Saturday is National Name Yourself Day. I’m kind of fond of the idea since I changed my name a few years ago.
But there are a few more credible people who did this. Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion. Jesus Christ changed Simon’s name to Peter. Jacob became Israel. Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah. These name changes occurred after significant experiences.
That’s what happened to me, In the course of a year I had some significant trials and growth. I learned some things about my past that changed my whole perception of who I was. I changed my name to reflect the changes that happened inside. I also did it so that every time I heard my name I would remember the changes and who I was now trying to be.
I never was particularly fond of my birth name, Matthew. It meant that I was always Matt F. in school, because there was always another Matt in my class. I used to watch Voltron and fantasize about being named Lance, because there were no Lances in my school.
When I was a newspaper reporter I even interviewed another guy with my same first and last name. He was as unhappy about the situation as I was. He did ask me not to write anything liberal.
I guess I could have just used my middle name, but I was named after an uncle who was killed in an accident seven months before I was born. Every time it came up my grandmother cried and my dad refused to talk about him. Since my middle name is one of of sorrow and pain, I didn’t want that to be what came to my mind every time someone called me.
Instead, I chose Cheminant. It’s a French word that means “one who wanders.” As a hiker, I thought it fit. I had been using it as an online username for years. As I considered my name change, I learned that “cheminer” the verb form of the word, does mean “to wander,” but it also means “to progress.” Since my name change was a mark of my internal progression, I thought it especially fitting. I do progress, but I often wander as I do it. The other benefit is that NO ONE has this name. Like a Tigger, I’m the only one!
In Pacific Island cultures, I’m told that changing one’s name is a regular occurrence. It’s used to mark those watershed moments that change us. In fact, to go through life with the same name is seen as a failure to grow.