I'll be writing under my full name, Rachel, from now on
Congrats on reuniting your two selves! I can certainly understand the urge to have a name for a developing new self. I didn't stop with legally changing my last name during my divorce--I went for my first name, too. I really internalized that my prior name was my victim self, and my new name was my survivor self. I shed Laura like an old skin I'd outgrown, and became Lorelei, who is strong, confident, and special. :)
My mom still calls me Laura, and it makes me shiver like someone's walked over my grave every time.
Congratulations on your upcoming addition. Kudos for going all in also. In regards to names I once heard a sermon about the importance of names in the old testament regarding the patriarchs. Since a lot of us have biblical names in my family whose meaning seemed fitting and the one my mother gave me is fitting although I have a good heart I can be a royal pain. When I was flipping through the baby names I kept coming across one and it spoke to me and I looked up the meaning and pray my child lives up to it. You look beautiful and whatever you decide on will be fitting. Congratulations again and give yourself grace and take it easy!! ❤️🙏
Welcome, Rachel “Kates”!!! 🤩
Love the bit about detachment from personal nonfiction. I think about that a lot. How I colloquialise it: The personal essay ought not to be a diary; the detachment maintains that imperative.
Also, what’s the context of the Tolentino quote? I too adore her! She’s brainy and has a big impact on my writing (and I’m sure yours, I can totally see it)
Thank you for the inspiration. And I will be sure to link to this wonderful post once I sit and write about my names.
During lockdown there was this “discovery” people with partners talked about. They started to hear their partner’s “work personas” as they interacted with coworkers/customers online. And myself being one of them I really have wanted to come to an agreement or final understanding on why do I use my different names.
Especially now with the current situation regarding calling someone a name is that i see that my philosophy is not to argue or debate, is to share something I found that might help someone.
My philosophy is to “not label yourself” and this is specifically for me, as we all deserve the opportunity to wear a face and character and explore our worlds with it.
This mainly I found when I learned that we need to give ourselves an opportunity, for anything you would like, and when I read your great wonderful post I saw someone giving themselves an opportunity.
Thank you for the great story and reminder
I love IFS so often come at things with an internal family system framework. It makes total sense that the part of you that needed the training wheels of a pen name is now able to integrate back in without it feeling threatening. And to tell everyone how to actually say your last name too? 👏 (I have a lot of grace for name foibles, but my personal irk is when my name is in print in front of someone and they still spell it wrong. No excuse for that one!)
Hello Rachel Katz 😊 names are so important. It was hard for me to ask my friends & family to use my new Buddhist name Satya, many years ago, and it put them out. But hey, learning a new name is not a lot of being put out. Love the chime of the 'a' in your names and love that you are more you. ⭐
I know you didn't ask for feedback, but I love this conversation.
Names are a big decision, and chosing what name to use on social media can certainly change.
I did the same thing when I first started writing online and am still using that name.
Tree Langdon is my childhood nickname. There. I've outed myself.
So, it's not a nom-de-plume, but no one in my current life (very few) would know me as this online persona. It gives me a bit of freedom, or at least it feels like that's what I have.
I struggled irl to keep my married name when I became a single mom, but decided I'd rather my kids have a parent with the same name as theirs, instead of going it alone.
So, kudos to you for making a choice that works for you!
What's in a name! I call myself Rachel online, with new friends, at work, but everyone who knew me since my childhood call me by my Chinese name. It's funny I use the name Rachel but it's not "real", and for you that's the real name.
I've given this a lot of thought a while ago, after I have a feeling I kind of have two lives, and also to reconcile why would I need to have an English name which I gave myself when I was 10 while looking through the books of name (hint: colonial past of Malaysia, where I'm from), and then to later found that it is actually a common practice in ancient Chinese culture (my heritage is Chinese) and also many other cultures, to take on a second name when one "come of age". So in a way I feel, Rachel is who I became, and my real name was my origin, both equally important, both me. But since I never really like my Chinese name in the first place, it never felt right before, so I'm sticking with Rachel!
Name is such a personal thing, cracked my head thinking for our kids too, but in the end, I believe a person should be able to change or fashion their name however they want to, so it's not forever right? I mean there's a tip to imagine calling your child his/her name when he/she is 80 years old! Such pressure, hah.
And most people will pronounce my surname wrongly too, I do correct people, and at doctors etc. I just say it and then straightaway just spell it out for them. And here I thought it's an Asian problem :)
Hello Rachel!! I was just opening Substack to post my newsletter today and yours was the at the top of my inbox. My jaw is on the floor. I had to skim over it fast and could hardly finish it, because I couldn't believe what I was seeing!
First, I'm glad I chose not to post on this subject today (I've split my post into two because it was too long). BUT, if I had, it would've been kismet. Instead, I'll definitely be adding a reference to your post in part 2 of my post for another day. It is on this exact same topic. And a name change for myself. Of my choosing.
Yet again, it feels like you are reading my mind! Minus being 9 months pregnant and several years older than you, I feel like we're on a similar path. It freaks me out sometimes! In a good way.
Wishing you all the best with the upcoming birth of your baby. Sending you love! xo
This really resonated, so thank you. I’ve also been grappling with my name of late, having been Soozi since I decided on the quirky spelling during an RE lesson when I was 13. It’s stuck with me for 3 decades (at work and online) but for the past couple of months I’ve felt an urge to use my full name, Suzanne, instead. I did think I was being a bit silly for giving it so much thought but your piece has given me a lot more to think about!
So much to love about this--and that Tolentino line--yes! How often we make ourselves smaller or less clear for others' ease, with names, with just being. We need more people using their voice and agency to oppose rather than adapt. Names have power in different ways, as you write about with your experience, and it's great to read about your experience with your own.
Rachel, Rae, “Kates” or “Katz”.... I still love your work! 🥰
Oh hey! This is literally perfect timing.. as I have been working up to using my 'real' name on this site. Feels like an omen. Thank you for sharing.
Great story, and great name! I just stumbled across this and am looking forward to reading more :)
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Hi Rachel Katz. In my head I pronounced it Cats because I have direct family with that surname. I was a bit bewildered that it can also be pronounced Kates. Interesting. Thank you for clarifying and showing up closer to yourself.
My name has a similar story. I’m actually Celesté (pronounced like the letter ‘e’ at the end) but to convenience others I simplified my name to Celeste (Celest). Only my loved ones call me Celesté. A lot of people seem to struggle writing and pronouncing my real name for some reason. For me, Celesté is less confusing but perhaps because I’ve had this name all my life.
It actually shaped two identities. I always had this idea that Celeste (Celest) sounded more professional. This is how I introduced myself in the workplace or when I wanted people to take me seriously. It’s the no-nonsense serious (often suspicious) business character. Celesté sounds more playful and childish to me—which is not really a bad thing. This is the real me with all my quirks that strongly connects to my inner child. I feel at home with my ‘é’. A part of me I wanted to protect from the world.
But I recently started questioning these two separate personas I created. The confusion is likely my own doing. It’s often exhausting to play two parts. I’m slowly merging and embracing my real name with all the things that make me, me.