nameAs my shaking hand scribbled away, changing my future forever, my attorney asked a question I hadn’t thought about, “Will you be taking back your maiden name?”

Stunned, I stared speechlessly. Up to that point, half my life I was known as Jackie Haugh. Who would I be if I weren’t her?

Soon, the tide rose around my eyes, and I sniffled, “Wouldn’t that be like getting an annulment? I have to think about it.”

Driving away, I stewed over the idea. I stewed so much I became worried my brain would boil over. How would this affect my children? Would they feel separate from me? And, what were their friends and all my dance students supposed to call me? I could just see the confusion now as they mumbled their way through Mrs. Haugh, Mrs. Madden, Ms. Madden, Jackie…

But, remembering how Haugh (pronounced Haw) was a difficult last name for some to pronounce, I thought further. Unlike Madden, which my father always said rolled off the tip of the tongue like an Irish blessing, my former husband’s lineage was often mutilated with Hoff, Ho, How, even Hog. Tired of constantly correcting, I began to take the switch-a-roo a little more seriously.

Later that day, scribbling my birth signature on binder paper, along with doodled flowers, stars, and hearts, I remembered how I loved the sound of it as a child. Next, I practiced saying it in the mirror. I did it over and over until it felt as natural as my first day in kindergarten when I introduce myself to my teacher. But, then it hit me. Doing a name change required legalities, lots of legalities.

Unlike some clothing, one signature did not fit all documents: driver’s license, mortgage, social security, bank accounts, credit card statements. It would take months to finalize the change. And, so, shying away from the mounds of paperwork, for the next fifteen years, I remained Jackie Haugh.

Recently, the subject was broached again. In light of my memoir, “My Life in a Tutu,” published in 2015, with a second book in the works, I was asked, “Why give credit to another person’s name?”

Pausing for a moment, I found myself giggling. Why not give credit where credit was due? So many chapters were about my self-discovery; the love, laughter, and the tears I experienced while being married to my children’s father.

Collecting myself, I smiled. “I don’t want to change it. That’s who I am.”

We all know one’s identity isn’t just about a person’s name. It’s about the decisions and actions we take as we forged through the labyrinth of our life. In other words, it’s about character. Were we able to love with an unselfish heart; was forgiveness at the forefront every time we were pained, even if the forgiveness was needed for ourselves? And, how did we handle falling down? Did we lie there feeling sorry for ourselves, or did we stand up and try again?

I once thought being a wife and motherhood would complete me. Little did I know it’d be just the beginning of my soul’s sensational journey?

Today, I’m proud to be known as Jackie Madden Haugh. My name gives credit to my Irish Catholic upbringing and two parents who loved me, my marriage of twenty-two years to a man who joyfully shares with me four precious children, and to the person I grew into all on my own; the woman I was born to be. It may only be a title, but for me, it’s a title that says it all.