I changed my name. Truly, madly, and legally.

I’m sure that though many in my network were speculating as to why, most were more far removed enough to avoid asking for fear of overstepping. Albeit a decision I mulled over several months, it surely was not something I thought was worth announcing to a thousand people on a social network, yet in a way it was precisely what transpired when I changed my Facebook name.

In honesty, it’s more of a slight modification of what already is but regardless, it falls under the umbrella of a legal name  change. Whenever anyone hears of me utter the phrase “that’s my old name” or “I changed my name” – they generally ask why with fervent curiosity and awe.

For giggles, I respond that I have gotten married* recently – which is met with either total disbelief (I mean hello, look at me?) or am generously congratulated and details are asked about my hubby.

People have a hard time imagining why anyone would change their given name. I see why felons or anyone with a desire to distance themselves from their past would seek to do so. What was I escaping, you ask? Ubiquity. Having a common name indeed had its upsides where you can hide in a shroud of anonymity because your personal identifier is no better than the Jane Doe label but at the same time, you get lost in the sea of you’s-but-not-you’s. You are far from the first hit on Google. Sometimes, SEO results matter.

* FYI, taking on your spouse’s last name does not require a legal name change as a marriage certificate would suffice as legal documentation to changing everything else.

When is it a good time to change your name?

Early career. Right at the cusp of expiry for all your government-issued documents. Right when you make up your mind. As ASAP as possible. (Does redundancy get my point across?)

Personal friends and family are one thing but your business contacts and network is another beast. You can annoy the former with your identity crisis but you ought to avoid it in your professional life.

Online Implications

Usernames and Online Identities

If you already set a Facebook username/URL (facebook.com/YourUsername), you’re out of luck if you selected some iteration of your old real name because Facebook allows you to only set your personal username once. Same with Snapchat.

Fortunately other sites allow flexibility in this department: Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Linkedin.

Emails and Domains

Assuming you “matured” after high school and shed the emails from your more impressionable, rudimentary stages of life to the likes of sweet_azn_bb_gurl604@hotmail.com and signed yourself up for an email resembling your now-outdated name, what do you do?

PURGE your old emails and set up forwarding to your new one. Forwarding will reduce your need to go change the email of every account you’ve made and instead, you can target the ones which matter. This is a good opportunity to dictate which accounts are important enough to transfer to your new email and which online shopping email subscriptions can stay in the flooded chasms of your old email box. New year, new you right?

Similarly, redirect your old domains to your new ones for some period of time before annulling the domain renewal altogether once your new identity has caught on and your old one can be shed.

Real Life IMPLICATIONS

To give you a glimpse of the magnitude of the name change decision, you would have to change:

  • Banking: accounts, debit cards, credit cards
  • Work-related: SIN number, work email, other proof to be provided to employer
  • Government-Issued: health cards, driver’s licenses
    • Passport – for Canadian passports, you have to submit an entirely new application instead of be able to renew.
    • Birth certificate – you have to send in your old one with application and then purchase a new one afterwards.
  • Everything else that may prove remotely important one day. Do it now as you’ve gained momentum doing other things.

If you’ve already graduated, your transcripts and degrees reflect your old name.

More often than not, people think the change is Facebook-only because you “don’t want to use your real name online” or are “off the grid” .  I can absolutely attest that the cherry on top of the long and arduous process of changing your name is that people don’t believe it to be true.

The most interesting implication to come is that people would not be entirely sure how to refer to you. People who have known you since forever ago may still address you by what they had always known you as. Politely correct people if need be. It is 2016 and you need to streamline your brand (half joking – you just need it to catch on so people pushing you back into your former self does not help your cause).

The Process

One thing that surprised me about the entire process is that you don’t need to provide a reason, let alone a legit one, to change your name. You just need to be of legal age, pay the fees to the right authorities, and provide everything necessary.

The steps:

  1. Submit application with your province with criminal record check, fingerprints, old birth certificate.
  2. Wait 4-6 weeks. Mentally prepare yourself for the annoying process to follow.
  3. Start lugging your name change certificate and new birth certificate everywhere to change your name and pay more money.

Overall the process cost me about $500 (cost to province, new birth certificate, new ID, fingerprints and criminal record check, new passport, etc), not to mention the countless hours overall mulling over what name and iteration of that name to choose.

Ensuing Identity Crisis

It is definitely strange at first. The name I gave yourself is foreign on my own tongue as well as to my ears. I responded slower to my calls of my name but with time it all settles and normalizes.

Once people find out from me that the process is not as hard as they had imagined, some toy with the idea of changing theirs. I did not touch upon whether or not you should change your name. It’s a deeply personal decision which for me, spanned years of question and affliction. Ask yourself whether your reasons are worth the resulting nuances. It is a decision that is yours and yours alone (except maybe also your parents if you need to convince them to send you your birth certificate).

~

Funny story: the first date I went on with my boyfriend was the same day I mailed in my application. He asked what I was changing my name to. I said, yours of course. 

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