As long-time readers know, Berin is not my birth name. I legally changed it in my twenties to distance myself from the family I was already estranged from. It went along with moving several thousand miles across the country to give me some much needed distance, and to allow me to reinvent myself.
Berin is Latin, and it means fair-haired. I picked it because my nickname used to be “the bear”. Most people called me Bear. A few still do. Why not change my name to something that, in its diminutive form, sounds like Bear? I also chose it because one of my favorite characters in Tolkien is Beren from The Silmarillion. Sometimes I regret not spelling it that way. It’s easier to explain that I have a rare-but-real name, though, than having to tell certain people that I’m named for a fictional man from Middle Earth.
It Simplified My Life
When you change your name, you have to announce it publicly. I don’t like being deadnamed, because it brings back bad memories, but it was a necessary evil. They want to make sure you’re not dodging creditors or fleeing any outstanding warrants. Creating a connection between the old name and the new allows people to track you down.
That didn’t matter. Changing my name simplified a lot of things for me. I got to say who I was, not anyone else. Certainly not those who had originally named me. It was the first step toward being the person that I wanted to be, not the person I’d always been told I had to be.
It Helped Me Creatively
Before legally changing it, I’d started using it as a pen name. I had written and submitted things before, mostly to magazines. They’d always been rejected. The first thing I submitted as Berin was accepted. Then I had a long streak of other things getting picked up. Maybe the work was just better, and I was finally understanding the market and the process. I still believe it was because my new name was more exotic.
Having a new name was almost like dressing for the job you want. I was able to think of myself as a person who did creative work, who took chances, rather than the person who tried to please the family. When you grow up feeling like your life is on rails, that you are destined to do things that you’re really not happy about, any sort of break from that is empowering.
The Change Allowed Me to Thrive
This is hard to explain, but having a new name helped to establish a boundary. It gave me some distance and perspective. Because of that boundary I was able to work through most of my issues from the past. It’s a matter of having more confidence, that being able to say “this is who I am” gave me the strength to assert myself.
It did send a message to some toxic people in my life that I was in control, not them. That I was making my own choices, forging my own destiny, and they didn’t get a say. It was in many ways a symbolic gesture, a declaration of independence. I needed to be free from certain baggage, things my birth name represented, before I could move forward.
The Meaning of My Name
If I still had my birth name, my life would undoubtedly be very different. Being Berin has changed the way that I see myself, which in turn affects how others see me. I feel like myself, the person that I want to be, not the person that I grew up being told I was, at least that I was supposed to be.
Am I still a hot mess? Absolutely. I think I’d be far worse, though, if I hadn’t taken that step. Most of my issues don’t stem from asserting myself. They come from not asserting myself sooner. They’re rooted in not listening to my own conscience, from following others rather than sticking to my own values and instincts. This is why it’s important for me to remember that I have changed my name. It’s a reminded that I can change.