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The Significance of My Name

Mai Li Schubert

The significance of my name

Before I had my forever name, I was 攸梅嘉 (Yōu Méi Jiā). The last name, “You,” was for the county and the orphanage, while the middle name, “Mei,” was how the people in my orphanage distinguished the babies, and Jia” means goodliness.


As my parents looked through Chinese name books, they knew they didn’t want the name “Mei.” My mom explains it, saying that it’s a common Chinese name and she didn’t want it to be overused. She also said they were planning on adopting another girl from China, meaning that girl would be the younger sister of the family, or in Chinese “妹妹” (Mèi mei).


“Very smiley.” Some people who know me definitely can agree with that statement, and the reason why is that my name is much deeper than just my name.


My parents put in the work to adopt a girl from China, and they were in two different states when they saw the first picture of me. I had on a yellow onesie, both my hands in fists and a sad and distressed look on my face. A very different photo from now.


They came across “Mai Li,” the English translation of “very smiley.” Thinking it was perfect for the unhappy baby, that's what they chose. When they finally met me and started calling me “Mai Li,” a family within our adoption group told my parents the translation was wrong. Since “Mai” is so close to “Mei,” the name means “very beautiful,” like the Chinese word “美” (Měi). As of now, I am in a Chinese class where I got a Chinese name. It is “江欣然” (Jiāng Xīn Rán), and, according to another student, means “gladly.”

"With all of these names, identities and meanings, I can see there is a lot of history just behind what people have called me in my life."

With all of these names, identities and meanings, I can see there is a lot of history just behind what people have called me in my life. I was a different person with my birth family, “You Mei Jia” with the orphanage, “Mai Li” with my forever family and friends and, lastly, as 江欣然 with my class and hopefully as I emerge myself more into my birth culture.

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