Yesterday was a big day for me. I became an American citizen, after having lived in New York for 17 years = half of my life.  In all actuality I am now a proud Finnish-American dual citizen, as I am allowed to keep my Finnish passport too. Win-win.

I attended my Naturalization Oath Ceremony at the US District Court, where I sat for 3 1/2 hours in a freezing courtroom with 268 other immigrants, all of us hailing from 66 different countries. I pitied the clerk who had to try and pronounce each of our names–there were some serious tongue-twisters present…. Despite the long wait, it was for me an unforgettable event. One reason being that two people who I love dearly were present for me for the occasion. Together, (albeit not in the same room) we got to witness the inspiring speech delivered by the judge who swore the lot of us in. Another reason yesterday was extraordinary is this: I changed my name.

For the last 11 years I have carried the name Janita Maria Ervi–the last name adopted in marriage. A marriage, that has since ended in divorce. I use the word “carried” because the name has long been a heavy weight in my life, reminding me of a complicated past. As you may or may not know, becoming a citizen of the United States offers a very handy opportunity to change one’s name. A famous example of this is Vito Andolini, the Godfather, as he immigrates to the US and becomes Vito Corleone. So what if it wasn’t his personal choice…so what if he wasn’t a living, breathing human being…the concept is true. On the citizenship-application they actually ask you if you would like to change your name. I heartily said yes.

My full name is now Janita Maria, and I will probably spend the next year or so changing my credit cards, passports, ID’s, social security-information, etc. to update this info. As much as it is a pain in the ass to deal with the logistical aspect of it, it is also fucking powerful. Every aspect of this is a declaration of freedom. I now wear my own fucking name, people! From top to bottom, my own fucking name. If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is.

So, here I am. One more piece fallen into place. One more obstacle cleared. One more thing crossed off the list. All of the work that it took to achieve my naturalization and my freedom is behind me now, and I can direct my attention to the next thing. But these are accomplishments I get to cherish daily, if I so wish. And why wouldn’t I so wish?