I’m suffering from an identity crisis! Throughout my life, from birth until the present day, I have been Jack to the world. One day last week, I renewed my Georgia drivers license, the one I have had since the 1950s and, in order to get a new license, I had to produce an original of my birth certificate, along with other personal identification.
This new requirement necessitated making a request and paying a fee to the state of Pennsylvania, where I was born. When the original document finally arrived, it reflected my first name as John.
The good folks at the Georgia Department of Driver Services informed me that in spite of all my documentation from the U.S. government, state and local governments and the rest of the world having known me as Jack, and all my documents reflecting me as Jack, as of the date of my license renewal, I am now known officially as “John.”
So … who in the heck am I and how do I sign my name now? Will people who know me as Jack (including my family) think I am trying to conceal my identity if I sign that I am John? I don’t even feel like John!
Oh, the agony of not knowing who you really are. All your friends are so confused by your identity crisis that they avoid you. It isn’t very comforting when all of a sudden, after a lifetime, one loses the name under which he has been known since birth. It is now a period of disorientation and confusion. Not once before have I ever been called John.
As Jack, I found myself, knew who I was, knew my values, had a positive identity. I knew the real me and felt comfortable among my peers and in my community. People knew Jack and Jack went about with confidence knowing he was easily recognizable. He has written a newspaper column for years as Jack.
As John, I hope my spouse recognizes me and will let me in the house and not think I am some stranger posing as Jack! At work my fellow officers might think I am working undercover as John, and am so into my role that I share the same body type, temperament and appearance of Jack. But, I’m John, remember? My birth certificate and the state of Georgia say so!
All my credit cards are in the name of Jack. What happens now when my Georgia drivers license is required for identity and my name shows up as John? Will confusion cause chaos? How many arguments am I facing and how many lectures must I give about Jack being a nickname for John before people accept me for who I truly am?
I never knew until I received it that my original birth certificate identified me as John. All my life (and I am a senior citizen) my family, friends and official contacts have called me Jack. My official records are in the name Jack, and until June 4, 2014 there was never a single document (other than my birth certificate) which identified me as John. Now on my new Georgia drivers license, I am John. If you call me that I may not respond, but don’t feel slighted.
I may have to frame this exclusive official designation. It may be indicative of a major change in my life. Being now called John probably won’t hurt me, but why take a chance?
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.