As part of my on-going Stuck-Unstuck project, I'll be exploring and posting occasionally about the myriad ways in which we humans often feel hopelessly stuck in our lives - personally, professionally, and creatively. These illustrated posts will be divided into three categories: personal stories (from all of you); advice (in the form of flow charts, maps, info-graphs, comics, and whatever other creative medium might suggest itself to me in the moment); and 4-day challenges (which can be completed, start-to-finish, in four days, like magic).
Today's post is a personal story, and one of my favorites. I actually watched it unfold, when a dear friend decided to get unstuck emotionally by legally changing her name. It's a radical solution that wouldn't make sense for most of us, but as you'll see, the decision made perfect sense for her.
And that's key here. These personal stories may not always be universal. They may not always contain, within them, solutions for getting unstuck. What they will be is honest, funny, sad, poignant, inspiring... real. Because, here's the thing. No matter the specifics of your situation, whether you feel stuck in a dead end job or stuck at a number on the scale, whether you're stuck in a bad relationship or stuck in a creative slump, that trapped, stagnant feeling of stuckness is terrible, and sometimes it helps just to know you're not alone. I believe there is inherent value in sharing our stories, and value in tapping into our collective wisdom.
So, here we go, with my illustrated version of Maggie's wonderful story.
I started asking to change my name at about age 5 or 6.
My parents always said no. They said they chose my name specifically because it wasn't a relative's name - that they didn't want to name me "after someone" (which was weird because I’ve since learned they both had cousins and Aunts named Nancy).
Worse yet, was learning after mama died that my parents had a baby who passed away before I was born and they’d named her Nancy. I think, on some level, I always knew that the name wasn’t mine, that it didn’t fit me.
I never stopped asking to change it until I was grown and the name was attached to my professional life and documented everywhere.
After mama died, I thought why not choose a new name for myself? Who would care?
I had some cousins with whom I wasn't in touch and that was it. I grew up in California far away from family so there really was no logical reason to keep using the name Nancy.
I've always liked the name Maggie. My dad's mom's closest sister was named Maggie. And on both sides of the paternal and maternal lineage there were a lot of women named Maggie, Margaret, Magrete, etc. I didn't care about having a name someone else had - but I did care about having a name my parents gave me under false pretenses. To me "Maggie" felt natural, in a way my given name never had.
I did the paperwork to change my name legally and that was that. Only not really because, as it turns out, changing your name is quite a process.
(Editor's Note: Strictly speaking, not all steps listed are actually *required*.)
Eventually it was final, and I was Maggie. I am Maggie. Truthfully, I'm the same person I was. It's just that now I have the right name. These days, most people don't remember that I changed my name and they're effortlessly calling me Maggie.
Some folks I've known for a really long time still struggle; they have trouble erasing the name they've used for so long. I either ignore it, or gently remind them that I have a new name. Only a few people have scoffed. I remember, as Nancy, thinking often, WWMD? What would Maggie do? Now I know, and really, Maggie’s a badass. She's living her life and doesn’t have time for the few people who’ve mocked her choice.