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  • When I was eleven years old, I was in dire need of braces for my teeth, I wore glasses, was slightly chubby, I had an subtle stammer and everybody called me 'Yoyo'. And our family was about to be in shambles.


    I didn't have a feeling of control about anything in my life, which made me feel unbalanced and unhappy. Since I knew I had to wait until I was fourteen to get contact lenses, that the baby fat wasn't going to melt off in a few months, my parents weren't moving towards a reconciliation and that my stammer was as unexpected as it was frustrating, I was experiencing great discomfort. So I chose to change the one thing I had any control over: my name. Because something had to change, and I needed a statement to make it 'real'. Some sort of 'point of no return'. A beacon of hope. I didn't describe it as such (I was eleven, what do you expect). I decided to get rid of the 'Yoyo', and informed my friends and relatives that I wanted to be named Astrid, which was in fact one of my given names. My parents named me 'Astrid Jojanneke' when I was born. So it wasn't a really big shift, in my perception. But is was a spiritual choice. A choice in claiming my own destiny. Finding something I could control, all by myself. Because life was hard, at home, in school and socially. A change was needed. And it felt right.

    It appeared to be a big hurdle for most people around me. My parents respected my decision, despite the fact they always had liked 'Jojanneke'. I didn't dislike the name either. I just felt disrespected by the 'Yoyo'-callers and their bullying. And I needed something, anything, to change my luck. After a few months, I started high school. Some of the kids I had known years before, were also in my class, and remembered me by my first name. That was a bit awkward. But after a few explanations, things went back to normal. Puberty kicked in and most baby fat melted like snow in the sun. The stammer increased severely, after losing my parents when I was fourteen years old. Contact lenses made life a bit more bearable, and years went by.

    Years later, when I graduated from college and got my first few jobs, the millennium switch was near. I was reflecting on where I was at that point in my life. I was about to turn twenty-five, was living with my fiance, baby fat was gone, stammered only on days of stress, and my glasses were long forgotten. My parents weren't forgotten, though. I missed them. But still, I was in a good place. I thought: this is a good moment to reclaim my name. I'm Okay Now. To me, changing back to my first given name was coming home to myself. And so, fourteen years after my first switch, I announced I reclaimed my given name Jojanneke, in January 2000.

    Last week, one of my friends told me that one of my classmates from college, who I'd never really been the best of friends with, had heard about my name change back in 2000. She had never known me as Jojanneke to begin with, so to her it came out of nowhere. "Weird. She's so WEIRD!"

    When you're not interested in somebody, it's easy to be judgmental, not to ask about someone's motivation for a big change like a name switch. That's much easier than making the small effort to ask why somebody makes a decision like that. To try to understand. The discomfort of actually considering the reason or validity of my choice was too much to ask. In a way, this illustrated my experiences in my years in college, years of uneasiness. I could imagine the sound of her voice. Some things never change, and this obviously was one of those things.

    "Weird. She's so WEIRD!"

    Today I found a quote on Pinterest. I tried to get to the source, the maker of the image. Couldn't find it. So I'm going to post the picture here. Because it's so witty and true.

    Weird. And confident about it. YoYo!
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