My papa named me Maia. He is the person I idolize most in this world as I strive to one day be even a fraction as compassionate, gentle, humble, well-spoken, intelligent, curious, and understated as he is. He always plays by the rules, and never falters to make the right decision even when it is to his disadvantage. He is like a beautiful mystery to me, and it takes me over the moon as the older I get to see more of him in me. Papa lived on his sailboat around the Greek islands for a while, joined the Israeli army for a bit, taught himself to play flamenco guitar and piano, and lived a wandering existence, trying to do everything but go to law school. Papa eventually did put himself through school however, and walked into the exam room one day, passing the California bar without studying. The part that mystifies me the most is that he would never say these things; Papa is the most humble and down to earth person I have ever met.
However, I resemble my mama more than anyone else in this world; she is my best friend. It is her, my headstrong, mature, sophisticated, drop dead gorgeous, and detrimentally intelligent mother I blame for most of who I am. I don’t mean to say I am those things; I am not half of who my mama in the same way I am not half the person my papa is- I mean to say that observation and imitation of mama taught me to be the woman I am. What is a girl to do? My perfect Papa and all his strength, gentility, curiosity, passion, artistry, creativity, and incredible character blended with Mama’s alpha-male, controlling, and no nonsense personality instilled in me an obsessive compulsive attention to detail, harshly critical cynically, and the knowledge that my mind is my greatest weapon but my body is my instrument.
My mama is the one who taught me how to walk into places without an ID, money, or my name on a list. She taught me how to debate as if my tongue were a sword, to memorize everything I see and hear, and to step with purpose. She told me to snap out of anorexia and I went cold turkey from that moment on. She stayed up waiting for me to return home on those savage Playa nights and made sure I got to bed okay. She has and would do anything for me; mama frequently gives the shirt off her back for each one of my five siblings and I. If my mother is one thing, she is selfless.
Upon researching a little into the historical aspects of my name, I found that in Greek mythology, Maia is the eldest (I am the eldest of six kids) and most beautiful of the Pleiades, a daughter of Atlas and the mother of Hermes by Zeus. Atlas was a Titan (one of the founding fathers of the world) condemned to holding up the world. Legend has it
that he stood at the ends of the earth towards the west, bound to suffer under the weight of the globe for eternity as he supported it. In the metaphor of mythology, it resonates strongly with me that Atlas is the father of the woman whose name I bear, because I too feel subject to bearing the burdens of the earth as the function that created my form. Additionally, as my piece of trivia: the Greeks named the month of May in Maia’s honor, and I was born on May 2, 1999.
People usually say something about my name. I have aways been called Mia or Mayeeeeeeeah or Maria or Mariah, and they ask me how to say it or spell it and when I respond they tell me they like it or say it’s pretty, but I’m never sure if they’re just being nice because their words seem so shallow and fake; the product of a twisted concept of morality, character, and virtue that society covets over bluntness.
I used to hate it. I didn’t find it beautiful like Vanessa or Valentina or Tatiana. It is two syllables, it sounds like a mumble, and most of the time I hear people saying it but it turns out they are just saying “my, uh….” And thinking about what they are going to say next, ruminating on a forgotten noun.
I feel a strong disconnect between my mental and physical states, but my name is the link between the schizophrenia I feel. My double-consciousness goes deeper than just my mind and my body however; my name also effects this part of me. I have a sort of conflicting duality that struggles to make peace with where I come from. However, the older I get, the more I come to complicate this issue. Although I still relish life out of a suitcase, in an RV, or on a boat- the list goes on- I want to return to the time when I simply accepted I am from nowhere and that was all.
I grew to fall in love with my name the more I accepted myself. As a kid, I dressed like a little boy and ran around with scabby knees on the blacktop with a futbol at my feet, because although I always admired the delicate girls with pretty ribbons and slender cheeks, I never had any fun being a girl. My cheeks are ruddy and round. I am blunt. I’m not very feminine. My name is the kind you shout more than whisper.
I feel very connected to Frida Kahlo, because to me our names are similar as they envelope our personalities. We are strong women. We are tequila shots and tabletops bold, fearless and dry as the parched desert, and ferocious as the angry ocean.
Although I used to despise my middle name as well, I now use it always. Koryn. It is pronounced Coh-reen, so the tip of your tongue flutters across the top of your mouth on the r. It isn’t what I wanted to be as a girl, which was an image that hovered somewhere around a soft, sweet, clean, lacy-delicate object to be admired. I was always leather, stubborn, headstrong, dirty. My papers were always smeared with dirt from my hands, my scabs never completely healed.
I am a white-knuckle, teeth-clenching type of stubborn that causes me to disregard my feelings towards almost anything and everything in the moment, which perpetuates the disconnect between my mental and physical selves. When I fell, I got back up. I never cried. I took some hard blows, cuts, gashes, the list goes on, but I never cried. I was fascinated with my blood when I remembered I was bleeding, and sometimes I remember poking myself with pins and needles to feel them under my skin. I blame my mother for my pain tolerance. She is the kind of woman that doesn’t even have to tell you to suck it up- you just do it. I suppose if I thought more about my pain, I would feel it more. But I’m not used to ruminating on it; I’m used to pretending it never happened and I think this evolved into a fatal characteristic flaw for me, because now I carry on in the same manner without really giving a thought to what I want or what I think while the moment is happening.
That is why I must write. It is the time when I sit down, recount all the events that have happened, and think about them a little. If I don’t write, I start to go crazy because my mind is always going and so filled with ideas and thoughts that need to be hashed out that it drives me crazy to leave them in there. Meanwhile, someone yells my name across the street. I wave, smile, saludarle with a hug and a kiss; my insides are churning. Someone else passes me with a Hey Maia, and I pulled in again from the abyssal corners of my never ceasing storm.
I wouldn’t change Maia Koryn now, because I think there is something lovely about playing the hand you are dealt. I also believe in a divine plan in life and I am humble enough to admit I really don’t know anything: I can’t fully understand the past, perceive the present, or tell the future. I don’t understand myself more than a stranger could understand me as I brushed past them on the street, so who I am I to dictate something as complex and important as what I will be known as in this world?
As pure as I believe my motivations to stand strong in my first two names are, I would like to be rid of my last name. Although this revelation taints my philosophy on the “dealt hand”, my last name grounds me in something I am not; something irrevocable and defining in society.
In school in Mexico, I was always Maya Yacson. The y in Maya has that lilting j sound at the tail end of the consonant, a soft grit like warm earth. If I could change my name, it would be something Mexican like the Cardenas side of my family. Jackson is so American, which is only an advantage when crossing borders.
I live in grey lines. I am not American; I am not Mexican. I am not white, but I am not of color. I am infatuated with distancing myself from a culture that has nothing to do with me other than being the place I was born, and obsessed with connecting myself to something I innately feel.
I am floating between the borders of my personal associations. American is materialistic. Mexican is humble. American is superficial, appropriated, exploitative, commercialized, work-driven, structurally racist, and ignorant. Mexican is morally driven, culturally specific, worldly, familial, accepting, warm, dually represented in work and play, and above all, is most accurately described as passionate.
Despite my personal angst towards it, Maia has served me well. When I am in France- although my French is poor- I can get away with being a French girl when I introduce myself. The same goes for Spain, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, most of South America… This is what I love about Maia. I identify myself with her. She doesn’t know where she comes from or where she belongs- if she belongs- as she chameleons across the world and falls in love with people and places. She is a scattered puzzle of tales, easily adaptable, always at home without a home or origin. She is transient as sand, content on the run, and bold as the stars on a black night, which can be seen around half the world. The drawback of her transience is a tendency to abhor sentiency and a seizure-like restlessness that makes her anxious at the thought of any type of ties to a place or person that would cage her wandering spirit.
I’ve lived a lot in my seventeen years, and sometimes I feel that maybe I should’ve let myself be a kid more. My ambition and tendency towards darkness gets in my way. When I die, my name will be the only thing of me left after my dust drifts away. It is this ambition, this knowledge that there is no other way for me to go, that drives me to be and do more than I can handle. I suppose this is faking it until I make it, however the line between “faking” and “making” is blurred for me. I’m still young enough to believe I’m invincible, so in my head I’m always “making” it, although I have a sneaking suspicion that in reality my whole life I’ve been mistaking “making it” for my “faking it”. I just roll with it.
Besides, after you’ve lived, you cannot move backwards. I cannot un-see the harrowing living conditions of people across the world, the way my friend’s eyes rolled back as he died in front of me, or the sunrise over the glass Caribbean ocean in the one place I feel most at home in the world. I cannot un-feel the swell of my heart the day we adopted our twins, the hot sun rolling over my back as I woke up facedown on some tropical beach, or late nights in Paris with expensive wine and couture lingerie. I will never stop reminiscing of the days I spent on the road or the months I was unsure which place I would lay my head that night. My name has lived with me through everything I have sensed- closer to my soul than my own skin. For better or worse, whether my name defines me or I define my name: Maia is who I am.