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What’s in a name?

From the courthouse folks come to our office, form in hand, requesting us to let the world know they have every intention of claiming a new name. I don’t know why this is needed, this declaration to the world, but I imagine there is some Georgia law somewhere which says it must be done. I have never asked for the story behind wanting a new name. I bet those stories are rich. I’m sure some of these folks would love to tell them, but alas, nobody ever asks. I want to know so badly their new name and the story behind how they got it. For you see, I understand wanting a new name.

Us girls, we start young swapping our names.  As a young girl, I would write my name with my crush’s last name to see what it would look like upon our inevitable marriage.  I wasn’t the only one. In fact, I wasn’t in the minority, it’s kinda a girl thing.  Although only a brave few will admit it, we don’t stop doing it until our name is finally new. Many of us have even crossed off certain men because their last name with ours seems unfortunate.  Harriet Able is going to think twice before she marries that Goodin boy. She just doesn’t know if she can walk around in life as a HAG. And then the monogram. There’s another consideration. There are some letters which don’t look good or right between a T and a H, no matter the font. These are things a proper southern girl worries her pretty head about. This name changing business starts out small and may seem trivial. But at some point, the name change becomes something even our friends and family take seriously. In my case, my potential new name literally hit prayer lists. Not so much about what his name will be, but that he will have safe travels until he meets me at the end of the aisle. This business of getting the right new name is serious and something we chat over with God. There is nothing trivial about it.

I ran for public office recently. I sat down with anyone who had gone before me, anyone who could impart their wisdom to me, and there was one friend who gave an odd warning. She told me, “Tracy, about halfway to election day, you’re going to hate your own name. Go ahead and prepare yourself for it.” This is a strange piece of information, so I asked her to tell me more. She was quick to tell me my name, be it on the radio, in the newspaper, on speaking programs, on Facebook, on 350 yard signs, on banners, on buttons, on fliers or even coming out of my own mouth was going to be everywhere I went. EVERYWHERE. “You’ll see and hear it so much; you will be exhausted from it.” She was right. Everywhere I went I felt like my name was in front, behind and on both sides of me. There were days I felt like I couldn’t get out from under something with Tracy K. Hall attached to it. There did, in fact, come a day when I was exhausted with anything “Tracy K. Hall” associated with it.

Wanting a new name isn’t a foreign feeling for me. I have had desperate times before, but close to seven years ago I went through a very dark period. Nothing about my life seemed to fit appropriately. Life was too tight, itchy and uncomfortable. Everything was raw and chaffed. There was no comfort to be found and there were times I literally had to count my breaths to get to the next moment. Days were 1000 times my weight and I was exhausted from schlepping it around. The exhaustion wasn’t of the type sleep would heal. There was nothing soft in my days during that time. Everything was broken and sharp. And all the broken pieces would cut into me. The only prayer I could get off the ground was, “Give me a new name!” The only thing I wanted was to be new. I wanted nothing of this version of me restored or fixed up, it was too far gone, I needed to be made new. For me, that meant a new identity, a new name. So, I would cry out, literally cry it out, “Give me a new name!” It was the only request I was strong enough to make. Those five words. I was so thirsty, so dried out. I needed that new name to live. I needed a new me, a new identity, I could no longer live in the place I was, as I was. Give me a new name! All my prayers, everything I wanted, everything I needed was held in those five words. It’s a good thing because I don’t think I could hold a sixth word. I don’t think I would have had the breath for one more syllable. So over and over again, “Give me a new name!” Begging and pleading to be made new. Nothing less would do. Nothing less would let me go a step further. And so, I waited. I waited with enough hope and faith to get me from one moment to the next. The new name came. I was taken from that place and made new. I did a lot of work, but at least with a new name I had the energy to work. The more I invested in the work before me, the more fully I lived into this new name. A new identity. So yes, every time someone comes in declaring their intention to claim a new name, I wonder. I wonder if their story is anything like mine. I wonder if your story is anything like mine. I found several people who told me their story and it was very much theirs but very much like mine. That simple fact brought healing. I am but one who was looking for a new name. I am but one who felt everything old must give way.

I am literally still Tracy K. Hall, but I in no way resemble the Tracy K. Hall who was existing on borrowed breath some seven years ago. I still remember that Tracy, and every time I do, I tell her, “Something new is coming! Just hold on!” Do you need a new name? You won’t come into our office with a form from the courthouse. No newspaper announcement is necessary. It will be abundantly clear you have a new name. The glow of having fought and won a magnificent battle will be the story on your face. Something new is indeed coming. Just hold on.