Identity crisis

WordPress Daily Prompt: Say your name
Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something?
Are there any stories or associations attached to it?
If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?
Photographers, show us YOU.”

My name is a story of yes versus no, of not liking it, to being very recognizable because of it. It’s a story filled with confusion.

When I was born, my mum wanted me to be called ‘Maya’. However, when my biological father returned from the registry office, he walked in waving my birth certificate at her, mentioning the name ‘Willeke.’


I dislike the name for several reasons. The first one is that I was given this name because my biological father liked a Dutch actress called Willeke Van Amelrooy. The second reason is, at the height of the fame of Van Amelrooy, another Willeke had success in The Netherlands, namely Willeke Alberti, a singer of tearjerker songs. She was and still is famous in the Low Countries; however, her taste in music is definitely not mine. You can therefore imagine how much I hated being referred to both when I was growing up. I still dislike the name to this day.

I would rather make my name than inherit it.
William Makepeace Thackeray

Nevertheless, what does my name mean? ‘Willeke’ became a famous pet name for the Dutch much-loved queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands. She was a force to be contended with during her long reign (from 1890 to 1948).

However, I prefer ‘Wilhelmina’ to ‘Willeke’. Even better, I prefer Maya to either.

‘Wilhelmina’ in itself stems from the German male name ‘Wilhelm,’ which means ‘he who wants to fight’ or ‘protector’. According to Wikipedia, “Wilhelmina is a feminine given name, the Dutch and German form of Wilhelm or William, which is derived from the Germanic ‘wil,’ meaning “will, desire” and ‘helm,’ meaning “helmet, protection.”

The meaning of my name is just about the only thing I like. I am someone who wants to fight – figuratively of course – and who loves to protect.

The naming and shaming of my first name didn’t end there, though. It became even more frivolous at the age of twelve, when my English teacher decided to call me ‘William’ since ‘Willeke’ sounded funny in English. Another name was slapped onto my persona, and on the growing list of nicknames and ill-pronounced first ones.

A chance to redeem my first name presented itself when my family and I moved to a different city, with a different dialect and a new circle of friends. When they didn’t truly know what to call me, someone said “Billie!!!” Billie, ending in -IE, of course, and not -Y. I am female after all. Billie it was, and it is to this day. I can live with that.

Therefore, after living in Ireland for 12 years now, and with constantly meeting new people, the need to keep on explaining the pronunciation of my name, and how I ended up with such an exotic name, still exists. I am halfway near an identity crisis because of this.

The third reason why I do not like ‘Willeke’ is because it sounds ‘hard’ and it doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Maya.’

If I were to rename myself, I would immediately attach an Irish name to my identity card. ‘Aoife’ is a fantastic name for a female. If I could find an Irish translation of my Flemish family name, I would happily slap it onto it.

The only good thing about my name is that it makes me instantly recognizable, because it’s a name very rarely used in my home country. I also hardly ever need to say my family name when in Belgium or in Ireland. People directly know I’m the one with the 20-eye black Dr Martens boots, and short hairstyle.

And the funny name. Of course.

The fourth reason why I dislike my first name, the worst one of all?

My first name may be typically Dutch, but I am Flemish!

Whereas others hardly need to be reminded of who I am upon hearing my name, an identity crisis in my head is guaranteed!

What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous.

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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