What’s In a Name?

We’re all given one at birth. We introduce ourselves, saying our name countless times to countless people. We grow up hearing it during attendance at school, called across a playground, or spoken at a business meeting. Our names tend to remain unchanged for most of our lives. Sometimes we change it through marriage or divorce, or because its gender doesn’t match who we really are. Sometimes we change it because it ties us to a part of our lives we would rather not acknowledge anymore.

That’s why I changed mine.

A few weeks ago I started going through a process. I signed up on a whim to an entrepreneurship workshop for artists with the intent of learning how best to run my art as a business. I didn’t expect it to be such an emotional roller coaster. I didn’t expect to learn so much not just about my art, but about my core self and why I do what I do.

I was born as Wendy, but with my father’s last name. He was a monster. After years of abuse, my mother moved us west from the maritime provinces and we landed here in Saskatchewan. He chased me for most of my life. I was diagnosed with PTSD and major depressive disorder, which affect me to this day. My mom tried to change my last name when I requested it as a young girl, and she was told that she would need my father’s permission and signature in order to change my name, despite her having full custody and him being unable to even have visitation.

I carried that name like an anchor throughout my teens and twenties. I avoided giving my last name when possible (Hi, I’m Wendy!), but when pressed to reveal, it tasted sour in my mouth like bad milk. Whenever read aloud, nobody could ever pronounce it correctly. They would stumble over it and struggle with it, creating an awkward and tense moment for both of us. It was a rare last name and I was the only Wendy with it in the world. Lucky me.

I wanted to change it when I became an adult and legally could, but I became strangely attached to having the same last name as my mother and sisters. The desire never left my mind, however, and it pierced my brain with a sharp and urgent violence a few weeks ago when I began this personal, artistic renaissance.

I found clarity. My entire adult life has been spent going from one artistic venture to the next, working really hard on it, only to draw away and quit just as soon as I see some success. It was like I was afraid of it. I know now what I didn’t know throughout my twenties: that I didn’t want to succeed, because I didn’t want to have any personal triumphs attached to a name that has never felt like mine. I didn’t want to be known if it meant being known as his. I didn’t want him to have credit for what I’ve built for myself.

It was clear. I spent the next 3 weeks researching names, finding their meanings, testing what sounded good but was still unique enough to make running my brand easier. I pored over surname websites hoping that one of them would jump out at me and feel right. I made lists of maybe’s and kept them in my pocket to take out for a second or seventh look throughout the day. I slept on a few almosts that didn’t feel right the next morning. I became frustrated. I felt lost. I felt like I would never find my name.

Until I did.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Wendy Blacke. I’m an artist and writer and this is my new blog where I will document my journey and artistic process with you; my challenges and triumphs. I look forward to seeing where this path leads me.