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What's In a Name?

I think that Shakespeare had a point when he asked this. I mean, would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Personally, I think that the answer is yes, yes it would.


Does a name define your identity, the real essence of who you really are? I know that for some people it does but for me, I don't think it has. Raised in an Indian culture, I was always told that when we got married, we would become the 'in laws responsibility'... our maiden name was just temporarily ours to borrow. When I got married, I reluctantly changed my name, although it never really felt right... it never felt like it was mine. To the point where I think that, even now, I have a slight detachment to my name. To be honest, my name journey has been quite complicated. my name on my birth certificate says 'Karnjit Kaur Johal'- I was meant to be named Karenjit but the 'e' was accidently missed out. Throughout my childhood I was a mixture of Karen and Karnjit... but mainly just Karen as I was teased with kids calling me 'Karen-shit'- it only happened a couple of times but it was enough for me to know that the 'jit' had to go. Things got complicated when on my driving license my name was Karen Johal and on my passport it was Karnjiit Kaur Johal. then when I got married, this got even more complicated because it threw in the surname 'Gill'. I mean, I don't even know how i got away with that many different names legally. I'm thinking i should have used this to my advantage... But anyway, I've never just had one name like most other people do. Now, I've been separated for a number of years, and a few different experiences on, I'm in the process of changing my name back to my maiden name.... Although I think I've now drifted far from that 'Karen Johal' that I used to know. She didn't have the confidence or direction that I have now. She was conflicted and didn't feel like she had a place- she was neither Indian or English- just lost somewhere in between. Her culture and family told her the life she would have. She pushed the boundaries but with underlying guilt and regret. She is different now- life has thrown a lot of different experiences at her- as it does all of us. I think these life experiences are what make us who we are.


I think my confliction and questioning about names as an identity stemmed from calling another woman (who didn't give birth to me or raise me, or act as my primary care giver my whole life) 'mum'. After getting married, I found the concept of calling another woman 'mum' strange. For me, took away the value of the word. I don't think it fits for that specific role. Granted, there are people out there for whom this works... but in my experience and of all the people I know, it hasn't. There's competition, there's divide, there's distance. I totally understand, where people have other relatives, like aunties for example, who are like 'mum figures' in the level of care, compassion and closeness that they have... but I've never actually seen it myself in the 'mother-in-law' capacity. The words 'in law' in itself sounds like an obligation and something we must follow... because it's the law. The more I think about those words, the more they sound like a threat to me. Many women now a days don't change their surname or they double-barrel it. I think it just depends on how attached you are to your name in the first place. But my question here is, as a woman, for centuries, we have changed our names to take on our husband's names (and they have consequently taken 'ownership' from parents), so can our names define us if we have always been obliged, encouraged or made to change them? But what's really in a name? Yes, it's what people call you and it's part of our identity but if you change it, will it change you? Will it really change the essence of you? Our souls live many life times in many forms and we're called many names on our soul's journey. To be honest, depending on how colourful and challenging your life is, I think your soul can evolve immensely in just one lifetime.... thus, constantly change who you are as a person. For me, changing my name back to my maiden name is as a result of no longer being married. I think whether or not I let it define me or my identity is a choice. I said to someone the other day that I'm going to change my name, and start afresh... it's going to be a new identity and a new me.... but it's not. It's just a new name but the same me. If I want a new me, then I need to change my mindset and my thoughts. Changing my name won't do that- only I can do that by taking action to change things. I think then, this comes down to motivation... will my new name motivate and encourage me do live differently? I guess we will have to just wait and see....