Why I Made Up My Weird Last Name And Why You Need To Reinvent Yourself Too

Keep exploring to keep improving.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.  Samuel Beckett

Do you remember how magical the start of school term used to be? Your one chance during the entire school year to reinvent yourself and be who you wanted to be. The summer break had given a breather, an opportunity to distance yourself from what was and start fresh. You didn’t take that chance on your first day back, and you were doomed to another year of sameness.

Perhaps you were already popular and loving school life, with no need to change anything after the holidays. That was unfortunately not my case: I was a hopeless dork with few friends and even fewer boyfriends. Each summer break, I frantically planned my arrival in the new school year. New outfits, new attitude, new me. At least that was the plan — I ended up graduating with little more social status than when I started.

Despite this, I continued my obsession with reinvention attempts. I moved away from home in the Swedish countryside at age 15, to the “big city” where no one knew me. I left Sweden altogether the very day after high school graduation three years later, starting what has now been over a decade of moving from one country to the next.

My family mocked me for my endless pursuit of “finding myself”, which often ended in various degrees of tragedy. Like the time when I was living in Spain. I had an epiphany over the weekend that my true happiness was to be found in Thailand, which logically led to me quitting my job in Barcelona on the Monday — finding myself in a Tai hospital after a Vespa accident on the Friday.

On the one hand, I wish I would have slowed down for safety and sanity reasons. On the other hand, I felt a strong urge to keep going. From my late teens, I was struggling with compulsive overeating and was desperate to change this. Indeed, research proves that changing environment is helpful to alter habits.

I am all for “self-acceptance”, but it was not healthy to accept the way that I was acting. I was a person who was slowly ruining herself, so I simply had to keep reinventing myself — in the hope of one day finding myself as the healthy and happy person that I wanted to be.

A few months ago, I changed my last name. On the outside, it might have looked like yet another aim at becoming someone else. But it was nothing like that!

The name I chose was “Bjarkan”, which is a Viking rune meaning “rebirth”. The word felt perfect for my situation. Firstly, I wanted to celebrate my efforts. Yes, it has been a bit mortifying at times — but at least I got out of that Thai hospital with both legs! Most importantly: all of my experimentations have finally led to a healthy relationship with food.

The second reason behind my name change is that I wanted a reminder that it is not only OK, but a great thing to keep reinventing myself. I fail and embarrass myself some of the time, but that is alright — because every single day is a new day to be reborn!

To consider for your reinvention:
1. Where are you at now? The Wheel of Life exercise is a good tool to gain clarity.
2. What does your ideal life look like? Create a vision board of exactly what you want, and go for it. Dare to dream big! I once put Hillary Clinton on my vision board and to my great surprise watched her live just a few months later.
3. Who do you want to spend time with? It can be hard to let go of old habits if people around you insist on you staying the same. (For example, I was struggling with quitting binge eating at a workplace where my nickname was “The Vacuum Cleaner”.) Consider taking a break from non-supportive people!

How to reinvent yourself:
1. Engraved jewellery. Perfect if changing name is a bit too drastic. What is the theme for your reinvention? Treat yourself to a beautiful piece of jewellery with the word or symbol engraved, and you will have a daily reminder.
2. House swap. Follow the lead of Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, and get out of your rut by living in a different country for a while. You might find a hot boyfriend as a bonus.
3. Try a new hobby. I did a standup comedy course while I was miserable in my corporate career in London. It was impossible not to be a different person when I had to crack jokes.

Allowing myself to change is especially important in the context of my previous struggles with healthy eating. I remember how I used to feel like I needed to hold my breath every time that I made progress. A single stumble, and it would all fall to pieces.

That is thankfully not my life today: I do not expect perfection from myself, but rather aim for progress. If I fall down, I pick myself up again. As long as it is not from a Vespa in Thailand.

Alexia Bjarkan

Weight Loss Coach at The Benefactory.

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