I’m going to get very personal with you here.
This week, Bethany Pearson O’Connor (a Facebook contact of mine that I don’t personally know but we share friends in common) posted something incredibly brave and articulate, about her name. And by no coincidence, I happened to see it.
While her post was about her name on the surface level, what it’s really about is her coming home to herself.
With some trepidation, I’ve decided to follow her lead, and write and share my own name story with you today. The very curious synergy of her timing, and my seeing it, feels too important for me to ignore.
I too, in these last days of 2016, have been coming home to myself, through my name. My sharing this very personal and very vulnerable story with you feels a bit like I’m undressing in front of a crowd. But, it’s my strong sense that it would not only be healing and empowering to share it, but also that it may speak deeply to you as well if you read it to the end.
My birth name was: Tara Michelle Gross.
As I’m sure you can imagine “being Gross” made me an easy target for schoolyard antics. I remember kids asking me if my middle name was “is” or “looks” or “smells”. Mean.
I remember coming home from school and telling my dad about kids making fun of my name. His response was: “Don’t make your bad day my bad day.” YUP. Keep it to yourself, kid. Don’t share your hardships with me. Don’t burden me with your hurts. You’re on your own…. Or at least that’s the message I got.
As an adult, I’ve come to know that my dad absolutely did his best and that none of his limitations or “issues” were about me. That said, it certainly didn’t make for an easy childhood. Another dad quote: “Do as I say, not as I do.” Interestingly, in his own backward way, my father became one of my greatest teachers. I made the commitment to myself to do everything in my power to live and act with the integrity and honesty of BEing someone who walks my talk. Who’s word is gold. Thanks, dad.
Anyway, so my middle name wasn’t “is” … it was Michelle.
Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone and having the sense that they have the “wrong name”? Like, it just doesn’t fit?? Sometimes I can’t for the life of me remember someone’s name, and I feel like it doesn’t stick in my brain because it’s the wrong name for them. I want to, and sometimes mistakenly do, call them by another name.
Well, I can honestly say I have ALWAYS felt like a “Tara”. It’s right. It’s MY name. My soul and “Tara” feel like a right match.
But Michelle? Meh. It always felt flat to me. I accepted it, I didn’t mind it. It’s what was on my birth certificate. But it never really felt like “me.” It was fine. No matter. I was pretty indifferent to it.
In 2003, I went to a festival in the desert called Burning Man. It was a transformational experience in many ways. On “the playa” people often named themselves. I remember meeting a woman who introduced herself as “Delectable”, for example. Another was Dr. Wasabi. When asked what MY name was … before I could even think about it, the words “Tara Sage” came out of my mouth. I’m not sure why or where it came from. “Huh,” I thoug ht, as I heard myself. Sure, yeh, Tara Sage … I liked it. And for that week in the desert, I was Tara Sage.
After I returned from 10 very transformative days in the desert, I quickly learned that I was *still* Tara Sage. Very much so, in fact.
The end of 2004, I got married. And, about 5 years later, divorced. When I married, I honestly didn’t think long and hard about the prospect of changing my name. On so many levels, I was done being Gross. 🙂 I welcomed the change: Steeves. Ok then. I had no strong objections. It seemed a perfectly fine name.
A very wise and well-meaning friend of mine, challenged me on this decision. “Why would you take your husband’s name?” she asked. “You should keep your name.”
Well, my answer to her was, look, neither one is “my” name. The way I saw it, I either had what was my now long-estranged father’s name, or my husband’s name.
I did briefly consider taking my mother’s maiden name, Giannoni, which would have in many ways felt right and have honored the fact that my half-Italian roots represented my true family, in every sense of the word …. but I decided against it. I thought that would be especially confusing and my soon-to-be husband probably wouldn’t have appreciated it. So, by default, Steeves it was.
And while I was at it, I figured this was an opportunity to let go of “Michelle” and at least own my ‘Tara Sage’ self. So, I legally changed my middle name too and became Tara Sage Steeves.
After marrying, as my business grew, and with it my “personal brand”, and I became a twice-published author as Tara Sage Steeves, I realized I was pretty locked in to that name. So when I divorced, my name remained. While I really didn’t want his name anymore, I honestly didn’t think too long and hard about it. It just seemed logical that due to my “public” face, and wanting to avert any damage-control to my brand or my business, I remained Steeves. And, legally, I still remain Steeves.
BUT – interestingly, on my holiday travels last week, I had lunch with that same friend, and my name came up again in conversation. She shared that she thinks I could just be Tara Sage. Sage, she said, could be my “last” name. In a sentence, she seeded a question in my mind and heart. Do I want to revisit this? Could I just be Tara Sage?
I mulled it over for a few days. And then, on December 23, I dropped “Steeves” from my Facebook name. It felt like a small but personally empowering and important step. And I was honestly relieved that it seemed to go rather unnoticed.
But however vulnerable it is for me, seeing Bethany’s post just a few days later, I gotta say … it feels good to be shining a light on it. Freeing!
While I’m in no hurry to manage all the many logistical pieces that would be involved in a legal name change, perhaps Prince was on to something… You can call me Tara. Or Tara Sage Steeves. Or “the life coach formerly known as Tara Sage Steeves.” 🙂
Or, if you’d like, you can call me Tara Sage.
Allow me to invite YOU to consider for yourself:
- As our calendar year comes to a close, what would be most empowering for YOU to let go of before the 2017 bell tolls? (A worthwhile question for anytime of year so if you’re reading this post-2017 calendar turn, then think: end of the month.)
- What would best express the truest, brightest, most authentic version of YOU?
With love, and truth, and the freedom of letting go of the old,
Happy New Year!
May it be truly merry and bright,