One of the first questions I get asked after introducing myself to someone is "huh"? I'd love to give my parents credit as being incredibly progressive in their naming abilities, but I became "Reb" when I started college. During this transitional time between childhood and adulthood, it was appropriate for me to also give myself my own name. What I didn't realize was it was an early experiment in my own personal branding.
My legal first name is Rebecca, a name found in the Bible, of English origin, and rhymed with my two older sisters' names, so it checked off my parents' boxes. I went by "Becca" in grade school and high school, primarily because there was always another Rebecca in the classroom. I always hated the nicknames "Reba" and "Becky", both because they were bestowed upon me by other people and the cultural connotations of both (Oh my god, Becky...).
When I went to college, I found an independence I didn't have in my small suburban town and really found myself among peers for the first time (You also read Pitchfork? ) I remember one of my dearest friends looking at me saying "You're too unique to be any old Becca. From now on you're Reb." I loved it. It's not a common nickname for Rebecca, so it served as a blank canvas for me to express myself.
Going by Reb has worked well for me in unexpected ways. First, whenever I introduce myself to someone else, they always have to ask me what my name is again. Whether at networking events or at parties, it was a great way to guarantee people remember me. When I was building my first blog and registering my social media channels for the first time, I googled my full name. What I found was an endless collection of Madonna's face. Evidently, Madonna played a character with my full name in the movie Body of Lies. I thought, no matter what I did in life, I would never beat Madonna. As of now, I'm still the only Reb Carlson in marketing on the Internet.
Something else I didn't intend when going by Reb is that because it's a gender neutral name, anyone who connected with me through email first wouldn't realize I was a woman. I've had multiple phone conversations start with "Is this Reb? Oh, I thought you were a man." I don't have evidence that this opened any additional doors for me that I wouldn't have otherwise, but I'd like to think it prevented people from having a pre-conceived notions about me before speaking.
When I got married, I was frequently asked about whether I was changing my last name, to which I responded, joking, that I should look into doing a rebrand. I was "officially" an old married woman (at 30), so maybe it might be a right time to go by Rebecca with my new last name. I'm saving that paperwork for another day.