Photograph by Anna Gallo
I admit it. I have most likely caused a genealogical glitch for future generations researching our family tree. I have changed my surname, and it has no connection with any other surnames who have come before me. But if that future family researcher in my line is smart and intuitive, which I sincerely hope they will be, perhaps they will look up the meaning of my new name and get a glimpse into my character, learning more about me from that name than they would from a census record, occupation list, or inherited surname whose origin is perhaps lost, or no longer represents the person who carries it.
Native Americans have a wonderful tradition of changing or taking on new names, often after a significant event or realization in their lives. Their names are fluid. They see themselves as representing something they have achieved or a character trait that has been bestowed upon them. They see a name as something that is, like all of us, changeable. I love that!
Two years ago, I decided to leave behind the surnames I had carried. There were major changes in my life and I wanted my name to reflect that, and perhaps reveal something about my personality, something deep inside waiting to be revived. Being a mix of many ethnicities, as many Americans are, I decided to research meanings of surnames from the cultures of my ancestors. Welsh, English, Irish, German, Native American… the list is fairly long. In my search, I found a Native American first name with which I seemed to identify. I took it as my last name.
I don’t think I was aware of Native American naming traditions until after I had changed my name. I remember listening to a Native American talk about his name change and was I was so excited to realize that I had intuitively done something that people of this cultural background have done for generations. Something that seemed so important to me had a long tradition.
So I did it. In 2015, I changed my last name to the Native American first name, Adoette. It has a few meanings and the ones that resonate with me are... strong like a tree, or someone who shows a spiritual kinship with nature. The name feels perfect. It reflects the spirit that I was given at a young age, and encourages me to continue to be that person I was created to be.
I didn’t realize how powerful a name change could be. Almost immediately after I filed the official paperwork, after I said to myself and the world, “This is who I am. This is me," things began to change. My artistic voice, which I had lost for a few decades, returned. And it returned strong. I found new friends who supported me and my new pursuits. And the life choices I began to make were decisions that nurtured my true spirit. So many meaningful things have happened since I remembered who I am and said to the world, “I am Adoette”.
If you were to change your name, if you were brave enough to say to the world “Hey! This is me. This is who I was made to be,” how would you introduce yourSELF? What major events in your life have helped you find your “youness”? What qualities, known or unknown to the world, would you present in a true introduction. You may not go to the Social Security Administration to legally change your name as I did, but an exercise in introspection can be a very powerful experience that can start a chain reaction both internally and externally in your life. It is a way to honor yourself and honor the One who created you. Allow yourself to introduce yourSELF.
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Copyright 2017 by Beth Adoette