it, and didn’t see any good reason to keep it.

With a choice of Calvin as my first name, it was time to search for a last name.

I liked the sound of Calvin Coolidge. He was the 30th POTUS (President of the United States),  and author of one of my favorite quotes:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

I didn’t want to take his name, obviously, but I liked the sound of it, so I started to look for last names that started with the letters “co”, and liked the sound of Conaway. Calvin Conaway. It had a certain ring to it. I felt like it sounded and felt big enough to match my energy.

With Calvin Conaway in place, it was time to find a middle name. The number was 19, or 10, or 1, with 19 being the best. I started by which initial letter I wanted, and settled on “Calvin J. Conaway”. It had a certain rhythm to it. 

Then I remembered my friend and former colleague, Joel S Aufrecht. His middle name is the letter S. It’s not short for anything. I thought, “that’s what I want to be named, Calvin J Conaway”.

Alas, that’s not legal in Denmark. Also, Ruben said 19 was better than 1. So I searched for a name with a “J” that would add up to 19 and settled on “Jarrett”.

And then, as I said, I just sat on it for about a year, until finally, this March, we’d had enough. Meanwhile, my wife Cecillia had also consulted with Ruben and had her numbers. She’d changed her name before, but it was time for another change. Luckily, we could share our last name.

So we filed the papers, only to have them handed back to us. We got married last summer in San Francisco, and never told the Danish authorities about it, so we had to do that first. Then we had to file on paper, not electronically, for some reason. Then … blah blah … bureaucracy … blah blah … and finally I got a letter back saying my chosen middle name had been rejected, because it’s not an approved first name in Denmark, and because 6 people in Denmark have it as their last name, which means I would have to have the approval of each and every one of them. Too fucking complicated.

Back to the drawing board, and I settled on Jeremia. It starts with a J, has a nice sound to it, and it’s got an interesting spiritual angel. Jeremia is a prophet to both Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and Jeremia was called “the weeping prophet”, which sounds an awful lot like me. Also, he “spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual’s relationship with God” according to Wikipedia, and that also sounds like me. And it’s a pre-approved first name in Denmark, so it should sail right through.

We sent in the papers a second time so they had them last Monday, paid another fee, had them rushed to the person on our case, and rushed through the system. Thursday I called and checked, and she said she was right in the middle of updating the central registries. Friday we got the letter in the mail, and I got this wonderful email from my mom (who receives my mail because I’m basically a nomad without a permanent home anywhere):

Dear Lars,

I congratulate you on your name change and bless your new name.

Sincerely,
Mom

To which I obviously replied

Thank you so much, Mom!

“Dear Lars”?

:)

And it just so happened that that same day I had invited 100 people to attend a “friday bar” event in Copenhagen, so what was more natural than to turn that into a celebration of my new name.

Thank you to everyone who was there to celebrate with me!

-Calvin



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