What's in a name?

Anise is not my real name.  That’s not to say that I’m not really Anise.  It’s just the name I have chosen for myself instead of the one that was given to me.  It’s the one I’d like my books to be published under.  (And I do plan to get published someday.  Yes, I can see it now . . .)  Is it jumping the gun to come up with a pen name now?  I don’t really know.  But I do know that it has made my daughter feel a little better about my publishing goals.  One weekend while I was sitting at the dining room table writing, my daughter said to me, “Mom, you’re not seriously going to publish these stories, are you?”  I replied that yes, that was the general idea.  “But then we’re going to have people knocking on our door to see you.”  As unlikely as that is to happen, I decided to get serious about choosing my pen name because I surely do not want my children to be disturbed by their famous author mother.  

While trying to choose just the right name for myself, I began to ponder a bit obsessively over what a name really is.  Here's what I decided:  a name is a string of sounds pronounced all together and designated to mean you, that may or may not have a family history behind it, chosen with great care by someone who loved you, but didn’t yet know you.  Perhaps you could argue that you knew your baby when you named it.  But short of being able to see the future, no one knows how that baby is going to develop, what his/her passions are going to be, what kind of personality is going to blossom within, how their individual futures will shape their souls.    

A name is a label that we use to identify ourselves.  Our brains are wired to label and so everything in our world must have one.  What would you chose to label yourself?  Which meaningful string of sounds best defines you?  It’s not an easy question to answer.

I feel like my husband and I have done a pretty good job naming our kids, but our daughter has already experimented with calling herself something else.  For that matter, my mother has also raised the possibility of renaming herself, independent of any of my influence.  Maybe this line of thinking is just in my genes.

Here’s why I chose Anise Rae.  Anise rhymes with my first name if it’s pronounced the way I intend it to be.  Despite all my philosophizing above, my real name carries my history and I can’t shake it and I don’t really want to.  The sounds that make up the word “Anise” are softer, kinder, and convey more gentleness than my real name.  Right or wrong, I do see myself that way, but in the real world there is a limit to the usefulness of those traits.  Hence the name Rae.  Rae sounds strong and tough for a girl and I could use a little extra toughness.  It is also like a ray of light and how wonderful to be a beam of golden warmth to the people around you.  (Yes, I can see it now . . .)