My name is Wanda. Well, my real name isn’t Wanda. Let me explain. When I was ten years old I decided that my real name wasn’t so great and I wanted to change it. My real name was popular in the 70’s thanks to a well-known band and their one hit wonder about a sea captain and his favorite portside wench. My real name was also very popular with dogs, as in I shared the same name with many dogs. It was particularly popular with Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers. Can you imagine what it’s like to go over to your friend’s house for the first time to meet their family, and then while scratching their dog on the head hear them say, “Oh, our dog’s name is ______too!” It happened to me all the time, and at the tender age of ten this bothered me. (Due to this childhood trauma, I have a strict policy of only naming my animals after literary characters or historical figures).
Why couldn’t I have a more interesting name? Like Kelly, Heather or Wanda. Wanda sounded very exotic and exciting to me at the age of ten. It was exciting in an earthy, trailer-court-living sort of way. I’m not kidding, and I’m not making fun of trailer courts. At the age of ten, trailer courts fascinated me, and in the Midwest trailer courts were plentiful. The houses were on wheels for God’s sake! Some were on cement blocks or permanent foundations, but still, can you imagine being able to move your house? To a ten year old that shit was fantastic! And I wanted to be fantastic too.
So one night I asked my mother if I could legally change my name to Wanda. My Mom just smiled at my request and said, “Sure honey, whatever you want. But why don’t you take some time and really think about it before we do anything permanent, okay?” If you knew my mother, this incredibly adult and rational response would shock you, and I guess it shocked me into putting some thought into it as well. Obviously, my mother did not let me change my name and I eventually forgot about it and moved on.
But here I am many years later, and I will never forget that feeling of wanting to be better than I was. I will never forget wanting to be different. Not in a stand-out-in-the- crowd way, but just to be different than how I perceived myself to be. I wanted to be brave enough to try new and challenging things without the fear of rejection or failure. I wanted to be as good, special or talented as I perceived other people to be. I did not want to be compared to dogs. (I should say that I do really love animals, but to a ten year old, continuous dog comparisons were not good for my self-esteem).
I realize now as an adult that we rarely see ourselves as others see us, despite our talents, intellect, how we’re raised or what we’re told about ourselves. And I believe that if we knew how others saw us, we would probably be well and truly shocked, in both good ways and bad. But regardless, we all have that deep down desire to be better or different in some way. We have that desire to challenge ourselves to be more than we thought we could be. It doesn’t have to be epic. It just has to move you in a way that propels you forward, toward something that helps you to learn, or evolve, or be happy and find peace within yourself. That deep seeded desire is my Wanda.
Four years ago I left my previous career after the birth of my second child and moved to a new city for my husband’s job. Somehow, I failed to find my balance in this life change, and for the past four years I have felt adrift and at a complete loss as to how to anchor myself again. It sort of feels like leaving my career and devoting my life to my family somehow negated that part of me that is uniquely me. I lost my Wanda.
I adore my family and I believe that my contribution as a stay home mother is important and has value. But any stay home parent will tell you that choosing this path, while very rewarding, also has its own challenges. It’s hard to feel accomplished and like you have contributed something important to the world when you spend your day cooking, chasing children, doing housework, homework and folding endless loads of laundry. My family might be better for it, but some days I feel like I’m drowning.
My husband presented me with the idea of writing a blog. He recognized that I needed a creative outlet and my own small way to reclaim my sense of self. Immediately, the under-achiever in me (who I do not reward by giving a special name) felt unsafe and insecure. I am not a writer. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? How could I write anything that hasn’t already been written about by many other people, who probably said it so much better than I can? Then my Wanda reared up her head and pointed out that I needed to get over it already and just write the damn thing because it would be a fun thing to do and I would enjoy it. But what if nobody reads it? And then my Wanda said, “Who the fuck cares?”
So here I am, writing a blog. It’s time to try something different and to challenge myself to be more. This year I resolve to embrace my Wanda! I pledge to follow that saucy bitch wherever she leads me. I have spent four years thinking about the direction of my life and making no choices because all my choices seemed so intimidating or unreachable. But those choices don’t have to be epic, right? They just have to propel me forward.
My name is Brandi, but this is about the discovery of a girl named Wanda.