Most of my school and work friends know me by the name of Julia, the same goes for anyone I have met through professional networks or outside of my family. However, to my family, if you are looking for Julia, they will not direct you towards me, they would direct you to my paternal grandmother. The truth is, I did not know my name is Julia until I was older, probably six or seven years old, maybe younger I do not remember the exact age. What I do remember, is that I rejected and denied that my name was Julia and that my name was not my name. But I am getting ahead of myself, let me backtrack a little.
Maybe it’s a concept of Dominican culture, or not since not all Dominicans have one, but many Dominicans grow up with ‘apodos’ or pseudonyms. I do not want to call such a nickname because these pseudonyms become a part of a person’s identity and who they are. For instance, I grew up being called Ruth, Ruth Esther or Ruthie for short. Growing up everyone I knew would call me one of these names, family, friends, acquaintances and even teachers, you could start to get an idea now of what my feelings were like learning that this was not my name. My mother tells me this is the name she wanted me to have (legally). She has expressed multiple times that growing up in a very religious household, she memorized and read many of the stories and lessons in the bible. She expressed that out of all the stories in the bible, the book of Ruth and Esther were her favorites and she wanted to name me those names as they were important for her. To my mother’s dismay, my father chose a more familial name and kept it within the family, hence, I was named Julia Paulina. Note, this may be another concept of Dominican culture, most children would have a name, middle name and two last names, paternal and maternal, respectively. Nonetheless, my father never called me Julia, his ‘apodo’ for me was Julissa, and to this day, he calls me that (another story for later).
Now, imagine being seven years old or younger and being told by your aunts and uncles that your name is Julia and not Ruth. My first reaction was to no surprise denial, I had to seek out the facts, I needed affirmation from the only person that could tell me the truth at the moment, my grandmother Julia. She hesitated to confirm such fact, and even then I did not believe her, I had to get on the phone with my mother and have her tell me the truth. I was not Julia, I was Ruth there was no way that I could be Julia, my identity was stolen from me, I could not be Julia, this was all a lie and a game, imagine the distress I must have been in.
To be honest, I never liked the name Julia, I hated it. And maybe it was because of the way I found out that Julia was my legal name, or maybe it was because it meant that I could not be Ruth or Ruth Esther anymore. After moving from my grandmother’s house to my uncle’s house, a shift started. I went from having everyone call me Ruth to having everyone at shool call me Julia. The biggest shift happened when I moved to the Unite States, everyone outside of home knew my name to be Julia. Today everyone but my direct family and some close friends call me Ruth or Ruth Esther or Ruthie. Don’t be fooled by this, know that I disliked the name so much that I was determined to change my name once I turned 18, however, I did not change it because Julia was becoming a part of who I was at the moment and I did not want to rid of that identity or version of who I was.
Today I understand where my denial came from, it came from the fact that I had not developed an identity as Julia back when I was seven years old, when the only Julia I knew was my grandmother. It has taken me years to accept, create an identity and confidently introduce myself as (Hulia – Spanish pronunciation or Julia – English pronunciation). To be honest I am still trying to figure out whether or not I like the Spanish pronunciation better than the English pronunciation of my name, I guess that at the moment I am still trying to figure out if I have a preference, but for now I have made my peace with my name and every time I meet someone new I gladly introduce myself as Julia/Hulia and I am happy to let them know who I am whether it is Julia/Hulia/Ruth/Ruth Esther or Ruthie. Deep down we all have multiple identities that are given to us by those around us, but at the end of the day, it is up to us to create an identity that is our own, and not someone else’s.
This has been my journey in accepting all of my names as part of who I am. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you were able to relate or learn something new about me, or my culture. Please share with friends and family that may identify with my life stories. Until next time.
Please remember to Live. Learn. Soar!
XO – Julia (Spanish pronunciation)