Why I Changed My First Name
Why on Earth have I “changed” my first name? Why have I gone, after 30 years, from Maria to Majo? It started with an interview I had on the podcast with Emily LaFave Olson. She went back to her maiden name after taking her husband’s name. That felt ballsy (more like ovarian!) to me. Here’s a woman who reclaims her original family name, who makes a very large statement to the patriarchy, and who works with her husband so he doesn’t feel emasculated when she takes back her maiden name.
This conversation planted a seed in my mind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a tricky relationship with my own first name “Maria José.” When I was two, we immigrated to Canada and kids made fun of my name – especially the José part because it was a boy’s name. Kids would taunt me by saying things like, "No way, José." As an immigrant trying to fit into a predominantly white English culture, I decided to cut out the José and make everybody else’s life simple – so there I was, just “Maria.” And how many immigrants or children of immigrants do you know who do this? So many beautiful names become essentially “colonized,” ripped from their mother language to make everybody else’s life easier.
At home, my parents called me by my full Argentinean name, either “Maria José” (especially when I was in trouble) or the nickname “Majo” (which is Ma from Maria, combined with Jo from José, pronounced Ma-ho), or the nickname’s diminutive “Majito.” And at home is where I felt I most belonged and could be myself. In other words, my closest family calls me Majo.
In studying the heroine’s journey, I’ve learned that whether you’re a woman, minority, or someone who doesn’t fit into the dominant paradigm or system, you have to give a part of yourself up. There’s a part of yourself you learn to suppress, repress, erase, or obliterate so that you can assimilate and get by – so that you can avoid standing out. For some of us it’s in a big way, and for some of us it’s more subtle and sneaky, like our names.
As a creative woman, maybe you too have learned to suppress your very creativity, femininity, desires, feelings, shadow, magic, or overall witchiness because mainstream society can’t handle it and because women have been hunted for it in the past. The fear is real and deep: “If I’m weird, I might be killed.”
So, the truth is I haven’t changed my name, but have reclaimed myself. And in the process, I’ve learned a lot. First, it was hard for me to let myself be messy and transitional. I experimented with both “Maria José” and “Majo” and after some time, realized that “Majo” felt better and easier in this phase of my life as it would still allow me to have representation from the feminine (Ma) and masculine (Jo) sides of myself while still leading with the feminine.
And in researching the meanings for “Majo,” I was astounded: playful predecessor to the Flamenco dancer, “witch” in Japanese (swear on the Goddess), and the title given to empress-nuns in 12th Century Tibetan Buddhism.
It was clear to me that though this is my birth name, it was also given to me now by Spirit and my ancestors as I continue to enter into more power, confidence, and wisdom.
But still, the process of going from Maria to Majo is inconvenient (think about everywhere I’m plastered online) to seemingly burdensome to other people. After all, this was changing my first name and “personal brand” – the phase has felt awkward at first for some clients, friends, and family members who have always known me as Maria. Additionally, the "j" in Majo can be confusing to many English-speakers coming across it for the first time in written form, as the Spanish "j" is pronounced as an "h" in English.
But what I’ve also learned is this: If people truly love you, they want you to change. If people want you to fit an idea they have of you, they want you to stay the same. People gravitate towards comfort, and change is uncomfortable and sometimes confusing. In a recent interview with Grace Bonney from Design Sponge (coming out in a few weeks), she shared the importance of letting yourself evolve, even under the public eye. Let your brand, let your vision, let everything that you are change and grow and evolve. Your true supporters will respect and understand that. They’ll embrace and even celebrate it.
There’s so much we “default into” in this lifetime – choices we don’t make that are authentic to our true selves, but decisions and situations we literally default into. What would it mean to question these defaults and find a way to more greatly align with our higher purpose? It’s scary and seldom done. It's a privilege, but also an inevitable outgrowth of being intentionally on the path to evolve, and definitely a part of the heroine's journey.
It’s a special, historical, and polarizing time. Women everywhere are reclaiming their maiden names and words like feminism, nasty, and pussy. Immigrants are honoring, even protecting their mother tongues, cultures, and original names. It’s an important time for us to align into greater authenticity and purpose, take a stand against hegemonic forces that impose assimilation instead of celebrating differences and diversity.
So, sisters, to conclude: I have transitioned now from Maria to Majo, so please call me Majo. Don’t worry, Maria is still in there! She’s been integrated with José now.
This explanation has been long overdue and thank you for taking the time to read. But this little change is an example of something greater, a greater pattern about becoming more of who we are.
Do not be afraid to change, even after you’ve invested so much in one direction or way of being. You can still change if it feels authentic. Take what has always been yours. Reclaim it. Share it proudly. And don’t worry about naysayers, energy-vampires, haters, backlash, and other people’s discomfort – that’s all part of the process. Your lovers and friends will stand by you.
Photo by Jaclyn Le