For 54 years I’ve had a variety of names, but they all began with Wanda.
I was born Wanda Lee and given the family last name. Most of those years I felt disconnected from my first name and wanted to change it.
To me, when I said the name “Wanda,” I visualized an African American woman in the 1950s cooking up a huge meal. There would be a half dozen kids running in and out of the kitchen, getting underfoot and Wanda shooing them out the door with a, “Git on outta here till supper is done,” kinda look.
While it provides a unique visual, it depicts an image that is nothing like me.
I was the one who roamed, who cared for my family but I felt alone within my given name.
So what’s in a name?
Our name is our first identifier of our personality, our uniqueness, and what makes us who we are. But our name is given to us by someone else, generally our parents. Many of you will have been named after family members, or for religious reasons or even because it just sounded cute. I was curious and asked my mother one day where she came up with the name Wanda. She confessed there was no real reason other than it sounded good to her.
I wished there had been a little more forethought and caring on my parents’ part, like those who looked at baby books for months and those who go even a step further to research the meaning behind the name. This lack of forethought was a pattern I saw from my parents.
To me, my name echoed the story of these past wounds. I spent a lifetime thinking about my name. I hemmed and hawed around for years claiming I was going to change it.
At 54 years old, I did and legally dropped my first name. I became Lee and I felt free.
According to most name dictionaries, “Wanda” refers to the wanderer, one who desires love and companionship. A wanderer works with others to achieve balance and peace. Many times mentioned as an introvert. While these traits did absolutely describe me to a tee, I didn’t feel like a “Wanda.” I felt like a “Lee.”
I was given the middle name Lee after my maternal grandfather whom I never met. He passed away long before I was born. Our family didn’t talk much about him, or our family history, and the only thing my mother told me was that he lost an arm in a saw mill accident.
“Lee” means healer and one who has a deep desire to use their abilities to help others and is personally independent. They value truth, justice and are very practical. These qualities also describe me to a tee. However, I did a little research of my own and found my namesake grandfather was a dedicated family man. My grandmother died giving birth to their thirteenth child and he spent his remaining years taking care of the family and working until the accident occurred. There was my connection. My touchstone to my name.
Does your name suit you?
What happens when you feel disconnected from your birth name?
I asked a few people if they felt like their name was a good fit. Some felt they never connected with it, but just lived with it. Many knew the reasons behind why they were named as such and were happy with it. And others didn’t care one way or another.
After the long process of legally dropping my first name, I had to announce the change. Some didn’t care, others asked why and a few stated that they would only address me as Wanda. It’s been a year and sometimes I feel like that guy formerly known as Prince. It seems a big deal to others, although I am at peace and resigned to telling the story at times.
Often I found through discussions of my name change, many said they would stick with their given name for the sake of simplicity and/or lack of finding a name befitting their personality and soul. My name didn’t resonate with me from as early as I could remember. It was a major undertaking and not something one should take on lightly.
If you feel my story speaks to you, but you don’t want to make a permanent change, here are a few ideas that may make your name fit better.
Changing the spelling of one’s name is fairly easy, for example, from Lee to Leigh was an option for one girl.
Pronouncing your name differently, for example, from David to Da-veed or Karin to Ka-rin.
Adding humor to how you perceive your name. Changing the way you look at it. When the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” came out, every time a person saw me they would yell, “Towanda.” A far better connection than the movie “A Fish Called Wanda.”
Researching your name is another great way to see some of the qualities you hadn’t realized in yourself and the name you carry.
Changing my name wasn’t about running away from my former life. It was about running towards what my life is today, in the present. It’s about adding a new dimension to an already wonderful life. It’s about becoming more of myself, feeling the connection and it’s about truism.
Author: Lee Lomas
Apprentice Editor: Laura G. Williams; Editor: Travis May