Most people don’t have the luxury of remembering their first birthday. However, when it’s all said and done, I’ll recall the details of today clearly. See, exactly one year ago I legally changed my name in preparation for my wedding day, so I consider today as my first re-birthday.
The idea of changing my name came years ago when I decided it’d be the perfect way to pay tribute to my grandfather. I just figured I’d wait until I got married so that my then-unknown bride to be and I could go through the legal shenanigans together. Well, that’s considering she’d want to take on my new surname anyway.
In the time since then, I’ve experienced many emotions. Most of us have no choice in how we’re referred to by law. Our parents pick a name out of a hat and—love it or hate it—that’s how we move through the rest of the world outside of the occasional nickname (or if you’re a rapper). As much as I thought about the process of changing my name, I never fully considered what it would feel like to actually be known as someone other than who I had always been.
As a writer your name is your brand. Or as Marlo Stanfield would say, “My name is my name.” With that said I initially planned to just make my name change be a legal matter that only directly impacted my household, and I would continue through my profession with the same byline as before. But as time went on, I found the duality of having two different names to be a bit too confusing—for myself and others.
Besides, if I truly wanted to pay homage to my grandfather it made more sense to wear his name proudly in everything I do and not just use it solely for personal aesthetic. Slowly, I pulled away from my former designation and grew more comfortable with the idea of being known by a new name of my choosing. But I have to admit that at times it was still weird.
In addition to getting used to being called by a different name than what I had come accustomed to for 30+ years I had to take a hard look at accomplishments accredited to my former self. My high school diploma and college degree bear a name I no longer respond to. The same applies to the plaque of my first magazine cover story with Lil Wayne that hangs in my office, and all of the other articles I’ve written throughout my career prior to 2012. When I look in the mirror I see the same man, but 366 days ago that man did not exist—at least not legally
Like I said it’s weird.
I’ve accomplished so much in my life and made waves as my father’s son, but as I move forward I take pride in knowing that I am my own man, one who made a name for himself.
Suddenly, the idea of choosing my own name doesn’t seem that weird anymore. It just feels right. Because at the end of the day, no matter what you do or don’t call me I’m still the same man behind the pen.
“I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”