When I got married 11 years ago, I was depressed, ashamed, and feeling like I had no opportunities left — in the way only a 25-year-old can feel.
I had always planned to keep my maiden name, which was Seefeldt, but I also planned to be a successful academic with a published work or two under my belt by the time I got married. Instead, I was a grad school drop out working as a retail manager earning less than $30,000 per year.
When I met my husband, I was so depressed that I hadn’t been able to eat solid food in about a week. My weight had plummeted and, instead of a solid size 8 and 145 pounds as I’d been most of my life, I was struggling to keep my size 0 pants on my boney frame. I was a complete mess.
Marrying my husband — in my tortured mind — seemed like the only solid opportunity I had left.
Of course, when you’re that depressed and unwell, making the decision to get married is never a good one. You could be marrying the best person on earth, even the best possible match for you, and you’d be in trouble.
But marry I did.
I was pregnant — by choice and plan but, again, after a life-to-that-point of not wanting children — within 3 months.
While pregnant with my daughter, I was put on Zoloft in an attempt to quell the early symptoms of prenatal depression. It worked beautifully. The medication took the edge off and helped me to see new possibilities. I started to feel more in control, more confident, and more capable again.
This state of mind helped me make room for starting a small business — the business that has grown into What Works. I started doing things that made me feel like me again — writing, reading, and thinking.
At the same time, it became clear that my marriage was just not going to work. It was a rough time and I didn’t handle it very maturely — but eventually, we made the mutual decision to split up.
This was a really positive step in the right direction, even if it caused some logistical difficulties initially.
One such difficulty was realizing that I had started to build a brand and a reputation with a name that didn’t feel like my own — Gentile. I considered changing it as we finalized our divorce but going back to Seefeldt seemed like a domain name nightmare and I wasn’t creative enough come up with something on my own!
That was then. This is now.
When I created my 2018 goal list, I put changing my last name on it — along with climbing a V5-graded boulder problem (done), doing 10 unassisted pull-ups (I’m at 6), running a sub-30-minute 5k (I did 28:18 last month), and hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park (on the schedule).
Even if my long-time partner and I weren’t going to get married, I was going to change my name to something else.
Well, we are getting married in 2 weeks and, luckily, marriage makes the paperwork a little easier.
We toyed with the idea of both of use changing our names but, in the end, I decided on simplicity and doing — for the second — the decidedly un-modern thing of taking his last name.
Starting June 28, I’ll begin the transition to calling myself Tara McMullin.
Personally, this was an easy decision. Professionally, it causes me anxiety.
I’ve spent the last decade building name recognition, credibility, and a reputation as Tara Gentile. I’ve done podcast interviews, spoken at events, been a featured expert, written books, and been a bestselling business instructor on CreativeLive.
As the time for the change looms large on my schedule, it’s finally starting to sink in how big of an undertaking this is.
Some of the changes will be (or have been) easy. I’ve changed email addresses already. I’ll redirect my personal website to one with my new name. I’ll take on new social media handles.
But there will doubtlessly be difficult changes, too. The difference now is that I am fit — mentally, physically, and business-wise — and ready to tackle the challenge.
Yesterday, I asked a group that we run to consider the stories they have around themselves and their businesses. I realized today, reading through their reflections on our discussion, that this is my opportunity to write a new story for myself and this is just the prologue.
Who will Tara McMullin be as a leader, an executive, and a movement maker?
What story will she live? How will she create the change she wants to see in the world?
I think I’ll spend the next couple of weeks figuring that out.