I was vacationing in Florida, getting on a boat as the captain read our names for us to get a sexy life jacket. 23 years old was a little too young to die so I sacrificed my style.
He couldn't read my name, "Odd, Audi?", with a suspicious look on his face as to what kind of specimen could bear such a weird name.
No, it's Aude, like "Ode to Joy", a little song written by Beethoven?
I felt embarrassed and well, I needed this life jacket. I remembered what happened to Jack. But since I barely spoke English, he didn't get what I said.
"Wait a minute... I have a more "international" name attached to my first one, which I have never used! Wasted ink that I could put to good use", my mind said to my mouth.
And that's when Olivia showed up, after decades of living in the shadow of Aude.
Well, they were always close, holding hands with a hyphen, see how they get along: Aude-Olivia. But Olivia never spoke or met anyone, no one knew about her other than a bunch of papers and people asking me to pay taxes.
Shortly after, my entrepreneurial adventures brought me to move to the United States (or my nomad heart maybe). In an effort to make everyone comfortable and to brand myself efficiently, I sacrificed what I knew to be my real name, "Aude", for Olivia.
Olivia became my American and/or business persona. I changed my LinkedIn, Twitter, and well, the way I introduced myself to this wild world. I also created this blog: viaolivia.co .
Funny enough, your name affects your personality too. Money was on my mind, and I forgot how to hold a pen. I still love her, she has cool qualities. But there's a reason she sits in between my first and my last name: she needs comfort to calm her insecurities.
In these years of living abroad and getting lost in pretty streets, I had the same, the same, and the same, conversation:
-Hi, what's your name?
-Oh, you have an accent. Where are you from?
-No, I speak french.
-Ah, you're from France!
-No, guess again. Same continent.
-Canada. Oh, you're from Montreal. I love Montreal! I went there for a bachelor party.
Of course you did, for that poutine and you-know-what... A script I knew way too well.
Anyhow, I liked Olivia, it's a pretty name and I respect my parents for their good taste. It sounded good, distinguished, and deliciously feminine, thanks to the final "a", pretty on every type of tongue.
Yet, I had a tacit agreement that anyone close to my heart would call me "Aude". However narcissist we all have become, our own name is often enough our favorite sound.
"Aude" is me, raw, creative and fearless . "Olivia" is me smiling with heels and makeup, surely a better politician, a present friend and a bubbly one.
But the girl on the dance floor... It's Aude.
It got quite confusing at times. My close friends would introduce me as "Aude" to other people, which they then wouldn't understand like that captain that pulled Olivia out of the dark. I smiled, apologizing for my truth, for my origins, offering an alternative to accommodate everyone:
"Let's go with Olivia, it's easier." I looked down on my pretty heels hurting my feet, my feet still searching for a place to rest and be bare again.
We all want to be easy to remember, don't we? But what if the only thing people could remember is your purest self, free of filters, lovely lies and unnecessary compromises?
Let me be sexist for a moment. It appears that us women, we do too much to make everyone else happy and comfortable. This includes sacrificing our own truth and dimming our light so that others can shine a little brighter. The equation doesn't work, it cancels itself out.
What a sin to twist our truth. How selfish is it to prevent others from tasting our deepest self, and inspiring others of the same freedom.
So then I created a brand of empowering lingerie, designed to help women fully love their body and embrace their feminine powers: "Olivia Bond". This name came to me one winter night while walking in the snow, in Boston, and it felt like a revelation. To be honest, I had thought of it as the name I'd use if I were to play in the BDSM world, so it meant to be empowered with my body and sexuality, in a strong, positive and healthy way.
A tingle covered my body and I literally felt that God had spoken to me. (I now see how it was a step in the process, and not a final answer). Everyone seemed to love it, or maybe they were just being polite. I bought the .com by selling shares of my new company, worked extensively on the brand, design, logo, etc. It was tight. All the pieces in place.
My passion project became harder to fund, as manufacturing in the US is quite expensive, and ridiculously time consuming. As I hustled to get it started (and I will complete, in time) I learned all the ropes of product design and manufacturing, plus I started a weekly newsletter in which I poured my heart out and shared the exciting stories I was putting myself through.
I felt a wonderful sense of duty to live a life of experiments and adventures, in part to share them with others and inspire them to say "yes" a little more often. Every week was a new chapter, and my mind expanded.
I then thought that Olivia Bond ought to be my artist name, since my real name "Aude-Olivia Dufour" wasn't made for fame. Too French, too hard to pronounce and remember, other excuses, blablabla.
So Olivia Bond it was. Or was it?
I always felt silly saying it. I wondered if it was just me being scared of myself, sabotaging my potential so I wouldn't make anyone jealous or some other subconscious crap like that.
It seemed to come with too much baggage, like I had to say it with a serious face and a glass of dark liquor, "Bond, James Bond"... I tried to tell myself that it related to "bonding" with yourself, and would inspire women to be strong and sexy, like these badass "Bond girls." Right...
During this refection, I further reconnected with my infinite love of words. Oh, I barely read, but I write, every day. My parents and teachers always knew it'd be central to my life, but I didn't want to be a starving artist, so I studied commerce and worked in the software industry.
How long can you cheat yourself? The answer is a function of the amount of pain and distortion you will accept in your life.
I broke up with all the lies in my life and came to this point where I'd write up to 3000 words a day, glued on my laptop, forgetting to even shower. Imagine the typical writer, yeah, that was me, minus the drinking.
I wrote infinite letters to the men in my life, and found incredible inspiration in this reflection around modern love and relationships. Truly a fascinating subject, the King and the Queen of all topics.
Now that I've completed a series currently titled "The Last Lover", I recently felt uneasy again and confused as to what name I would publish them under. I couldn't find comfort and alignment with "Olivia Bond". Something wasn't right. My gut and I had to talk. So we sat in the back of my mind.
I brainstormed a bunch of variations, borrowing last names from men I had loved, people I admired, or soft sounds on my tongue. I prayed, and asked for guidance. I had to define my brand and stop diluting myself. I longed for alignment.
And it came, yesterday morning:
How could it be anything but my real name? How could I preach for truth as I lied about my first attribute? How could I inspire others of courage if I adapted myself just to be accommodating?
I never meant to be an easy person. "Easy" atrophies your heart and mind. I want to challenge you, to help you break away from the painful patterns that you think can comfort you. When I make you uncomfortable it's because I touch you in ways you might have never felt before. Easy rarely makes us happy.
When the challenging mutates to easy, we then grow together, and unlock our true powers, offering our gifts to the world. We can then continue our journey to another summit. Cycles of growth.
And yes, I'm "odd" in many ways, and thank God I am. When high school kids told me I was weird, I thought it was an insult, I was hurt and tried so hard to be normal, like you I'm sure.
With time, we understand how our uniqueness is a blessing, and the reason for our existence.
And you know what, I even love German engineering. I'm a passionate/crazy driver and the only cars I've driven in the past few years were Audi's. They've given me a lot of pleasure and adrenaline.
Finally, on my left arm, I have "Sapere Aude" tattooed, a latin phrase meaning "Dare to Know", which was used by Kant as he attempted to answer "What is Enlightenment?." I wonder what he'd think of our progress in answering this question.
As we get to know each other, you'll clearly see how "Aude" is fitting for my daring personality, and how I'm attracted to what I fear. I find my light in the dark, and I will try anything once, or twice... Truth can never really be defined as we all have different perspectives, which vary over time. But I think we ought to at least stand tall for our convictions, while staying curious and open to mystery. That's what I mean by sapere aude, I don't know, but I'll give it a shot.
And how pretty is it to have a reference to an "ode: a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter." I am oh so lyrical, playing with style is a real pleasure of mine, and I'm allergic to regularity. Perfect.
Our "real name" doesn't have to be the one we were born with, but I believe it is the one that talks to our heart, the one our hand loves signing with a nice pen.
I'm claiming back my identify. I'm generously and courageously committing myself to sharing my truth, desiring of yours too.
Truth matters more than ease. I'll talk to your heart, and you'll talk to mine, every time I hear this sound. It will add some exoticism to your life, and you'll add some to mine with your own story.
So go ahead and say my first name however it may jump out of your mouth, learn how to say it right if you mind. Everything in time.
I'll smile to the sound, to the sound of truth and honesty, to the courage of being ourselves, unapologetically, as weird as we were born to be.