New York City, June 1998
Most of you don’t know that my real name, the one on my passport and driver license, is Jennifer. If I heard this name shouted across the room, I wouldn’t react. If you called out “Jenny”, however, I would probably turn my head. It’s the name I went by for the first 21 years. My family still calls me that, but very few others do.
I changed my name when I left New York on January 2nd 1992. It seemed rather compulsive, yet necessary somehow, if I wanted to make a clean break from my life and start all over, which is what I did when I moved to Olympia, Washington. I’d never set foot in Washington prior to my move. The closest I got was the summer I spent in Portland and the Oregon Coast the year before. I didn’t know anyone there. That was the point. Those last few years in New York were pretty intense – the Dinkins years weren’t the best years in the history of the city. I was getting more and more disillusioned with art school and the relationships among my tight-knit group of friends were getting convoluted and confusing. We just needed to quit each other. So I left the city, traveled for 7 months including a 3 month stay in Ohio of all places, and went back to New York in December of ’91 to pack up my things and fly out the day after New Years.
I think it was there on the plane that I decided to change my name. Little did I know back then that it would actually be so instrumental in making myself anonymous from anyone I knew prior to 1992. I haven’t had any friend requests on Facebook from my high school/Cooper Union/East Village days and you wouldn’t be able to find me if you googled my old name (see what I did there?). So aside from 1 high school friend who actually is now lost again after we reconnected for a few years (Tina, where are you?), I am not in touch with anyone from my old life anymore. When I moved back to NY 5 years later, I was anonymous in the city again.
But you all know how stupidly nostalgic I am, right?
There are only 2 people, really, from pre-1992 that I care about re-connecting with. One who actually followed me out to Olympia 2 years after I moved there – a dear old friend who has always been like a little brother to me. We lost touch when I moved down to Portland but I was ecstatically pleased to see an email from him last December when he was in town. We were just in touch again last week. This prompted me to look up the other friend who I really missed from art school (and an old roommate) who also ran in the same circles with the first friend back in the day.
You know that nervous apprehension you get when you send an email that you are just a little bit scared to send? But…a response! And a few messages back and forth and I am so happy to have him back in my life again.
Whatever I was running away from in 1992 is forgotten. I got my clean slate for both cross country moves. In this city, it is never really possible to avoid ghosts. Even driving down the LIE towards my parent’s house is like a moving window past my childhood. I can see our old apartment building over there, my elementary school a few streets down, the library, the post office and my high school a dozen exits later. Sometimes in my walks, I will spot a familiar face or ones that I feel I have seen before, somewhere. I haven’t felt so compelled to reconnect with any of these faces though, choosing instead to remember internally. Some memories are better left undisturbed. But I’m glad I reached out to my friend. It had been about 18 years. It felt good. Small steps. And I am giddy to have both these friends (hello J & B!) back in my life.
(And if I didn’t fool you with the name change and you knew me when I was Jenny, please say hi. If you want.)
Seattle, February 1992