My name is perhaps the most important part of my identity.
For me, my name represents the title to a filing cabinet that possesses everything I am. In that way, it makes me incredibly unique. It feels as if I am the only Tyler Perez, or at least the only one to think, act, speak and exist in the exact way I do.
As a child, I never questioned my name, where it comes from or how it became so inextricably attached to my identity. I simply accepted it as such, and if somebody were to finally explain the history and background of my name to me, it might have felt like an attack on my identity.
This is how I felt when I learned in elementary school that the man who raised me all my life is actually my stepfather and my last name is actually a relic of my biological father.
Over time, I’ve learned about my biological father’s negative past with our family, making my last name feel more and more like a bad tattoo, an unerasable memory of a dark time. The man who shares my last name abandoned our family when I was only weeks old, leaving my mother to care for two boys on her own.
Since then, we’ve heard very little from him, but my last name is a constant reminder of his awful betrayal of our family.
My mother is the strongest person I’ve ever known, and she cared for my brother and me on her own while working steady jobs at a young age. She met my stepfather, who raised me since I was barely a year old and who I refer to as my dad.
They married when I was in middle school, which was around the time I started to understand the difference between my father and my biological father. It was around this time I had to make a difficult choice: to change my last name to match my mother’s new one or keep the one I was given.
I had to take some time to question the nature of my identity.
How important was my last name in the fabric of my identity? If I changed my last name to my father’s, would I be a new person? Was my life really that contingent on the five letters that follow my first name?
At the same time, I knew how much my name meant to me. It defines me, even if it includes a part of the past I would like erased.
When my mother got remarried almost a decade ago, she took my stepfather’s name, and the question was whether my brother and I would follow in her footsteps.
I decided to keep my last name and have since continued living my life as Tyler Perez.
I could never change such a critical part of my identity. My name has become emblematic of who I am, and I wasn’t going to change it merely because someone else ruined it for me.
I couldn’t allow someone else’s mistakes to permanently change my identity, even though I can see why others might choose to do so.
My name for all of my life has been Tyler Perez, and it will continue to be until I die. It’s not because I feel some emotional attachment to the person who gave me the name, but because I feel an emotional attachment to every experience I’ve had while holding that name. From creative writing awards to college acceptance letters, so much of my life has occurred with the name Tyler Perez, and I see something too special to change about that.
The story of my life has for so long been penned by Tyler Perez. To suddenly change the name of the author feels like a threat to my identity.
Regardless of the history behind the five letters of my last name, it will continue to be a beautiful label plastered to everything I have done and will do.