1: Changing Destiny

1: Changing Destiny

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Changing Destiny

From our ancestors come our names, but from our virtues our honors.

~Proverb

When I was born, my mother named me Linda Pearl Davison. My mother was feuding with her sister-in-law, and she named me “Linda” to spite her sister-in-law, who had planned to name her baby Linda. I was born first (by a week), but my mother’s sister-in-law refused to be cheated out of the name she’d chosen and also named her baby Linda. Now there were two “Linda Davisons” in our small town. My mother and her sister-in-law never spoke to each other again, and I never met the cousin who shared my name.

The name “Pearl” was given to me because my mother owed several months’ back rent to a woman named Pearl. She hoped if she named her baby after her landlady, she wouldn’t evict her. It didn’t work. I especially hated the name Pearl when I discovered it was a growth inside a mollusk. I never pictured a pearl as a precious jewel. To me, it was a tumor in the slimy stomach of a shellfish.

So my first name was given to me in spite. My middle name was given to me to avoid eviction and was gross. And my last name, Davison, was given to me reluctantly and grudgingly by my father, who was separated from my mother.

When my mother was angry, which was often, she screamed my name “Linnn-daahh,” making it seven syllables long. In my mind, I heard “Linnn-daahh disgusting-growth-inside-a-mollusk Davison!”

In school, the popular kids had nicknames like Rocky, Candy and Sunny. My nickname was Zipper — because I was so skinny. If I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue, they said I looked like a zipper. So there it was — another unwanted name.

When I got married, my last name changed to Stafford. First, I had my father’s name; now I had my husband’s name. When I lost my husband, I was no longer “Mrs. Stafford,” and it didn’t feel right to still use his name.

I had been given names that I didn’t want and didn’t like, and I felt like I was going through life wearing hand-me-down clothes that didn’t fit.

I was an artist but seldom signed my paintings because I felt like I was giving the credit for my work to someone I didn’t know.

When women marry, they usually change their names. I wasn’t going to get married again, but why couldn’t I change my name anyway? For once in my life, why couldn’t I be called whatever I wanted to be called?

I discovered it only cost $150 and took three weeks to change one’s name in the state where I lived. Why hadn’t I done this twenty years ago?

I bought a name-your-baby book and made a list of the names I liked. I practiced saying and writing them. After going through about fifty names, I chose April Knight.

I was born in April, a month of spring, flowers and new birth. I was a freelance writer, and many of the courageous knights in history were “free lancers” whose loyalty was not to the king, but to their own sense of honor and chivalry.

Three weeks later, I became April Knight.

I changed my name and changed my life. I felt re-born. I hadn’t realized I was carrying so much emotional baggage from my unhappy childhood. My name was a big part of that baggage.

I was surprised at people’s reaction to my new name. My family was scandalized! How could I turn my back on the family name? My ancestors must be spinning in their graves!

Other people thought I was having a mid-life crisis or had “gone peculiar,” and who knew what I’d do next?

It only took about a month for people to remember to call me April, and soon they forgot I’d ever been called anything else.

My real friends knew it was a big step in healing myself, putting the past behind me and becoming a new stronger, better person. Since I changed my name, I felt empowered.

For thousands of years, people have believed “nomen est omen” — your name is your destiny.

I’m my own person now. I’m not my parents’ daughter, someone’s wife, or that shy, nervous, frightened child anymore.

I take pride in boldly signing my paintings “April Knight.” They are my paintings, and I’m not sharing credit with any ancestors.

I am painting better than I have ever painted. My art has taken a new direction. No more bland paintings of flowers and deer walking through the peaceful forest. Now I paint pictures of knights in shining armor riding magnificent, wild-eyed horses as they charge into battle. My paintings have passion, power and romance, and colors leap from the canvas in ways they’ve never done before. The knights are a symbol to be fearless and noble, and have the courage to slay the dragons in our lives, whatever they might be.

Changing my name was one of the most powerful, proud moments of my life. I declared myself 100 percent me, not pieces and parts and leftover scraps of other people. I felt free at last.

When I reach a different stage of my life, I might change my name again. It’s up to me and only me what I am called.

Hello, I’m very happy to meet you. Please let me introduce myself. My name is April Knight.

~April Knight

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