In 3rd grade I changed my name.
It wasn’t a legal name change. It was actually done quite secretly….I didn’t tell anyone.
One day I started writing “Shelley McPherson” on my class-work and homework for school. The genius thing about it was that Shelley was IN my class. Yes, she was one of my classmates. Blonde, cute, smart, popular, freckled and very, very nice. She brought cool stuff to show-and-tell, she was great at sports, great at math, and she was always happy. She was just an all-around great person.
I figured it would be great to “be” her …and all it would take to make that happen was a name-change.
Now, I wasn’t unhappy with who I was, it was just that she was good at things I wasn’t. I was good at a lot of things, but Shelley was really good at a couple of things I wasn’t even remotely skilled in: sports and math.
I hated P.E. and the competitive games they had us play, plus I preferred to wear skirts and dresses to school. Learning the hard way that these two items don’t mix…the day my skirt got caught in the wheel of the stupid little scooters we had to ride; causing my team to lose and me to be forever shamed in the art of scooter racing. This is just one of many examples of my lack of prowess in sporting activities.
I won’t give you any math examples. I just sucked at math.
So, I figured the powers I would need to become good at sports and math were found in the name “Shelley McPherson”.
I started the transition to my new name slowly. Just writing it on the heading of my papers once or twice the first week. I didn’t see any changes in my athletic ability, so I began writing it on everything I turned in.
Our teacher was Ms. Altenhoff. She had also been my teacher in 1st grade, so she was aware that I was blessed with an active imagination. One day as she was walking us to P.E. she asked me to come back to the classroom with her. I didn’t want to miss P.E., because I wanted to see if the name change powers had taken effect.
I decided it must be important since Ms. Altenhoff wanted to talk to me in private, so I went back to the classroom with her. I didn’t have ANY idea why she needed to talk to me. Really. I didn’t.
I sat down at one of the desks. She walked over to her desk, grabbed a manila folder and sat down to join me.
Ms. A: How are things going for you Ellen?
me: Great Ms. Altenhoff!
Ms. A.: Are you sure? Is there anything going on….at school or at home that is bothering you?
me: No, (looking at her puzzled) things are good……. Oh, I have a new sister!
Ms. A.: I know! Remember, you brought pictures of her for show-and-tell the other day
(a long pause, as Ms. Altenhoff decides how to proceed)
Ms. A: Ellen, I have noticed that you haven’t turned in any work in the last week or so. (waiting for me to respond)
me: (looking puzzled) Ms. A, I have turned in all of my assignments.
Ms. A: (opening the folder) Ellen, I seem to have no assignments for you, but for some reason Shelley has two papers for each assignment.
me: Oh, yeah! I forgot to tell you that I changed my name to “Shelley McPherson”! That is why. I’m sorry if it confused you.
Ms. A: (looking incredibly confused, and also trying not to laugh) Oh..wow….um….but Ellen, you have such a pretty name. Why would you change your name to “Shelley McPherson”?
me: She is really good at sports and math, and I want to be good at them too.
Ms. A: (Still trying to stifle her laughter) Ellen, you are good at so many things, and not everyone is good at everything they try. Ellen, do you enjoy sports?
me: No, not really.
Ms. A: What do you enjoy?
me: singing, dancing, playing with my friends.
Ms. A: Then those are the things that make you “Ellen”. Do you want to give all of those away to be “Shelley”?
me: OH NO! I don’t Ms. A! I don’t! (in a slight panic over what I might have done to myself by changing my name. Did I give up the things I really enjoy? Can I get those “powers” back? Can this be reversed? )
(Ms. Altenhoff sensing my panic)
Ms. A: (in the most sweet, calm “teacher voice”) Ellen, honey, find the assignments you completed in the folder and write your name on those that are yours. That is all that you need to do, and all will be back to normal.
Without wasting a second of my time, I made the corrections to the papers. I handed them to Ms. Althenhoff, hoping that I could regain all that I was as “Ellen”.
me: (with panic in my voice) Ms. A….is it all back to normal? really? I mean, I didn’t want to get rid of the things I like to do…how will I know if it is all O.K???
Ms. A: Ellen, your class still has 15 minutes in P.E. Why don’t you go on over to the gym, you will feel better after you play with your friends.
I head to the gym. In the 15 minutes I was there, I helped my team lose the volleyball game because I tripped and fell. My skirt flew up exposing my underwear. When I got back to class, Ms. Altenhoff returned my math assignment. I had made a 52.
All was right in the world.
I have to thank Ms. Altenhoff for being so awesome. I know some teachers who would have made me feel like a complete weirdo for doing something like this. She handled it with kid-gloves, and I appreciate her for it.
This post was inspired by the book I am currently reading, The Happiness Project. (this is what also inspired me to begin my blog). Part of the project is to realize there are some things you will never really enjoy doing, and that it’s OK. It also talks about that there are some things you can enjoy doing, but might not be so good at… but if they bring you joy, why not do them?
Sure, I’d love to be as hysterical, creative and all-around awesome as The Bloggess…. or to be able to be a yoga goddess like my friend Jamie …or to have the fashionista/decorator skills of my cousin, Sheridan French, or to be as brave as FabuLeslie and join a running group and find her “inner runner”….but I’m not these people and I don’t have their same talents..and that’s just fine with me.
What I DO have is the ability to enjoy their talents, share them with others and to nurture the talents that I DO have. That is what we all should do.
Enjoy who you are, celebrate others for what they are…..
and don’t change your name.