Rambling writing alert: which means this post may become a little, well, extended.
Name change: I’ve been thinking of changing my name and I am asking for your help. Wanting a new name is not a recent thought. My closest family and friends will tell you I have been asking them for some time now to help me pick one from my list of options. Today I played around with some possibilities could not decide on something new, or if I should keep the old after all.
Why? To help me go forward in fresh start mode. To reclaim my cultural identity perhaps, by borrowing from a practice common among the calypsonians and other musicians who dominated the entertainment landscape when I was growing up – before local writers became noteworthy. The singers always had a stage name alter ego that came with a lot of braggadocio; projecting greatness, might, badass superheroes and miscellaneous other indicators of fearsomeness. Many hip hop artist who later became mega successful continued in that tradition. I have been very timid as a wannabe writer thus far and have not brought that much to market as a result. I’m thinking adopting a new name and persona will help me take off on a new trajectory.
My lack of a more significant writing output that is publicly available is to a large extent a consequence of the circumstances of place and time of my upbringing. Back then, in my small rural village on a tiny island, the notion of someone being a “writer” was not well understood and actively discouraged. I do not, however, think the caution of the elders was entirely unfounded; they were wise to the reality of what they knew around them. I am sure we know well the hardships of many struggling writers and starving artists. Besides, grants, awards, scholarships and such like that benefit the arts come from the taxes and other contributions of people who have had to work hard for a living, often in non-artistic professions. Being steered away from those ‘fanciful’ notions of being a writer is also not uncommon in the back story of many who write, so I try not to hang on to any bitterness about how the arc of my writing life has unfolded. I will be what I am to become.
Race rage: Having to learn and adjust to the realities of race relations in North America also plays a part in my desire to name change. You learn, after a lot of confusion and compromised health trying to figure out what is happening that even though you are sure you have no enemies, enemies have you. And it is often for the petty, the unbelievably foolish. I have 100 blue dresses and you have only one that fits you well; what? That should be mine. How dare you have the capabilities that should be for us and us alone. Things like that leave you feeling as if a slimy odiousness is clinging to you. I wanted to leave the me suit and its attached name tag behind with all the irrational hatred and illogical envy clinging to it.
If there is a positive side to all of those unpleasant experiences it is that I have a better understanding of mindsets and behaviours I might have otherwise denied, or blamed entirely on deficiencies of “my demographic” or put things I witnessed down to isolated incidents of individual cruelty versus a more widespread problem. I felt a new name would reenergize my writing spirit and help me rebuild my sense of self which had taken a battering. I tell you this, blessed be (Black) men forever. I had to do a lot of reconfiguring and recalibrating of what I believed about human beings, especially the ones who have had their formation in this age who are much travelled, highly educated, self-professed anti-racism and diversity believers with everything by way of material comforts. The adjustment made me lose my lifelong healthy living habits and I began to show signs of serious spread. Thank you so much to the guys who met in that 2014 to 2015 phase, or even coming towards the end of 2013, when the sprawl and other negatives started and my sense of self was at its lowest. Eternal love and adoration to the ones who managed to leave me feeling beautiful.
The real deal: For the record, I am the original and authentic Melania. I just might leak fully clothed pictures of myself on the internet to prove it. I owned that name before Mrs. Trump changed her first name to Melania and it was well known as mine when she was still an unknown quantity in the West – and that does not mean I have any disdain for Mrs. Trump. I can tell you, with 1000% confidence, everything I tag here as my own is my original writing. If you run it through a plagiarism checker and find unattributed similarities, do tell me, so I can deal with the thieving imposter. Whenever I knowingly and intentionally post excerpts from the work of another you will know because there will either be a hyperlink to source, or attribution in my copy, or quotation marks , or block quotes as per the style of WordPress,
illustrated here. If it is not so, my brain was likely tired, or the auto correct overpowered my intention or some innocent mistake. I am so afraid of having chunks of someone else’s work show up in mine without a nod to source that I will be doing a course that shows you how to imitate to avoid imitation or borrowing.
I was at a social gathering not too long ago and a theatre director joined our table. Person with me introduced us. New arrival goes, “Melania! What a beautiful name.” Then someone says something about Melania Trump, with a slightly different pronunciation of her name. Newcomer goes: Ewww that just spoiled it for me. In that moment I developed a new determination to uphold and defend my name. Meaning it’s very possible I will end up with the name I started with because my quest for a new name has nothing to do with how popular of disliked the name I was given at birth may be in the moment.
What’s my name? There was a time when I used the same name everywhere in real life and online across all my social media accounts. I thought then, as I do now, that I had done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide. But back to that point about a feature of modern life and its new professions like trolls, haters, bullies, flame throwers, hackers and spammers. Let’s say I was forced to make drastic changes online and stretch my creativity to find names I had a connection to.
I was called, very affectionately, several nicknames when I was growing up. I hated being called “Mel” up to a couple of years ago. ‘Mel’was the only one of my pet names I had hang-ups about. In my place of birth/upbringing, we speak a French Creole and there was a group of boy cousins, our closest neighbours, who teased me all the time without actually being mean. To them I was ‘Bird’ or ‘Cousin Bird’ or ‘Birdania’ because our Creole/patios name for a very common blackbird is Mel. I hated being called Mel even when I later learned that my cousins teased because they liked me. The leader of the boys still calls me Bird, but I have stopped cringing each time someone calls me Mel or Bird. As you can see, I have embraced Mel in my user name on here. Who knows, when I am out living my best writing life, I may be ‘Survivor Bird’ or ‘Bird Up-High’ or ‘Bird Soaring’ or ‘Bird Song’ or ‘Flying Bird.’ Hehe. Please help me come up with something that makes a fancy pen name.
I’m Mya: I have to tell you I already have an alternate name that is in as widespread use among close ones in my place of origin. It is Mya or Myah, oftened shortened to just plain Ya or Yah. Imagine you are shortening Melania and you keep the first letter and the last two so you have “Mia” in a location where the language everyone spoke was the French and English often took on the French/Kweyol/Creole pronunciations. French makes ‘i” = “ee/ih” and “a” = “ah”. So the “ia” at the end of my name sounds line a two syllable word (e-ah) and if you say that fast enough it sounds like ya or yah. (I still sometimes pronounce some of my ‘a’ as ‘ah’ when speaking English. I make the switch if the situation allows, otherwise I do not hurt my head too much).
So, there you have it: I was called Mya/ Myah/ Ya/Ya) and My Ya/Myaya/ My little Yah, which always quickly ended up reverting to Mya/Myah or Ya/Yah. Somewhere in my 20s I was inducted into the works of Maya Angelou, her prose before her poetry, both were significant motivators for me to write more and shapers of my writing. In that sense I feel it is kind of sacrilegious to take on the name Mya or Myah as part of my nom de plume – even though mine is not identical to hers.
Feel free to comment, email, send a message on my Contact form. Your suggestions will be much appreciated. You can even rename me Melania.