I changed my name today.
I have known for a long time that I would. Actually, I knew even before I left for Peru the first time that I was “going to lose my last name”, but I didn’t consciously know exactly what it meant at the time.
I wrestled for the past year about who I would “become”.
For many women who are divorcing, the decision is simple: keep their married name, or go back to their maiden name. For me, not so much.
Let me explain…
When I got married back in 2004, I couldn’t WAIT to take Trent’s last name. For years I had struggled with two last names, the name that I was born with (Barros) and the last name of my stepfather (McConnell).
My mom and my stepdad married when I was very young, just before I turned three. They quickly added to our family when they had Erik just over a year later. When it came time to enrol me into Kindergarten, they chose to enrol me with my stepdad’s last name. At the time, this decision came with the very best of intentions: they wanted me to have the same last name as my brother and the rest of family (both my mom and stepdad worked in the same school system as well). I think it was their way of trying to ensure that I felt like I was “normal” and fully part of the family, even though I spent two weekends a month away (this is when I saw my dad).
Even though I was very young when all of this was happening, I seem to recall that there was a lot of tension around this situation. My dad Ross did not agree with this decision and he did not keep these feelings hidden. Tension or not, things continued along that way until I was in Grade 8.
That year, I was signed up to go on a school field trip to New York. I had my passport (as Maren Barros) and all of my documents at the airport when the customs official started to argue a bit with one of the supervising teachers…about ME. It turns out that my stepdad had signed the consent form for me to leave the country and wasn’t legally authorized to do so (they caught it because of the different last name) — I guess my parents were on to something with their intentions to simplify things. Anyway, these were the days prior to the craziness that came with 9-11 and the officer let it go (thank God!)
Then, in high school, I went to get my driver’s license. I went there with my stepdad and when they asked me to produce I.D., I had my Alberta Health Care card with, you guessed it, McConnell on it. So, I left with a driver’s license that said Maren McConnell and was the bearer of a SIN and a passport that said Maren Barros. Talk about confusing!
As a teenager and young adult, I didn’t have the confidence to just choose one and get on with it. I desperately wanted to, but my fear of disappointing or hurting either one of my families prevented me from doing so. I even tried to “be both” for a while (unofficially of course), and I have a University degree sporting the hyphenated name Barros-McConnell to show for it.
I think given different circumstances, I might have kept my maiden name when I got married, however when I got the chance to change my name AND it didn’t require me to “pick” between my families (I think that was the story I had going in my head), I jumped at the chance. So, I have been Maren Hasse since 2004.
I did a lot of great things as Maren Hasse. I finished two University degrees, I gave birth to a child (who will hopefully NEVER EVER have confusion about his name!), I wrote and published a book, and I started a “brand” for my business, but the name isn’t for me anymore. It doesn’t feel right to keep it. In fact, I feels so wrong, I have found myself trying to post on this site again and again and again but I just couldn’t. It doesn’t feel like me! I have nothing left to say as Maren Hasse. Maren Hasse has left the building.
Over the past year and half, I have been considering what name I might take. I have thought very seriously about making up a name (I came close to actually doing this). I thought about taking McConnell. I thought about taking Barros. I thought about hyphenating them. I thought about just leaving it as Hasse and changing it should I get remarried.
Then, a few months ago, I had a dream. It was one of those dreams in which all of your senses are involved… like you would swear that you can actually smell things. That is how it started out actually, with a strong smell. I had a hard time identifying it at first, but it became clearer and clearer when my Great Aunt Luce showed up and started giving me heck about “denying my heritage” and “not calling on my elders”. Confused, I proceeded to have a conversation with her about what the heck she was talking about and she said “Your Grandma silly”. Hmmmm…. That was it. The strong smell was my Grandma’s face powder mixed with her hairspray. Whoosh! I feel like I can almost smell it even now the memory of it was so strong!
My Great Aunt proceeded to show me a “meeting place” where I could (and should) go and hang out with my Grandma. I balked at this a little bit because of the fact that my Grandma is still alive — she is 99 and has very severe dementia. She hasn’t recognized me for years and years. (This is tricky because it feels like she isn’t “here” but she isn’t “gone” either — hard to know what to do with that… but that’s another blog post altogether!)
Anyway, I woke up shortly after, totally convinced that my Grandma either had just passed or was about to pass. I’ll save you the suspense… she didn’t.
A week later, I was still thinking about the dream and decided that I would do a journey to the place that my aunt showed and and ask Grandma to meet me there… She did.
It was wonderful to sit with her again… and it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it even now. I have SO MUCH of my Grandma’s medicine in me… both good and bad. Haha. I am stubborn like she is, and bossy. We have a similar sense of humour… she loved to laugh. She was fiercely independent. She loved to take care of others and cook for them. She loved to travel. She wasn’t perfect but I loved every minute of the time that I spent with her.
I spent quite a bit of time with my Grandma growing up. We were very close. I even have her name, Ann, as my middle name, although she went by Penny (hmmm… maybe she had a name thing going on too?! Lol.)
Coming out of the journey, it was so clear to me what I needed to do about my name. Who I needed to become. Who I am.
It’s pretty simple really. It’s right there on my birth certificate.
Maren Ann Barros.
Ironic because one of the tag lines I have used for my work is: “Be who you really are, instead of who you think you’re supposed to be“. Here I go living it to give it again.
P.S. Please note that this will be one of my last posts on this site… Eventually, I will take it down completely as I will be moving over to www.marenbarros.com (new site is still being built and not up and running yet).