Same Great Girl

I changed my name about a month ago. Showed up to court, knees weak, palms sweaty, really hungry and craving spaghetti. I submitted the wrong paperwork, got the correct paperwork, stood in line for a judge, answered him when he asked me why I chose those specific names. I gave him the brief explanation, similar to the one I will give here, because he wasn’t really interested and I wanted to get out of there as much as he wanted to get me out of there.

The entire process, from filing to waiting in line to talking to the judge to paying the fees, took less than an hour. I won’t lie: I sobbed when it was over. I have wanted this name change for the loooooongest time and now, officially, I represent myself.

I’m still the same great girl, now with a nifty new name:

Chelsey Olau

I got introduced to the name Olau in a fiction quartet titled The Song of the Lioness and written by Tamora Pierce. The main character, Alanna, actually has three different last names throughout the series. Alanna’s first surname is her father’s family name: Trebond. This follows the same tradition that the overwhelming majority of the world participates in: patriarchal nomenclature. Alanna’s third surname is her husband’s family name: Cooper. This also follows real-world tradition in that is it still rare for a woman to retain her maiden name when marrying a male partner. Alanna’s second surname was given to her by the man who adopted her: Sir Myles Olau.

I really identified with the relationship between Alanna and her surrogate father because Myles loved Alanna despite her being difficult, annoying, arrogant, and a liar (among other negative traits). Myles saw something worthwhile in Alanna, and was determined to stick by her even if he earned nothing in return. That is, to me, the epitome of parenting: the ultimate thankless job. There are a number of families in my life who have expressed the same sentiment, families who have stuck by me despite my overwhelming negative traits. These families gained nothing of intrinsic value in keeping me around. Yet, they found some reason good enough to stick by me and, in doing so, enable me to grow and succeed within the safety and love of these relationships.

I struggled, for a long time, with the decision to actually do this. To alienate myself, in a legal and very public way, from my biological family. There would be members of my biological family who would take great offense at this decision, despite how happy it makes me and how little it affects their lives (It doesn’t affect their lives at all). It’s not as though I have any lack of options when considering names I already have some ownership over: Mick (the slur), Zamboni (the machine), Coash (on the Mayflower’s ledger!), Forrester, Crawford, Barrows, Reynolds, etc. My biological family has some beautiful names that are rich in history. But as I found myself growing, evolving and changing as an individual there was an equal growing, evolving and changing in closeness to these foreign families…and a subsequent lessening of the suffocating obligation I felt to obey, or answer to, or rely on my biological family.

So, in an effort to honor the families that took me in, cared for me, loved me through my obnoxious and seemingly endless years of self-destruction, I have taken Olau to symbolize my relationship to them. I may not belong to these families in blood or binding contract, but they have had a profound and positive impact on who I am, and I am forever grateful.

This post is dedicated to the following:

Vahan and the Manoogian family

Kacee + Chris

Yacxara and the Alvarez family

The Schwartz family

Momma and the Vasquez family

My name is Chelsey Olau, and this is how we re-introduce ourselves.