Monday, March 20, 2006

What's in a name?

So some of you long-timers in my life might be wondering, who's this Jenna chick people keep talking about? Jenna who? You have forever known me as Jenny or Jen or Jennifer. It's one thing to get used to a name change when you get married but then you come along and say your name is Jenna now and call me Jenna now and I can't hear you unless you call me Jenna...

Well, here's the story behind my name change...

In grad school, I had a friend named Heather. She had decided she wanted to legally change her name as a way to make a new start and separate from the unhealthy family she had come from. So with a friend, she searched for a name she liked and came up with Hadley Maris. She went to court and got her name changed legally. Of course it was a bit of an adjustment at first for her friends and classmates and professors at school. And we'd slip every now and then and call her Heather. But soon it was like she had always been Hadley and sometimes I'd have to think real hard to remember what she had originally been named. And now, years later, it's like she's always been Hadley. So, I was talking to my friend Hadley around the time she had changed her name, and we got thinking about what I could change my name to... not legally and not just as a nickname but a name that would meaningfully and symbolically define who it was I wanted to be from that point on... a casting off of the old, a shedding of dead skin, a turning my face towards the future. She named me "Jenna" and I liked it instantly.

When I think about the name "Jenna" I think of a woman who is free-spirited. She is light-hearted and frivolous. She is fearless and confident. She loves and lives wildly from her heart. And I long to be that Jenna. I'm not there yet. But everytime someone calls me by my name, I am reminded who it is I truly am, beneath my fears, and who it is I'm hopefully becoming more and more every day. My dear friend Hadley, really and truly saw me that day, five years ago, when she said, "How about the name Jenna?" She saw who it is I'm meant to be; who I long to be. She saw a name I could grow into and become more and more as I grow and heal and trust and let go. It makes me eager and excited to hear what God's name will be for me. What will He call me?

How about you? What would you like to be renamed? What's a symbollic name you'd like to grow into? Or maybe you like your name. If so, what does your name say about you?