When I was a teacher, one of my favorite writing assignments that I gave my 5th-grade students was to write their name story. It was like a little research project–ask your parents how they decided on the name they were given and then tell that story.
Personally, my mother always told me she chose the name “Andrea” because it meant “precious,” which she affectionately called me when I was a girl. She also made it very clear as a young girl that my name should never be shortened to Andi because I was a girl and that was a masculine nickname.
Then I entered middle school, and one of my new best friends began calling me Andi. As pre teen girls do, I rebelled against my mother’s wishes and wholeheartedly adopted Andi as my new teenage identity. Reluctantly, my parents didn’t fight it, and I was Andi, formerly known as Andrea.
Fast forward 15 years when I traded my maiden name, Ball, for my married surname, Schiappacasse. Not only was this 13 letter monstrosity difficult to spell, it was awful for people to pronounce. My in-laws had already addressed this problem and had an abbreviated nickname, Shippy. I adopted this as well, and for my colleagues and students, I became Mrs. Shippy. As time when on, the moniker shifted and I became Shippy. I used to joke that I was like Cher and Madonna with my one-word name. (Using those celebrities eventually showed how I old I was, so I switched to Adele and Rihanna). I was comfortable with this. I often thought I brought more to the Schiappacasse name than SoonToBe.
Then came the time during my divorce preparation to decide if I wanted to keep the Schiappacasse name or return to my maiden name. At first, for my son’s sake and for the sake of ease, I decided to keep the name.
And that was the wrong decision, for me. Keeping that name was like keeping a part of my past that was an anchor, dragging me down and preventing me from moving forward. If I had done all the work to remove SoonToBe from my life, if I was choosing to go through the steps of purging the toxic parts, if I was pruning every little bit of dead wood, why would I hold on to something as defining as a name? Looking at my original reasons, I found flaws.
First, I thought keeping Schiappacasse would be easier for my son, Tommy. I had an outdated belief that a mother’s last name and a child’s last name should be the same. But as a principal, I know all too well how common it is for a child and a parent to have different last names and it’s not a big deal. Not in this day and age. It’s an antiquated reason and it doesn’t hold water.
The second reason? I claimed that I was keeping it because it’s easier. Well, that too depends on how I define easy. Is it easy to hold on to old baggage? Is it easy to continue to associate my name, my persona, my being with 18 years of hardship and pain? Is that really easier?
Or is it easier to go through the process of mentally and legally purging every document and account associated to me? Once the process is done, then it’s one more step of closing the door. It’s one more step of reclaiming who I was and who I truly am. It’s one more step in becoming Andrea again. Or Andi. I’m feminine enough to handle a masculine nickname. But one thing is for sure. I’ll never be known as Shippy again.
When I decided to leave SoonToBe, I also made the unconscious choice to leave all things associated, including that moniker, behind. Even if it meant telling my lawyer that I had changed my mind. And that wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t easy to tell my lawyer to please do a little more work because I wasn’t firm and decisive originally. But in the end, I’m paying him, and he was more than willing to oblige.
Next week, it will finally be final. My legal name, Andrea Marie Ball, will catch up to my personal journey that I began 2 years ago. And it can’t happen fast enough. I’m excited to have my Name Story personify the journey.