The power of a name: why changing my name makes me the author of my own life story

While I have changed mine to feel empowered and take control of my life, people change their name for a whole multitude of under-explored reasons.

Without the obvious excuse of marriage such a choice is alien or surprising to some people. As such I am super happy to share my long and yet very abridged story of why I changed my name and what I hope it means for the next chapter in my life. Below are some of these reasons.

Say my name, say my name!(It’s Issac Oscar Moses Gideon Young)

A choice on fleek

The low-down

I was born David Patrick Lewis. Like most people I was named by my mother. Like some people I no longer have a relationship with my parents but nevertheless bear the legacy of those relationships.

My mother was a dark, damaging and yet pitiful individual. My life has been a hard-fought battle to free myself from abuse I directly and indirectly experienced everyday over the first 22 years of my life with her in it.

While I am thankfully free from her and that environment now, abusers don’t have to be there to have their influence felt. You internalise what they purposely and inadvertently teach you. While she is now for all intent and purposes gone, what remains of her is a difficult legacy.

The residential stamp that a formal estrangement doesn’t resolve is not merely psychological. I also have been carrying the name she gave me. My awareness of this fact has been growing and growing, and I have a real problem being called by a name given to me by a person like that.

It’s not that I had any problem with the name David at all, in fact, I think it is very me. Patrick is hideous (no offence) what is more is I share it with an absent father who my mother always maintained was hell bent on murdering me (charming…).

Lewis though is really daft (again no problem with it) because it’s not my family name. My mother grew up a MacDonald but decided to take the name of her father who she never met. I as such have never met another Lewis relative so I derive no identity or sense of history from it.

All in all not a proud name for a proud Prime Mover. This is the context. Below is the detail!

Reason number 1: I am the author of my own life story

As you can imagine from the above I have had to battle hard to take ownership over my own life story. In getting an education, going to university and now embarking on a professional career I am succeeding where so many others do not have the opportunity. Moreover, I am not too bitter about where the lottery of birth started me. It makes me unique in outlook and in strength.

I am so grateful to Jesus and all the people who have guided me along the way to this unlikely ‘normal’ life I am now able to live as fruit from this difficult journey.

With this in mind, what can be a more powerful symbolic statement of taking ownership over my life than naming myself?

I haven’t laid down and accepted my lot in life. I have proven myself to be a primary mover who lives by ideals, values, and aspirations vastly bigger than what I was born with and into.

I am the author of my own life story so why not also my own name?

This step feels so natural to me in this journey with the guidance of Jesus and what is in my own heart…

Famous name-changers (I’m mostly in good company)

Reason number 2: Isaac with a modern twist is special

I don’t fully understand the force which I feel guides me in life, but from about 16 onward I believed it was my destiny to have 4 boys and 1 girl (first aged 23 so I have missed that specific boat…) called Moses, Isaac, Oscar, Ruth and Jacob and that they would be blessed loved children with names naturally reflecting some of their characteristics.

While this hasn’t (yet) happened, I clearly have a special relationship with these particular names and feel they are supposed to be a big part of my life.

My affinity with the name comes from the biblical story of Isaac. Isaac was reared by Abraham and Sarah when they were in their hundreds which is a pretty unlikely starting point to a long and prosperous life. As such in Hebrew it means ‘He will laugh’.

My life journey up to now has been so unexpected and unlikely, difficult to make sense of from any sort of disciplinary perspective that really you have to laugh. It makes me unique in my outlook and behaviour which I know causes people to laugh at me (albeit from an increasingly endearingly place) so it really feels appropriate.

A modern twist to an old classic enjoyed by the likes of Isaac Newton

Oscar is just a really good name and primarily homage to Oscar Wilde. I think it has cheeky and playful connotations and a firm nod to the dandy eccentric side of my personality which is all that really connects me to a witty playwright and wordsmith-extraordinaire (except of course exquisite style and a subversive desire to shock people).

Moses is one of my favourite biblical characters. A difficult start to life fills him with shame and guilt which made him quiet at times. He had a speech impediment and did not identify himself as a natural leader. Indeed he at times relied on his trusted friend Aaron to speak for him and yet God entrusted him to lead the Israelite’s out of Egypt and deliver the Ten Commandments.

He had humility and patience among other characteristics. He took on the corrupt Pharaoh in complete faithfulness to God’s instruction without relenting or assuming force.

Through God anything is possible and Moses is a really powerful example of this. I likewise exhibit really limiting behaviours and characteristics but believe that nevertheless God has entrusted me to achieve big things and make a positive contribution to the world. I am really proud to have been blessed with the fact that this is embodied in my name.

A spelling aside…

Perhaps I am misguided in appropriating these names for myself (like hamsters eating their own children or something…) but while I have felt like an Isaac for a long time. I have been trialing it with new people the last month or so and it’s definitely right. The slight nag I have had is that it just didn’t seem right written down.

On my original form I actually misspelled it Issac and panicked so quickly changed  it but then I realised it looked right to me avec typo so filed for my misspelling to be made official! I think aesthetically it looks softer and prettier! It also makes it even more unique, like a modern twist on a classic, init.

My official deed poll. Notice the slight amendments to the above

Reason number 3 There is power in a name

Having a double barrel surname feels a tad pretentious – especially as neither of which is of family origin. Gideon I considered perhaps as another middle name but I think it adds something nice to the surname Young so took off the hyphen to give me that flexibility and resolve the uncomfortable pretentiousness issue (my surname is nevertheless Gideon Young).

A surname was actually much harder to meditate on in abstract. In absence of taking after a human family name and having brought myself up largely independent of people but instead by divine revelation I wanted to take something either biblical, abstract or morally aspirational to reflect this.

I explored the 7 virtues or my favourite bible books but regrettably they all sounded like porn stars in name form (think Eli Temperance, Oscar Diligence, or Isaac Revelation…)  so nothing really worked…

Young was initially a joke because I want to be forever young, youthful and with boundless energy to thrive, achieve and be the best I can possibly be.

As jokes often do, this one turned real as I realised it subtly yet perfectly reinforces the fact that I am a child in Christ and young in my faith. As a relatively new creation enjoying a relatively new start as a relatively free person I thought ‘why not?’ (contrary to perceptions this has nothing to do with Toby Young or Ashley Young or someone like that).

To compliment Young, Gideon is an amazing name after an amazing warrior/judge/prophet who led the Israelite’s to victory in the face of every disadvantage. It’s a powerful and faithful name and when I look at my mine I want to remind myself of who I am/want to be/ need to be at all times in order to fulfil my potential and realise my mission in life.

Reason number 4: my name is a mission statement for my best possible self

To get this far and to take the next steps in my journey I have had to be daring and fearless, driven and resolute. To have gotten this far I have steely strength in ways that most people will not know I have. This said I also have vulnerabilities which hold me back and I spend far too much time dwelling on which I fully intend to make all-important USPs in my mission towards excellence.

I believe the new name I have been blessed with has that harmony between strength and vulnerability, a testament to my past struggle and future challenges. It carries the serious values I hold dear and the more playful side to personality simultaneously. I believe it is practically perfect for me (and  yet balanced against the logistical impracticality of sorting out new IDs. bank accounts and work email addresses etc etc).

Laters, haters!

So that’s the story! A name is the means by which one identifies, introduces themself as and the title to which special letters, messages and documents are addressed to. I am really happy with it and hope others like it too (and fuck you if you don’t….😛).

On my initial posting I said that I don’t feel particularly precious about it as it is personal. That has proven to be untrue! With that in mind I trust those who matter will address me appropriately.

I call myself Issac but will leave it up to other people to decide (and forever judge your choices like I used to when people dared to call me Dave).

Laters haters and Happy Valentine’s Day to myself x

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