Some decisions in life take ages. Others only need a second.
My choice to change my name was both and neither: it has been a long time coming, but I went from thinking about it to going for it within the space of a weekend.
It’s Sunday, March 31, 2019. I’m six weeks into my Intuitive Eating journey, eight weeks into fully committed recovery from my eating disorder. Within this short span of time, my life has already improved tremendously – I’m more present, less depressed, and most importantly, I’m gaining clarity about my goals in life and how to reach them.
Last October, I decided to officially change my first name from Julia to Jay, my long-time nickname and pseudo in online spaces. Many friends I gained over the years have only ever known me as Jay, so the transition hasn’t been that difficult.
During that period, I also contemplated changing my last name, which is a German surname with a rather negative connotation. Basically, a ‘Schnorrer’ is a cadger, a sponger. Someone who mooches off others. You can imagine the teasing I had to endure as a kid… and the comments I’m receiving as an adult.
So yeah, I’m certain my request to legally change it would have been granted — if I’d submitted it.
I didn’t for two reasons: One, the administrative fees can be between 3€ and 1.022€ with no way of knowing beforehand on which side of the spectrum you’re going to fall.
Despite the huge financial strain this could have been, that wasn’t the main deterrent, since two: I didn’t know which surname to take on instead.
See, my mother’s maiden name translates to ‘pancake’, which is just ridiculous. All other names in our family are only slightly less cringe-worthy. Besides, I never had any emotional attachment to any of them.
For the longest time, I went with JayEz online, as in J.S. – without realising that the English pronunciation of JayEz would equal ‘Jay Ease’.
Instead of creating a simple and easy pseudonym, I’d gone and created further confusion. Wonderful…
When that started to truly bother me, I thought, ‘Well, let’s own up to my weird German surname. At least it’s unique!’
Thus followed the period in which I tried to warm up to “Jay Schnorrer”… but it refused to feel right. It was still off, not only due to the connotations the literal meaning had, but also for personal reasons I’d rather not delve into at this point.
Suffice it to say, it’s severe enough that the thought of changing my last name never quite left my mind.
Fast forward to a few months later, around January 2019. I was lying in bed, daydreaming like every night before I manage to fall asleep.
I’ve been doing this since I was 11 and lived many different lives. I insert myself in my favourite stories, make up new ones, imagine scenarios in the real world, live through success and adventures… all inside my head.
Now, on that particular night I was reliving a fantasy I’ve experienced a lot: that I wrote an amazing script for BBC’s *Sherlock* series 5, by coincidence happened to be stranded on an actor’s porch in the pouring rain, through conversation would mention that idea, the actor would fall in love with the concept and BAM, several months later, I was the show runner of series five and six of *Sherlock*. Which, since I’m me, would end with John and Sherlock getting together romantically. In my fantasy, I also direct the final two episodes.
Anyway, that’s a topic for another post.
Let’s get to my point (at long last): since I have been very active in the Johnlock Conspiracy part of the *Sherlock* fandom, me being identified as the writer would have equaled a severe spoiler. Even Jay couldn’t remain, since that would have let the internet detectives right to the real me.
That’s why, in my fantasy sequence, we agreed that I would be credited under a pseudonym. I now faced the challenge of choosing an artist’s name.
My alter ego, the ‘ideal version of myself’ from a time where I had yet to realize that the ideal version of myself is already inside me… this alter ego’s name is Alex.
(Curiously, even when I was 12, I preferred gender neutral names.)
Alright, first name chosen. But what to do about the surname?
As I explained, I had no alternative at hand.
Cue my fantasy self starting to brainstorm. If I could have any surname, *any* that I wanted, what would I chose? What sounds awesome, and also *feels* right? A name that resonates with me?
The answer came surprisingly quickly.
“Oh, I know this,” some of you might be thinking. “Because you’re a writer, and it has ‘pen’ in it. And dragon, since dragons!”
Well, not quite. I admit, I love this subtext, too.
But my response to this name has a much more emotional reason behind it.
There once was a BBC series called *Merlin* which introduced me to the brilliant actor that is Colin Morgan (playing the title character) and Bradley James, who has gone on to play Damien in *Good Omens*, and who starred as Prince Arthur Pendragon.
Being the slash writer that I am, of course I shipped them. I never wrote Merlin/Arthur fanfic, but I read a ton, and the series *Merlin* has been a tremendous influence in my life.
I particularly loved how Arthur transformed from prattish prince to the Once And Future King whom even I, an ardent pacifist, would unhesitatingly follow into battle. Arthur is flawed and not without arrogance, but he also has a huge heart and sees the good in everyone. He created the Round Table, where each member was equal, regardless of the context of their birth.
He’s the kind of character that will forever hold a place in my heart.
That settled it in my fantasy: I’d be Alex Pendragon.
In the days and weeks following this decision, I found myself wondering… in real life… what about Jay Pendragon?
I didn’t dare lean into it too much, however. Ego kicked in, logistical issues like registering a new domain and rebranding myself… too much of a hassle.
Fast forward to the present, though, and my perspective has changed. Rebranding wouldn’t be that big an issue. I can stomach 17€ a year for an additional domain. All in all, a small price to pay for having a name that truly feels like MINE.
I mentioned it to my sister on the phone today, March 31, 2019. She liked the sound of it, from what I could tell, and after we said our goodbyes, the thought wouldn’t leave my head.
Alright. Back to researching name changes.
I encountered the same financial issues as I had that first time, so I looked into registering an artist’s name instead.
The fees for that are much more feasible.
Alright. Am I really doing this?
Maybe the domain isn’t available, I thought… and checked.
But it was. JayPendragon.com was ripe for the taking.
I lay down in bed. Watched the last rays of sunshine disappear as the sun set outside my window. Imagined myself publishing works as Jay Pendragon. Living as Jay Pendragon. No more awkward name spelling moments, or trying to prevent teasing in German-speaking areas.
Words can’t express the feelings I had.
Do you know when something is just right? When you intuitively go, “HECK YEAH!” and your mind needs a bit to catch up?
That’s what it felt like.
So I just bought the domain.
Now, I’m going to tell the wonderful people who are tackling my Patreon artwork and my website.
Then I’m going to curl up with Merlin/Arthur fanfic and bask in the clarity that recovery is giving me.
This essay was written on 31.03.2019. Here’s an addendum, October 2019:
The fact that you’re reading this on my jaypendragon.com homepage is probably spoiler enough already, but yes: since that fateful day in March, I have not come to regret my decision!
What’s more, I have remained relapse-free (yay me!). As of this month, my motion to use “Jay Pendragon” as a legal artist’s name has been approved by the city of Berlin. A long journey with a very happy end, indeed.