Changing my name has been an interesting experience.
I’m not the timid type, so I went ahead and changed everything. From Lars Holger Pind, I’m now Calvin Jeremia Conaway.
It did take me quite a while to get used to the new name. In fact, I decided on the new name about a year before I changed it, but I procrastinated so much on actually making the change. First, it was my immigration lawyer told me I should wait until after getting the visa, then it was something about certain times of the year being better for changing than others, then there was another excuse, and then another. Finally I’d just had it, and went ahead with the change.
As a consequence, shortly after actually changing my name, all the domain names (calvinconaway.com, calvinconaway.tv, calvinconaway.name, calvinconaway.me, and whatnot) I’d bought when I’d first decided on it, came up for renewal. A good reminder of how long I noodled over it.
One thing I hadn’t anticipated is that now, whenever I tell someone my name for the first time, there’s a small sense of insecurity, of “what do they think of my name? do they like it? do the approve of my choice?”. When you have whatever name your parents gave you, that’s not relevant; it wasn’t your choice. When you consciously choose, it’s different.
I’ve also been second-guessing myself a bit. Should I have chosen something that was globally unique? facebook.cmo/calvinconaway is taken, and so is the Skype name. I hadn’t even thought of checking that, to be honest, and that’s a bit embarrassing, given I’m a tech person. Other thoughts: Should I have completely made up a name? Should I have chosen something with a cool meaning? Someone pointed out that my last name can be read as “con away”, as in “sure, go ahead and cheat and lie and be a scumbag all you want”. She said “that’s not how I saw you”. That hurt. But, hey, you can’t make everyone happy.
Most people have been really nice about it, though. Most people are like, that’s different, but they’ve immediately switched to using the new name. It’s awkward the first few times, I know all about that, but you get used to it pretty quickly when you just go with it. There’ll be the occasional forgetting – I even do that from time to time, especially in habitual self-talk like “Lars Pind, what are you doing?!?”. Most people say “Calvin, that’s so you”.
There are some people who resist the change to varying degrees. It’s an odd combination of disrespect and unwillingness to change. It’s always people who are stubborn and stuck and unwilling to change in other areas of their lives.
Some say it openly. “To me, you’ll always be Lars”. Why, thank you. I guess, to me you’ll always be stubborn and disrespectful! :)
My dad works around it by simply calling “son” now. That’s one way to handle it :)
My ex-wife just stubbornly calls me Lars. She even went as far as to suggest that the fact that I were in favor of using a numerologist to do the math when you’re going to change your name anyway was somehow evidence that I was mentally unstable and shouldn’t be allowed to be with my kids. Seriously! I mean, if you don’t believe in numerology, then it can’t do any harm either, right? So who is it again that’s not making logical sense?
Then there’s the awkwardness around contacting old friends. Most have noticed from Twitter or Facebook, and a lot have congratulated me or commented on it in some other, friendly way. But when I’m emailing someone I haven’t been in email contact with since I changed the name, it’s a little tricky. I can’t always remember whether they know, so I’ll usually send the email using my old email and name, and then sign it as Calvin, with a link to the story about how and why I changed my name. Then I hope they don’t consider it rude if they already knew and maybe we even had a conversation around it on Facebook or something.
Then there’s the awkwardness that comes from my passport and credit cards are still in my old name. So when I check in to the hotel, should I say Calvin even though my id and credit card says Lars? Or do I say Lars, and then my they hear my wife call me Calvin, and they get confused.
When we arrived in the US this time, we got pulled aside and they went through all of our stuff. They thought we were up to something, and wouldn’t let us in. Right there, up to in the suitcase, was the document that stated the name change. I figured, if that doesn’t seem a bit odd, what does? “These people changed their names? But not their passports? What are they running from?” But he didn’t notice. What he did notice was the yoga mats and the “zen” in zenbilling and Phoebe’s spiritual drawings in her note book. And that’s when he decided that we were good people and would let us in after all. Hooray for zen and meditation!
All in all it’s been a really interesting exercise. It’s one of those things which for most people is so inconceivable they just don’t consider it. It starts to open up some new neural pathways in your brain when you do that – even when someone else does it. Even the people who insist on calling me Lars can’t do it with the same energy anymore, because inside they know it is no longer my name.
I’m glad I changed my name. I wouldn’t go back. The new name fits me so much better. I also learned a couple of things along the way. I might change it again, who knows, and this time I’d be more fearless about it. Probably keep Calvin but adjust some of the other things.
The logical part of my brain can’t see any possible way that the letters and spelling of my name in some computer somewhere outside of Copenhagen could influence what happens in my life, but it does feel like there’s a different energy around my new name and that it’s affecting a sea change which is slowly making its way through every area of my life. I could be hallucinating, but at least it’s a good hallucination. After all, the placebo effect is very real, right? If it works for me, even if it only works because I believe it works, it still works all the same.
Our self-image is the most powerful force in our lives. Our subconscious mind is at work 24/7 making sure our external life matches up with the self-image we have. Changing your name, like changing the way you dress, can be a great way to change your self-image – if you do it consciously. If you keep stubbornly holding on to your old self-image, then no amount of surgery or cosmetics or reclothing or name changing is going to matter.
What radical change have you made that caused you to rethink some of your fundamental assumptions? What happened? What was your experience?
I’d love to hear from you.