I recently read Julie Kagawa’s latest Iron Fey novella Summer’s Crossing (it’s a Puck story…much fun…read it). It opens with Puck talking about names and a bunch of the different ones he’s had–none of which are his True Name. In fairy lore (and other lores, now that I think about it), knowing the True Name of someone or something gives you power over it, so it is typical of characters to guard their True Name fiercely.
Names have always been kind of a thing with me. My identity is very much caught up in names. I spent the first eighteen years of my life feeling like I was living as someone else, called always by my first name, which I hated. I was one of eight people in my class with that name, and it got really old hearing it called and not being the one addressed. So when I got to college, where no one really knew me, I switched and began going by a shortened form of my middle name.
College is a great time to kind of re-define and discover who you really are anyway because, usually, you’re away from anybody who knows you, away from all their preconceived notions and expectations. Going by a new name just seemed to go with that. My mother hated it. Refused to use the name I preferred. Fine. I didn’t make people who knew me before switch.
When I graduated, the diminutive form I’d been going by seemed a bit unprofessional, so I started going by my full middle name. In the ten years since I graduated college, I’ve met only two others (ironically, one of them works in my office here). It’s been so long that when people call me by my first name, it takes me a while to register that it’s me they are talking to. That was never really me.
Of course all this name changing confused the heck out of everybody. You can always tell at what stage in my life people know me from by what they call me. I find it kind of amusing.
Then came time to choose a pen name since some other person out there has my real name and already laid claim to all the internet real estate related to it. So I chose Kait, at last able to give myself the name I always wanted (short for Kaitlyn), and I went about snatching up internet real estate and building my brand for all things writing related. And something funny happened. My online life, my writing life, in many ways has become more real to me than my day to day life. Kait represents the writer and that is fundamentally who I am in a way that no other name I’ve gone by ever has. As I get closer and closer to my life long goal of making a living as a writer, Kait becomes who I am all the time. It is, I think, my True Name.
And it’s a joy to have discovered it.