When I started this blog, I wanted to showcase my writing both professionally and personally. Part of the decision was re-establishing the brand identity and name. Throughout my professional career, I’ve always been hesitant to include my middle name, because I felt like it was difficult for people to find and pronounce. However, when I considered the nature of this blog and how important my Chinese adoptee identity is to me, I decided to use both my first name and middle name – a reference to my Chinese heritage mixed with my American upbringing.
Growing up, a large part of my identity was focused on my adoption and my life in the United States. My name “Alyse MeiLan”, is one such aspect of the complex identity and culture that I’ve experienced growing up as an adoptee.
My adoptive mother (referred to as my mother for the rest of this blog post) chose my first name from a baby book because she found the spelling to be unique. Alyse is derivative from the more popular names, “Alice” or “Elise”. Although I’ve loved my first name for most of my life (albeit the occasional errors in spelling on a Starbucks drink or two), I’ve always felt like I’ve had to explain my middle name.
The “Mei” in MeiLan means “beautiful” in Mandarin. While the “Lan” part of my name is the name that I was given from the orphanage in China. “Lan” means “orchid”. So my middle name translates to “beautiful orchid”. Keeping part of an adoptee’s Chinese name is a pretty common phenomenon in the Chinese adoptee community. My sister’s name was also transformed in this way, adding a beautiful touch to both of our middle names. However, when I consider all of names that I’ve had, I know that there’s one that is missing.
It’s the name that my first family/birth family gave me, and the one that is probably still in the minds of my relatives that I no longer know. Knowing that my identity is made up of multiple names and periods of my life have always fascinated me.
Sometimes I wish that I came with a note with the name that my first family/birth family gave me and simple facts about myself like my age and birthday. It also reflects some of the grief and loss I’ve felt from my adoption and that many adoptees experience throughout their lifetime. I hope that through this blog I can provide insight and perspectives on adoption while highlighting adoptee voices.
There’s a story behind all of our names. But there’s also a story behind the names we give ourselves throughout our lives. And I hope to use mine to explore my identity and elevate others’ voices.