“I’ve always wanted to change my name”.
I said this to a girl I’d never met before on overhearing a discussion about her name — YoYo. It was a Friday evening, just after 8, and we’d been dancing for the past two hours in a 5 Rhythms practice.
“Why don’t you?” she responded. For me, changing my name felt like an almost guilty desire, not something I’d ever do, just a vague, impossible dream.
“I don’t really mind my name .. and I don’t know what I’d change it to..” She was super focused on me.. “and I’ve always been worried about upsetting my mum”.
She wasn’t letting go “Come up with a name right now”. I scanned my brain, which instantly went into shutdown. It was too big a decision to make on the spot. “I can’t think of one right now. I’ll think about it when I go home”.
Back at home, showered and warm, I sat down at my computer. I had no thoughts apart from simply exploring. The first step, I figured, was choosing the first letter. Circles had come to represent the meaning of life to me .. connection, completion, nature, cycles, perfection. I’d always felt a compulsive need for closure .. clarity. If my handwriting left a letter open I would go back and close it. And my name started with a C.
And like closing circles, understanding things from many perspectives had been an obsession. I was on a mission to find meaning and clarity in what felt like a meaningless and confusing world. At low points I had despaired at the hopelessness and futility of life. When people would ask me, either genuinely curious or making small talk, what my name (Charmaine) meant, I had never been able to give a clear answer. My response in recent years, after many searches, was “it doesn’t really have a meaning, it’s basically a made up name”.
And then there was the spelling. I was used to sales assistants automatically writing an ’S’ and then asking “how do you spell that?”, followed by the slow spelling out. My name felt like hard work.
I googled “names starting with O”. It didn’t take long for it to jump out at me .. short, simple, meaningful .. Orly .. ‘light’ or ‘you are my light’. After a lifetime of being overly serious and heavy, the word ‘light’ had been a guiding word I’d chosen for the year. I’d even made a ring with ‘I AM’ stamped on one side and ‘light’ on the other.
Anyway .. I guess I could trace the journey from then to now. Basically, I had no plan to change my name .. that was another huge decision. But I did .. and I haven’t regretted it. The name felt almost too big for me, like stepping into a bigger vision of myself. And telling people about it felt scary and vulnerable. But in many small steps it has become my new reality. It continues to allow me to shed old parts of myself that no longer serve me, and feels lighter, brighter and joyful.