By Any Other Name
As my wedding day approached, what had seemed like a simple decision became a cathartic way for me to find closure with my past.
Patrick has often pointed out that I’ve become the woman I am in spite of my history, and I would always reply that it wasn’t in spite of it, it was because of what I’ve gone through that I’ve become who I am. It took a while to figure out the difference between “in spite of” and “because of,” but that’s where I found my answer.
Even though I had many legitimate reasons to become Jennie Doyle, I finally realized that I was, and would remain Jennie Dorris. True, I’ll continue to share a name with a family from whom I’m estranged, but the name Jennie Dorris actually changed a long time ago. It changed when I finally stood up for myself—with or without my family’s support. It changed when I put myself out there, at first shyly, then confidently, as if becoming a freelance writer and musician had been my subconscious way of forging my own identity.
I now know that being Jennie Dorris is about more than mere personal branding. It’s about accepting where I’ve come from and celebrating what I’ve turned my name into. I now know that to lose my name would have made me feel like I’d lost my personal transformation—and like I’d abandoned my younger self.
I spilled my revelation at our last premarital counseling session. It didn’t come out in any logical manner, and in my excitement I found myself talking a little too loudly in the silent room. Patrick’s face got warm and smiley, the way it always does when he can see I’m happy and sure. Even so, the therapist still wasn’t fully convinced. “Well,” she said, “we’ll talk in a few weeks.”
But I was done hearing other people’s opinions. They hadn’t lived my story, and their choices sounded like a foreign language to someone with my history. Inviting them too deeply into my decision started to echo too closely with the way my family had tried to rewrite my childhood. By learning to honor my resilience as a child and by keeping this name—my name—as a testament to what I’ve survived, I finally realized that my self-respect would grow real roots.
After all my questioning and worrying, I realized that my younger self was finally speaking up to tell me that, in the end, I was still Jennie Dorris. She could handle being questioned. She was grateful not to be left behind, and she was OK retelling her story to help me—the older, healing, happier Jennie—find my answers. She simply reminded me that she had gotten me this far—that she had been at her strongest during the worst of times, that she couldn’t wait to join me for the joyful times, and that the two of us accepting each other meant I was finally ready to share my life with someone else.