You must anchor it in the past." These were the words of the esteemed Genevieve Bell, a colleague who requires no introduction in tech circles. Her work in cultural anthropology and the world of technology is renowned. What immediately struck me about this statement was it's relevance to my work and my need for story telling to compel transformation. What struck me a few minutes later, was a dawning recognition of the potential resonance to me; my story.
This week I officially started the legal name change process to revert back to my maiden name, Melissa Evers. It had taken me over a year to begin this process. I've been playing with a few questions this week in that context. 1) Why has it taken me a year of waiting? Why the reluctance to reclaim the identity I was born with? 2) Who is this new identity of my future?
On question 1 - There's a piece of it that was lazy, not wanting to start due to the hassle; once you start you have to keep going - DL, Passports, Credit Cards, etc. A list never ending. Another piece tho is much deeper. There is so much in a name. And for 23 yrs, my identity was in partnership with another; whom I loved and gave so much energy to our lives together. In many ways the life we had created was a partnership across home, community, church, even my work. While the divorce was final over a year ago, it feels like a forced amputation to break apart the "Evers" from the "Hood" of "Evers-Hood". So yeah, grief, still not fully understanding how this all went awry, and not fully content the settlement and it's implications. I liked the "Hood" part of my life; it was what I thought was a shared dream; I was mostly happy. To let that go, and live into the hope of tomorrow is really hard.
But question 2 - that's the interesting question on my heart today. That's the question that Genevieve's bold statement, harkens me to - a clarion call - pay attention. As I've navigated this week, it's been so affirming and interesting the comments on social media - My name - knowingly or not - people from my Melissa Evers past have been affirming who she was. People from Melissa Evers-Hood past have affirmed who Melissa was. Childhood friends, to former parishioners, to work colleagues, to fellow professional coaches; All pointing to the same attributes of strength, passion, hard work, integrity, risk taking, etc. What they have unwittingly done as a collective is affirmed that who I am, transcends a name and transcends time.
"To tell the story of your future, you must anchor it in the past." Shortly after I found myself facing a pending divorce, a handmade book mark appeared on my desk. I have NO idea where it came from, what book it fell out of - but it was a laminated handmade bookmark, drawn on an index card, yellow with age, made by yours truly, from maybe early middle school? Complete with rainbows, hand drawn puppies, and of course signed "Melissa Evers". That crazy, miraculous gift of an ancient bookmark provided a physical talisman of identity. What these saints and cloud of witnessess have born out this week is that this thread of who I am, who I will be - has very little to do with my name. I am me - passionate, strong, rainbows, and puppies. I have wrongly been ruminating on the power of a name tied to who I am, the way I live, who I love.
So, who is this 'Melissa Evers' of my future? It is actually the same identity of my past; of my recent past, grad school past, puppies and rainbows past. It may sound trite, but for me - this reconcilation that Melissa Evers has always been there, both literally in my name, and materially in my being - who I was created to be - and who I will carry on being - has been a gift and revelatory.