Shakespeare asked that question long ago in Romeo and Juliet, and I've been asking it recently since I decided to use Kate as my writing name.
When I was a child, I was known as Kathy. As Kathy, I enjoyed books, school, and friends, but my home life was a nightmare. My dad used my mother and me as his personal punching bags. He used his hands, his feet, and, most devastatingly, his words to harm us. I bear the emotional scars to this day. My mom, unable to think of another way to escape, committed suicide. I feel guilty for not saving my mom, for not getting any of our family members to listen to me because my mom would not stand up for herself. As you might imagine, I associated the name Kathy with a powerless child-victim, so when I moved away after my mother's death, I began to call myself Kathleen.
As Kathleen, I was sure I could become a strong, confident woman in control of my life and my future. And for more than 30 years, it seemed as though I had accomplished this. I became a wife, a mother, and a teacher, and I lived a gloriously happy life. Then, one of my children developed schizophrenia, and my husband developed dementia. My heart was broken, and I discovered that I, as Kathy or Kathleen, could not control my future.
After picking up the pieces of my heart, I decided to write a book about dementia to try to help others who have loved ones with this dreadful disease. I just could not use Kathleen as my writing name because it reminded me of my sorrow and of what our family lost, so I decided to become Kate. Kate, I felt, shouted survivor and adventurer, so Kate is my author name on my book.
However, Kate doesn't fit perfectly either. I have come to realize that who I really am is a combination of Kathy, Kathleen, and Kate. All that was good when I bore the different variations of my name and all that was bad are part of me. Changing the version of my name does not change who I really am, no matter how much I may want it to do so. I will always have the hurt child, Kathy, who loves her friends and books in me, just as I will always have the strong woman, Kathleen, with happy memories and a broken heart in me. These two entities weave together with the survivor, Kate, and become one woman, me, who answers to Kathy, Kathleen, and Kate because I've finally figured out that it doesn't matter what I'm called, I'm the same person inside.
So, now that I've figured out what's in a name, or at least my name, and now that I've finished writing my book, I need to figure out how to live an adventurous, meaningful rest of my life. Any suggestions?
If you wish to make a comment and do not have one of the accounts listed under "Comment As," please click Anonymous and sign your name on your post. Thank you.