When I meet people and say, "Hi, I'm Ellany" they'll usually comment that it's a beautiful name or a very unique name. I always smile, "Thank you," and once in a while I add, "I chose it." The curiosity on their face begets the story of why I legally changed both my first name and last name.
1. NO RESONANCE WITH MY BIRTH NAME
When I was in elementary school, in first and second grade, I remember my teachers whispering about me. They'd call me by my birth name and I wouldn't respond. Also my parents put me in a francophone school without my knowing a single word of French. So it was likely a mix of not knowing what the teachers were saying and having no resonance whatsoever with that name.
It wasn't even a name that my parents chose. An aunt happen to be visiting and suggested it. Shouldn't a name, an identity, be of your own free choice?
Looking back, I'm grateful I grew up poor because our school didn't have staff/resources to label me as "special needs" or mentally challenged for not responding to my birth name.
2. A GRAND GESTURE TO LIBERATE TRAUMA
I was a very, very sensitive child and that made me a HUGE walking target for bullies. They loved pulling squinty eyes, massacring my birth name and taunting me with ching-chang-chong songs of my name. Monkey face boy bullied me extra hard in elementary school because, well, his face and ears looked like a monkey, so he offloaded all his hurt and being mocked onto me. The bullying continued in high school from girls who envied my straight A's. Instead of studying as hard as I did, it was easier to offload their shame onto me.
In my mid to late 20's, I figured I could change my last name when I got married. For a moment, I did wonder if I could slip a $20 to the name change office and get my first name changed too. And never thought about it again.
It was 25 years later, after my Somatic Experiencing coach helped me heal two and a half decades of accumulated PTSD, that I decided to mark this overcoming, this re-birth with a grand gesture. What could I do to sear into my psyche and my bones the remembrance of this liberation, of this re-birthing of my soul?!? And bam, it hit me, legally change my first and last name to my soul's true name, of course!
3. TRAILBLAZING WOMEN PAVED THE WAY
A bestie I met at coach training was going through a divorce. So she used that opportunity to change her last name, not back to her maiden name, but to her sister's first name, in loving memory of her sister. Woah, you can do that?!? Oh, I remember looking at her with starry eyes, like she was the coolest person on the planet. If she could do it, i could do it.
Then my massage therapist, even knowing it would topsy turvy her brand and business, changed her first and last name. She didn't die. After a few months, an updated website and some new business cards, work resumed. She not only survived the name change, but thrived even more. Wow, seeds of possibility hand been sewn in my psyche. If she could do it, i could do it.
I asked and she said that she consulted a numerologist to help her. I looked them up and learned about the mathematical and harmonic relationship between the letters of the alphabet in a name. Some letter combos create dissonance like that scratchy erh-erh-erh sound when an orchestra is tuning their instruments; other letter combos create harmony like music that brings you to tears.
4. NO ONE LEFT TO SHAME ME
By now, all grandparents on both sides of my family had passed away. My dad passed away suddenly. So there’s literally no one left to shame me for wanting to let go of my birth name and embrace my soul's name.
My mom told me that my name meant "rich", of substance, as in a rich coffee. But when I actually looked it up in my 30's, I discovered that it meant:
depressed, melancholic, blue
<insert hysterical laughter and tears> It explains soooooo much! It explains why I cried soooooo much through out my life, why grief was my constant companion for almost 3 decades.
By shedding my birth name, I would discover two years later that I was also shedding the intergenerational trauma of my culture, the emotional wounds of my upbringing, and the martyrdom of filial piety.
5. HEARING THE NAME OF MY SOUL
I had a wide open highway of possibilities in front of me. What name to choose?!? I browsed through a few lists of baby names online. Nothing caught my eye. And given how this is a grand celebration of my soul coming of age, I was 99% sure using the ration mind, spreadsheets, pro/con lists, and polling friends wasn't the solution.
Instead, every night, I said a little prayer, "Show me your name." Sure enough, 2.5 months later, as I was folding laundry on a regular day in Portugal, the name Ella flew into my consciousness. Boom, that's it! My cells sang, my bone marrow danced and all my goose bumps rejoiced.
6. BECOMING WHOLE AND FULL
For my entire existence up until that point, whenever I said my birth name, I was always asked, "Is that short for something?" It made me feel like my being was a diminutive, inadequate and lacking.
So I thoroughly knew that Ella was a nickname for my soul's full name. I then consulted my massage therapist's numerologist, to make sure that my new name had full harmony within the composition of its letters. After 4 rounds of harmonic name generation reports, I saw Ellayn as an alternative spelling of Elaine. I swapped the last two letters and boom, more cells singing, bone marrow dancing and goose bumps rejoicing!
My last name was a bit trickier. I was ready to shed my birth last name which was riddled with duty, strife, duty, martyrdom, duty, suffering, and duty. So I reverse engineered the mathematical algorithm the numerologist used, eliminated all the letters that was not in harmony with my first name, and came up with Lea (pronounced Lee). It means: light and bringer of good news.
Ellany Lea, that name filled me with grace. It honored the gifts of my Chinese heritage: grit, discipline, and frugality. But it washed away the shadows of my culture: scarcity, martyrdom and filial piety.
I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR THAT
Many stories I tell include the words, "I have a spreadsheet for that!" and my friends aren't surprised, "I'm sure you do, Ella."
When I walked in to the police station, and found out that I could request a form, pay $50 and get my name changed, I just about died. Really, it's THAT easy?!? I wanted to run into every wedding venue and shout "Guys, guys, you can get your name changed for $50!! Don't marry, there's a far cheaper way to change your identity. Fifty dollars is all it takes! It's NOTHING compared to the emotional hell and economic crisis of a divorce."
Once I received my name change certificate, I updated my birth certificate, then used those two documents to update my driver’s license. With those three documents, all other documents are like domino pieces falling elegantly one after another. My spreadsheet looked like this:
|ID / Document||Date Applied||Date Obtained||Comment|
|Name change certificate||YY/MM/DD||YY/MM/DD||Primary doc|
|Birth certificate||YY/MM/DD||YY/MM/DD||2 weeks to process|
|Driver's license||YY/MM/DD||YY/MM/DD||6 days to process|
|Passport||YY/MM/DD||YY/MM/DD||10 days to process|
Let two months pass and all documents were mailed back to me with my updated name.
COMING OF AGE RITUAL
I was Skyping my friend M and she thought I had updated my Facebook with my new "persona," she didn't realize that I legally changed my first and last name.
I don't know where the words come from, but I said, "It's not about identification. It's about acknowledging my soul."
Women have been subjugated to the 3P's of Patriarchy for far too long: please, perform, perfect. It would be another 3 years until I realized the full significance of what I had just done:
- I had united my inner, outer, past, present self and future selves.
- I had reclaimed my power from Patriarchy's 3P's
- I had severed karmic bonds from generations and generations of martyrdom in my family lines
She said f*ck it and she lived happily ever after.
Live fierce and free,
(First Published Feb 20, 2017)
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