I changed my name.
I'd been practicing my new signature for weeks, anticipating my new title as eagerly as I await summertime every year. Meter. Stephanie Meter. No longer Stephanie Bailey. I was excited, and excitement is as deep as my thoughts on the matter went.
Then I got married. It was the perfect wedding. I wouldn't change a single thing. I even remember most of it, despite being assured that it would all be just a blur. And the honeymoon was amazing. And I am completely in love with my husband; I fall in love with him more every day.
Then Gabe (Gem) and I went to another wedding, and I saw my place card at the reception: Stephanie Meter. I felt that happy thrill of excitement. But then a little snaky stream of resentment followed.
Wait, what? Resentment? How?!
That surprised me. It made me very uncomfortable. I was wholly delighted to be a Meter. I could not be happier. So what was this?!
It continued to bug me. I changed my name on Facebook, and every time I saw "Stephanie Meter" appear, I felt that ambivalent rush of joy/resentment. She wasn't ME. That name belonged to someone else. I didn't know a "Stephanie Meter." How could I BE her? How could I not know who I was?
Stephanie Bailey is a writer, a dancer, a bibliophile, a logophile, a best friend, a classmate, an occasional emotional wreck. I know who she is. I've been her for twenty-two years. And now, just because I joined with another person, I'm expected to change my name? My identity?
Maybe it's just because words are so important to me. Names are important to everyone, but ESPECIALLY to me. Words are treasures whose values run deep, all the way to the core of the universe. Whether you say "cat" or "gato" or "Katze," you speak, in much the same way God spoke when he created reality. In changing my name, I am changing my reality, my identity. It's symbolic (and not required), but it's huge.
I suddenly found myself more attached to "Bailey" than ever before. Before marriage, I'd debated whether I would keep "Bailey" or my middle name to go with my new last name when I officially made the switch. Now there was zero question. I was keeping Bailey; it was a part of who I am.
I changed my Social Security Card. I changed my license. I changed my company email. For about an hour, my company email was "firstname.lastname@example.org." But then I sent an email and asked to change it to "sbmeter." I love Meter. But I love Bailey too. I love who I was.
But I am loving who I am too. And I'm finally, finally starting to get it, starting to get why it's so important and symbolic to change your name.
I am NOT Stephanie Bailey anymore. I gave her up when I got married. Whether or not I ever changed my SS card is irrelevant. When you get married, you cease being your old self. (Hear me out.)
Marriage is about identity. No, I am not changing who I am to fit Gabe; he is not changing who he is to fit me. We are BOTH changing who we are to fit Married Stephanie and Married Gabe. According to God, we are now one person. We act as a unit. We absolutely retain who we are (I love clubbing; Gabe is never ever going to love clubbing), but we change who we are a little bit too. I can no longer be the girl who doesn't rinse her dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Gabe can no longer be the man who doesn't put the toilet seat down. We're changing.
I was right in my initial hesitation about Facebook's "Stephanie Meter." I DON'T know who she is--I've never been her before--but I get to decide. I'm not Stephanie Bailey anymore; I'm Stephanie Bailey Meter. I am changing because I'm growing, and I'm growing differently than I've ever grown before.
I need not feel any resentment toward Stephanie Meter. She's still me, or at least she will be. I was much too young to decide who I was when I got my first last name; Stephanie Bailey just sort of happened. But this time, I get to be intentional. Who is Stephanie Meter? Is she kind? Is she fun? Does she love Jesus with all her heart? Is she a writer? Is she a dancer? Does she cook?
I can't wait to find out.