Dear friends, strangers, alien life forms and others!
This is my third attempt to write about the dinosaur-sized change I have made to my life. I have explained it to friends a few times, yet actually forming a piece of writing about the subject has proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. Finally, I think my brain and fingers are cooperating, and I can now share this event with the rest of the world.
I have not made it a secret here that Ellie is not my real name. It is a pseudonym that I have used to create my online presence. My real name is not only far longer, but as I grow older my name has become less mine and more of a collar around my neck that is attached to the leash of my abusers. I cannot use my real name online because I do not wish my many abusive family members to find me, which is unfortunate, because I go by so many different names online that I have began to feel scattered through the ether. So, I have created change. Before I go forward into it, though, allow me to go back.
It was made clear to me very early in my life that my family despised my name. My mother constantly reminded me that she did not choose the name for me, but that my father forced her to give it to me. My family shortened my name right from the start, never giving me a choice of what version I’d like to go by. I was given the impression as a small child that it was not worth saying my whole name, and that I was not important enough for others to take the five seconds it took pronounce my five syllables. The shortened version of my name was not only easier to say and write for others, but it sounded far less ethnic, which was seen as a positive change to my biracial yet oddly racist family.
My name did not match anyone else’s in my home. My grandparents and my mother had one surname, while my siblings had another. I was the only one in my family with a strange first name and my father’s last name. I remember many days when I was under the age of ten, feeling distraught every time my name was used. I would beg my mother with tears in my eyes to do whatever it took to change my name and make me more like my siblings or her family. Of course, my pleas were always ignored. I didn’t fit in at school or at home because of my name, my looks, my illnesses, and my personality. No matter where I went, I was different. The kind of different people say in whispers through teeth, not the kind that’s glorified and admired.
As I got older my name began to sound more and more like pieces of broken glass rubbing together whenever it was used. My family commanded my name much in the same way they commanded our pet dog, which was only one of the many reminders my mother and brother presented to me to prove that I was worthless, a nothing, and a “zero”. I remember the few times I spoke to my father and how my name slithered out through the phone speaker, making me cringe. My family rarely, if ever, used my name affectionately, and as I grew, my name became infested with poison and pain. I was shown very little love throughout my life, and the sound of my name only would cut my wounds a little bit deeper.
When I moved to Missouri I attempted to use the full version of my name, hoping that because my family never spoke it, it would make me feel more like myself. Instead, it felt even more heavy, and just as sick. I felt utterly hopeless; what is one to do when their own name makes their stomach twist with rage and makes them feel forlorn? We are always told that our names impact our lives, and that they were given to us for important reasons; yet while I am sure there is beauty in my name, I have never once felt it.
Recently, I was watching a YouTube video of Panic! At the Disco performing a fabulous cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the most famous songs of all time by one of the most famous bands of all time, the almighty Queen. Queen’s lead, Freddie Mercury, is an inspiring figure for dozens of reasons. However, on this particular February day, he inspired me in such an unexpected way that when the idea filled my head I thought I might simply pop. Freddie Mercury’s real name is Farokh Bulsara; he changed it to Freddie Mercury not only because he became a superstar, but because he found it more fitting than his birth name.
And then, I was struck; famous people change their names all the time. I may not be famous, but where is a rule saying that I cannot do the same?
And so, this idea went quickly from idea to action, and I became obsessed with the idea of changing my name to something that was fitting to the person that I am bursting into. A name that was not forced onto me by those who have abused me, but one which would warm me to my core every time it was spoken. But how in the actual fuck do I change my name? Where would I even begin this journey?
Well, it began with Ellie. The name Ellie was bestowed upon me by a friend that I made on a flight from Arizona to Florida. I was sitting on the plane, watching people file on board as they so awkwardly do, when a tall redhead with glasses stopped at my row and sat down beside me. He immediately begin to speak to me, and within the five hours that it took to fly to Florida, we became very good friends. He decided to call me Ellie because he couldn’t figure out the pronunciation of my birth name (an issue I suffered from all too often), and I found it fitting since the charming character from Up was his main inspiration.
We conversed about an array of topics, spreading from Spider-Man to cooking to eventually, my illnesses. I admitted to my new friend that I often felt that my illnesses were the only interesting qualities about me, because they consumed so much of my being that there wasn’t room for much else. He promptly replied, “You mean to tell me that for the last few hours we talked about comic books, music, and food, and if you weren’t sick, you wouldn’t have been able to talk about those things? That’s bullshit. You’re far more than your illnesses.” This response ignited a beautiful spark within me; never had a person so bluntly proved me wrong.
Once I began to blog and create an online presence, I used the name Ellie because not only was it fitting, but it was enveloped in affection and positivity. Now, deciding to change my name, it seemed only fitting to make my name Ellie. But this name was not enough. I wanted an elongated version of my new name, and of course, I needed a last name as well. To the internet!
I researched for several days and found the name Eleanore. The name is Greek, translating to “The bright and shining one” or “bright and shining.” A somewhat old fashioned name, the name not only fit my personality, my nickname, and sounded lovely to me, but the meaning of the name seemed perfectly fitting for someone such as myself who has lived a heavy life of darkness, and who has strived to be a guiding light for not only myself, but for those I love.
As silly as it may be to admit, once I settled on this name, I actually stood in front of a mirror and repeated it out loud. Could this name really be what my friends would call me? Did it feel like I could make a home with it, and lead my life wearing this name like a crown, rather than the choking collar that I was so used to? The more I thought, the more I said it, the more the name felt like it belonged to me. I was falling in love, for the very first time, with myself.
The mystery of the first name had been solved, but the case of the missing surname had now begun. I contemplated what my surname should be, and came up with nothing but blank, confused faces. I didn’t even know how people got surnames. So, as any confused person would do, I internet-ed the fuck out of the subject to see what I could find. It didn’t lead me very far, but I did come to the conclusion that my surname could be, basically, whatever the hell I wanted. I wanted my name to flow, and to mean something important. Many meanings could ideally go along withe Eleanore, “bright and shining,” but I didn’t want just any name. I wanted nothing less than a name that was as “me” as possible. I clicked through dozens of name websites until I came across the name Estelle, a French name that translates to “star.” Considering I have an affinity for space (and the letter “E,” as I found out through this journey), it seemed natural that something related to the ever expanding universe was a part of me.
Eleanore Estelle. The name, together meaning “bright and shining star,” caused my heart to pump out pure joy into my veins. This was it. This was me.
I excitedly wrote a letter to a handful of my very closest friends, explaining not only why I had decided to change my name, but how I came to be Eleanore Estelle. Nervously, I awaited their reactions. Part of me thought they would be overwhelmingly supportive, since many of those close to me know that I have been abused most of my life, especially psychologically, which can obviously impact every part of a person, including their name. Yet another bit of me was anxious, wondering if they would understand my decision and take me seriously. I began to have several bursts of doubt, but each time, I would compare my birth name to my new name,and the results consistently brought me confidence and peace. Those emotions were only amplified by the replies of my dearest friends, a few of which wrote me back some of the sweetest words I could ever dream of reading; “I love you, Ellie.”
I am proud and elated to announce that officially, my name is Eleanore Estelle, Ellie for short, and I am so pleased to be me.
Soon I will make this “Facebook Official,” which of course, is the final step (I say with a tinge of sarcasm, mind you). The more those I love call me Eleanore, the more I feel as if I am falling comfortably into everything that I am. My friends affectionately call me by my new name, and every time it leaves their lips it feels like a sweet, fresh wind.
I am incredibly pleased with my decision, and while I am sure not everyone I know will understand, I only hope that understanding or not, they are able to accept and support me. After all, that’s all I ever hope for; to be unconditionally loved. However, I now see how strange it is for me to ask that of others when I never unconditionally loved myself. My changed name and changed home are two massive changes made to my life that despite being new, have already impacted me in a thousand brilliant little ways. I would be lying if I said changing my name fixed everything, or made me love myself completely; It certainly does not. But these differences are the catalyst to being able to live the life I have craved since the day I was brought into this universe. One that is not only at times challenging and painful, but a life that is inspired, beautiful, and altogether wondrous.
It’s bugging me, grating me, and twisting me around.
Yeah I’m endlessly caving in, and turning inside out.’cause I want it now, I want it now,
Give me your heart and your soul.
And I’m breaking out, I’m breaking out,
Last chance to lose control.