On Monday this week, I officially became Joanne Sofia Chong. Went to the ICA and updated my identity card, relinquished my dialect name Mei San, inserted my Muslim name Sofia, and retained my Chinese name.

It was an administrative procedure getting a deed poll done and the ID updated. It took all of 45 minutes at the ICA. When I received my spanking new glossy blue ID card, I smiled. I remembered something my lawyer K, who is also one of my closest friends, said to me last week when we met to sign my deed poll.

This is my third deed poll. Alright, that’s crazy to some people. THREE?! Yes, three and K helped me with all of them. He pointed out something I failed to see for myself.

Deed poll One was done for the name Joanne Esta Chong. I added Esta to my name out of boredom. I wanted people to remember my name and Joanne Chong was a forgettable name (I really thought so then.) I was searching for myself. I was feeling inconsequential, lost. I want people to remember ME.

Deed poll Two was done to change my Chinese name, one of the Chinese characters to be exact. The sound of the two names is exactly the same; the original characters translates to ‘beautiful heart’ whereas the new ones meant ‘beautiful and new’. There was nothing new in my life then really. I was going through a rough patch and was game to try anything – including a name change inspired by my mum’s visit to a fortune teller – to turn my life around. A dead ringer for desperation and indeed, I was desperate for some inspiration in my life at that time.

Deed poll Three is done at a time of peace. I have never been more at peace with the way my life and the way it is not. I know who I am and who I am not. The name change was done with 100% clarity, a personal choice that was not coerced by emotions, circumstances or a lack of direction. It is a simple act of affirmation and generosity to self.

A full circle. I am Joanne Sofia Chong. I am using my original Chinese name again. Beautiful heart it means. I am only beginning to appreciate the beauty of this name (pardon the pun). Thanks Mum for giving me such a meaningful name. I promise to live a life of meaning.


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