A few weeks ago, one of my friends mentioned that her birth name is Rachel. I’ve known this lovely lady for nearly two years, shared many ups and downs of life with her, found out we have an amazing amount of things in common… and I had absolutely no clue that the name she used wasn’t her birth name.
Mind you, there really was no way I could. She uses the name everywhere – regular life, publicly (we were both on a convention panel together), online – and everyone calls her by it.
Even so, I had a moment of pause when I adjusted to her birth name, decided the name she used suited her better anyway, and then moved on with my life.
Alternate name? No drama.
Once again, I have found myself in love with a facet of Australian culture: the alternate name.
Growing up, I had one of those names you couldn’t do much with. Nicknames were never fun because no one I knew felt creative enough to grant me one. And nicknames are no fun if you have to create them yourself. I did give it a go, but it never quite felt the same as the satisfying nicknames I gave my friends – nicknames that have stuck with them even now.
Changing my name to another name rather than a nickname never occurred to me. I’d been given a specific name at birth and that is what I was stuck with throughout my life. I couldn’t even go by my middle name because I liked that even less than my given name.
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way about their given name, either. We commiserated about our sad, bad-name fates.
In Australia, it appears there is no such need to be stuck with your given name. Don’t like it? Change it!
A few months after we started dating, my husband and I had no doubt that we were meant to be together. Our talks often went to serious matters like overseas trips. After just a few of those conversations, my husband told me that, given things were going along well and seriously, it was time that I knew his birth name.
While it obviously didn’t change my feelings for him, it was still a shock to the system. Back then, using one standard non-nickname name instead of your birth name seemed strange. Since when did you just get to switch just like that? No one I knew (at that time) did anything like that no matter what the circumstances. Your birth name is your birth name whether you like it or not.
At least, that’s the sentiment I was raised with.
In Australia, there appears to be a philosophy of being all you can be – in a real sense. In the States we have that drilled into our heads – ‘you can be anything you want to be’ – but many of us have heard it too many times to truly believe it anymore. The philosophy is regarded as just that: a philosophy. All kinds of pretty talk that doesn’t actually happen to the bulk of us.
Here, you are doing it. Most often, you’re doing it in the most important ways: the little things. Taking a holiday to explore your surroundings. Being brave enough to change locations and jobs. Going to uni and going back to uni to further yourself for work or passion.
What I grew up with as a rule in the States has become a reality in Australia. Nothing feels permanent here (in a good way), and there is always the feeling that you truly can change your life. Even better, actually doing it. Something so simple and yet so permanent as your birth name is as easily changed as your jocks are if you simply keep at it.
I’m thinking about a name change of my own now. Why stick with something I’m not satisfied with? The amount of choice is amazing, and I’m ready to start hunting.
Until next time…