Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who ARE You?

This Fall has brought on an identity crisis for me. I had to change the name I use professionally and it caused some inner turmoil. The schools I have worked at had a culture that allowed teachers to go by their title and first names. I have been Ms. Carrie since I worked at my first teaching job in 1998. My friend Ms. Meeghan and I worked together at school and still refer to each other as our teacher names!   I took a 15 year hiatus from teaching and went off to explore the world of Campus Ministry and eventually became a stay at home mom. 

When I ventured back into the teaching world again I went back to the school I had started at. I was once again known as Ms. Carrie in my teaching profession. I moved schools last year, but we kept the same tradition. I was grateful to only be known by my first name because it was a major life decision on whether or not to keep my married last name or go back to my maiden name after the divorce. 

 I kept the married name because it made life easier. My kids have the name and it was a lot cheaper and less of a hassle than having to change my license and blah, blah.  I figured I never use that name anyway. Since I don't have to use it at work, the only time I really need to use a last name is my signature. As long as I don't have to say that name out loud why not keep it? Well…I was short sighted as usual.  

So this year policy changed. We now use our last names at school. It was decided by majority vote that it would be more professional  Needless to say, I not only disagreed with this sentiment, but I very loudly protested it.  I was outvoted by a landslide. And so it was decided in one swooping disastrous second that I would be referred to with the same title and last name as Oz's mother.  I didn't enjoy anyone calling me Mrs. X when I was that person. Now that I am NOT that, I enjoy that even less.  So I have modified it to Ms. X.  

Apparently the Ms. is a very big deal. I have had parents ask me to clarify. Students pronounce it Miss and other adults assume Mrs.  Especially since my children attend the same school and have that last name.  I feel that it advertises that I am a Divorced Woman. There is no way to clarify Ms. with 3 kids having that name without it screaming Single Mama.  It shouldn't matter. It truly does not affect my day what anyone thinks about the fact that I may or may not be married.  But, it does feel like an intrusion into my personal life. An unnecessary bit of info that strangers do not need. Going by Ms. Carrie gave me a persona that was relatable without having to get specific. The Ms. in front of my name gave reassurance to those that need it that I was being addressed respectfully by their children, but it gave me the sense of boundary that they did not need to know my marital status or failings.  

In the beginning of the transition this name change disturbed me. Greatly!  In fact, I held out until the very first day of school before I allowed anyone even my coworkers to refer to me as Ms. X.  In the weeks between The Vote and school starting I even considered changing my last name.  I debated should I change back to my maiden name?  But, that name didn't feel right either. I am no longer that person. My maiden name is a difficult last name to say and spell.  Not helpful when working with young students.  

I also debated going with a brand new last name.  I had first contemplated that idea when the divorce was finalized because the court will let you change your name that day for free.  I desperately wanted to  take a new name. I wanted a fresh start. I was really entertaining the idea of becoming Caralina Zaccara. Taking on the last name of my favorite soap character Johnny Zaccara from General Hospital and a much more Italian sounding first name.  My friend Beth had talked me out of it because she said the divorce combined with the new name would for sure have people thinking I had some kind of a breakdown. I thought it was good advice so I took it. 

But, before school started this year I revisited the idea.  My mother of course thought it was nuts. I would have no family tree, etc. etc. 

When I told Oz about my distress he said that he was giving me his last name because it belonged to the kids and I could just have it. I didn't have to be Mrs. anything. It was my kids family name. That made sense. 

But, the deciding factor was when Oz said that if I did decide to become Ms. Zaccarra he couldn't wait to tell people that I lost my mind.  I would NEVER give him that satisfaction!

I started the school year as Ms. X and the first time I had to introduce myself to parents and students it was difficult. I kept forgetting and even mispronounced it a couple times.  My students still know me as Ms. Carrie and very often still call me that. But, as the weeks have gone on they remember more and more to say Ms. X and I am beginning to actually remember to respond to it.  It doesn't sound so weird anymore. I don't over pronounce the Ms. as much and laugh when I say the X.  Only 3 or 4 unfortunate souls have referred to me as MRS. X.  They were quickly corrected and on went life.

At the end of the day maybe a name is just a name?  

The choices I have made in life are what they are. Whatever gets reflected in my name is not as important as the fact that I have 3 beautiful children who share that name. They are happy and healthy. End of story.