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  1. Every time they ask for your date of birth and name, try a different name. See if they will still give you the same meds. (Did you know they have to do this with SALINE?!)
  2. Hijack a wheelchair. Go forth and enjoy life on the un-carpeted floors.
  3. Miss your animals like crazy.
  4. When they ask you if you want saltines or graham crackers, choose graham crackers. What they’re not telling you is that the graham crackers are teddy grahams. (WIN!)
  5. Don’t even attempt to sleep. Chances are your bed will adjust every five minutes you sit still.
  6. Watch the Disney channel. If you’re like me, you’re probably the only person on the entire floor watching Good Luck Charlie.
  7. Try to enjoy wearing the sexy night wear known as a hospital gown. If you’re lucky like me, it’ll even be a bit broken. Do not worry, this only adds to the sex appeal. Who isn’t attracted to a loose-fitting gown that allows the occasional view of a breast? That’s what I thought.
  8. Enjoy the view of your ER doctor. There’s not much else to do in the mean time, anyway.
  9. Don’t freak out about the iodine contrast. It feels like the way a shot of borboun feels in your stomach, but all over your body. Warm.
  10. Never let people make fun of you for how heavy your purse is ever again. You never know when the iPad you carry everywhere will come in handy. Better yet, you might as well carry a phone charger in there too.
  11. Smile at strangers. It’s a little overwhelming there.
  12. Be nice to your nurses. Unless, of course, they’re the evil kind.
  13. If they ask if you want a turkey sandwich or graham crackers, take the graham crackers. The turkey sandwich tastes like yeast. (Did I mention they’re Teddy Grahams?)
  14. Don’t call the hospital asking for someone who doesn’t want to see you. They will call security on you. (Yikes!)
  15. If you have to be wheeled around in your hospital bed, at least ask them to go faster. Make a ride out of it.

I bothered with a lot of anonymity in my last post, though it wouldn’t be hard to find me. But here’s the difficulty I’ve had lately:

What name do I want to publish with? Am I truly going to go forth with J.D. McLaughlin? Or will it be Jessica McLaughlin? My legal name?

I can tell you this–it will not be made up. It will not be based on the name I will share with my future-husband. It will be my name, I’m just having trouble deciding which.

If you search the internet for my legal name, the first few pages will be me. The later pages will likely be references to me, and then slowly it will filter out the hyphenated name combination. You will be able to find (though not see) my Facebook page. You will be able to see where I went to school, what my major/minor was, any papers I presented. You will be able to find out where I went to high school. Where I last worked. Once upon a time, you would have found my phone number, my address, my boyfriend’s name, my mother’s name, my father’s name, my childhood address–all without even having to pay for it. I’ve done considerable work to stop the latter from happening.

It’s not that I think you are a stalker, but that I’ve dealt with a stalker’s likeness before and I’m not sure I want to repeat it. (That’s a story for another day. All I can say is ditch any “crazy” you are dating right now! We both know you can see the warning signs.)

At any rate, I’m very easy to find. But that’s not even why I am using J.D. McLaughlin. It comes down to one thing:

My career.

It feels silly saying career like I actually intend on having one. I suppose I do. I’d like to make more money, be successful at what I do. Add value to a company, teach others. But the other side of me wishes that I could work from home, or exercise and write from home. That’s not the reality for me, and I wasn’t raised to have that.

I wish.

But I guess I would, one day, like to have a career of sorts. And just as strangers can find my name anywhere, so can employers.

Let’s be honest. I don’t write erotica, but I’m not a prude. I don’t write anything overtly political; I try to keep my personal beliefs mostly quiet; I try to be diplomatic about my interactions with all people. But sometimes what I write is dark, and you never know how a future employer might view what you have on the Internet, whether it’s a story or a harmless Twitter post using a bad word.

Some companies even try to get their employee’s passwords to be able to see what they’re not showing everyone.

That, to me, is the danger of the Internet and my name.

Having said that, when my story was published at Kazka Press, I shared it with one of my close co-workers, and she shared it with a few more. It ended up being shared with a project manager and no one seems to like me any less since, and everyone was very congratulatory even if they didn’t “get it.” So there’s something to be said for that, which is that support can take you a long way.

I’m going to be giving up a lot by not using my name. Like I said–one search of my name and the first few pages are all me. I could make it easy to find anything I’ve written, anything I’m talking about. It’s like using search engine filters but only using three names and a hyphen, all without quotes. Plus, I have a stack of business cards all with my legal name on them.

But I need to choose soon–now. I’ve already started my way down this windy path of J.D. McLaughlin, and I’m going to have to earn my keep there to make it so that every search brings you to me on the first few pages. Or I’m going to have to change my name here going forward.

I wonder if anyone else has these questions?

It’s not about pride or shame. I will share my work with others and I will promote it and I will do everything I need to (once it’s written, of course). It’s about protecting myself and realizing that I am still very young, I have a lot of life ahead of me, and life is expensive. As you may know or realize, as the case may be, writing rarely pays well.

Also, even if you have a relatively common last name, think of someone you know with a remotely unique name. Search them on Google. It is frighteningly easy to find people, even if you know only a detail or two. And even more frightening is how difficult it is to get information about yourself off the internet and out of search engines.

Trust me. I’ve tried.

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