Here’s a thing you’re not ready for in life: The day when all of a sudden you’ll get a new name.

For years you’re walking around with your same old name and then — boom — out of the blue, there’s a change. Here’s an example: For decades our kids called me “mom” and they called their father “dad.” But then we became grandparents and got issued new names, names that now feel so permanent they might as well be on our passports.

Nowadays my husband is “Papa,” a name that for me recalls the swaggering older Hemingway, with his white beard and his Key West bar. And nowadays I am “TT,” a name for a zippy little circus monkey if ever there was one.

Of course name changes happen in other ways too, and certainly some people bring on the change themselves. I think of the singer songwriter Car Seat Headrest, who certainly wasn’t given THAT handle at birth.

Those in religious life also come to mind in this connection. A girl named Eileen Casey, say, could spend years thinking of herself that way until she the day she took the vows and became forever after Sister Sebastian, after that Christian martyr who was so shot through with arrows he looks, in all the art, like a human pincushion.

Then finally, there’s the matter of the “maiden” vs. the “married” name.

Not so long ago, a woman, upon marrying, was simply expected to hand in her maiden name like a set of expired license plates. I began teaching school mere weeks after processing down two aisles, one to get my diploma and the other to be wed, and for that whole first year schoolyear every time anyone called “Mrs. Marotta.” I’d be looking around wondering what my mother-in-law was doing at my workplace. But. There can also be an upside to the name-change-upon-marrying thing.

If, like me, you had a surname people made fun of, you might almost welcome a change. I used to be Terry Sheehy and believe me when I say that was one hard moniker to carry around. The boys called me “Terry Sherry” or “Tee-Hee Sheehy.” Or sometimes they’d just yell, “Hey, HE-She.”

I think of that girl who gave up her name at 21. I think of her as she looked in her fifth-grade school picture with her tragically flipped up bangs and that cold sore on one side of her mouth and how altogether oblivious to her imperfections she remained as she affixed baseball cards to the spokes of her bike to get that nice putt-putt sound.

I think of her eight years later, happily dressing for her senior prom, which she attended, all unselfconsciously, in a prom gown rented for $15.

Sometimes I even visit her on the top shelf of my linen closet where a version of her slumbers in the white heirloom-pack wedding dress box. I pry open the cardboard lid and through the plastic window see a version of the young woman she once was, lacy sleeves folded over beaded satin bodice, a Sleeping Beauty of an image if ever there was one.

So is Terry Sheehy gone forever then? Of course not. Think of St. Sebastian, who survived his attack and “kept on keepin’ on,” as the saying goes. Think of the former Eileen Casey who lives happily on in the nun who took his name.

We are who we always were, only kinder, as the years pass, and more forgiving.

— Contact Terry Marotta at terrymarotta@gmail.com and visit her blog Exit Only at terrymarotta.wordpress.com.