Monday, March 28, 2011


The end of my master's degree is in sight, so I applied for graduation today. One would think that would be a pretty straightforward process. You click on the application form, you confirm the details that the university has on record for you, pay the $40 with a credit card, and hit submit. Whoa, not so fast. One of the details that continues to be amusing/frustrating/difficult to explain in this province is my name. It gets a little complicated, but here goes.

In Quebec, one's legal name is their name at birth. Hence, on all legal and provincial documents, the name used is the name that appears on my birth certificate. I can't change how they do things here, though Dean has expended quite a few vehement words and wagged a few of his meaty fingers in bureaucratic faces in various attempts. This NAB (name at birth) principle also applies to the health care system and to the educational system. I always have to pay special care when I go to the doctor's office because the name they call when it is time for my appointment doesn't sound familiar, especially when they get creative with the last name and its pretty vowels.

However, this so-called 'legal name' is not the name that appears on my driver's license nor on my passport. As well, I commonly go by a derivative of my real first name, so this means that the name in the university system does not resemble anything close to the name by which I am known to my friends and family. Usually, this silly situation amuses me, because the places where the issue arises are pretty isolated and easy to work through. But, it is proving to be a bit of a complex question on the academic end of things.

What will be the name on my degree? What will be the name I use for publishing articles (and maybe someday, books)? Will any of the people that matter to me know that I am the author if my NAB is used? Do I really want an academic name and a 'commonly known as' name?Over the past year, I have been in the practice of using all my names. It seems to cover all the bases, however, it is not really 'legal.'

I guess it would have been simpler if I had just stuck with the name I was given at birth and never changed it. But I have changed. I am not the same shy and quiet girl that I was at age 6. I do not have the same naive, slightly magical thoughts about God (at least not as much) as I did when I was 10. I may be about the same size as I was at 14, but I am stronger in so many ways, and yet less afraid to be weak. I am not the same 23-year-old girl who was afraid to go the funeral home and see her dad's body (though I still don't like the places). I am not the same college student who just couldn't work up the courage to talk to a guy she liked (now I talk to Dean non-stop!).

I have changed. My name reflects many of those changes. In the past few years, I have noticed certain friends and acquaintances adding an -ie to the end of my first name. It is indicative, at least to me, of a certain tenderness present in the friendship, and that I will always be a child in my heart of hearts. I love the evolution that has happened to my name over the years.

Perhaps it matters very little what name goes on a piece of paper. A piece of paper is not what whispers my name in the morning and says, "I love you." A piece of paper is not what shouts my name in a crowd, desparate to find me because we got separated. A piece of paper does not exclaim with joy when I call it on the phone. A piece of paper does not say my name in supplication, hoping I will say "yes" to whatever request they have. A piece of paper will never send shivers up and down my spine. Only a living voice can do that. And honestly, love can call me anything, and I will always respond.

This is a photograph of a funky candle holder I got for Christmas. You can see my hand, the camera, and a bit of my shirt reflected in its mirrored surface.


Shelley said...

that is a hard one, I agree! what do you want on the wall?!

what did you decide, or did you even have a choice?

Matte Downey said...

I went with the name on my passport. Let's see if it gets accepted.