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How changing my name empowered me from my bullied past

Jun 14, 2023

If you think my life has always been full of joy, here is my story. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.

Twice a week we had to wait for Mr. Hotz in front of the glass door of the gym. Anja and the popular girls talked about me every time as if I would not be there. Loud enough that I could hear them clearly. "Actually we should call her Anna, or Anna Barbara, but FOR SURE not Barbara! What is she even thinking?"

Yes, I was the incredibly insecure girl that nobody liked and on top of that demanded in middle school to be called Barbara instead of the super long name „Anna Barbara“ everybody used in primary school. I mean, how dare she, right?

When Mr. Hotz came to the gym, the ordeal was not yet over. I was always chosen second to last. Balls were not my thing, neither throwing or catching. I hated everything about gym class! Later, in the dressing room, the discussion about me continued. Sometimes they asked me directly: "Don't you ever go on vacation? Have you never been to the seaside? Why are you white like an albino?"

In the classroom I was totally lost too. Not in terms of the subject matter, which was easy for me, but every time I raised my hand to say something, I turned red, like a tomato. Then everyone shouted in chorus, "You are FULLY reeeeeeeed!" And I got even redder. Every time.

I never defended myself, I didn’t have the confidence, I didn’t know what to say. At least I didn't immediately start crying, as I did in elementary school. When I once dared to ask why they didn't invite me to birthday parties anymore, Sonja said, "Because you always start crying over something anyway!"

At home I felt comfortable. With my two "so to speak brothers", with whom my sister and I spent two days every week. We built huts in the woods and crawled through the tunnels of the village's creek. Accompanying messages in a bottle until it was almost dark, that was cool!

When I was 13, Lilian brought me into the Scouts as an assistant leader. Suddenly everything was very simple. I could dive into fantasy stories about pirates or outer space with the little boys, the "Wölflis" (small wolves), and help plan Saturday afternoons and fall camps. On October 14, 1991, I was “baptized” with a gruesome potion (imagine pickle juice with chocolate) with the name RONJA! (Yes, we have scout names in Switzerland, it’s a tradition as old as the scout movement here itself.)

I almost could not believe it. Ronja? The one who isn't afraid of the Mattis Forest (read the brilliant book of Astrid Lindgren, the writer of Pippi Longstocking)? Not afraid of the Borka robbers and the big waterfall? Ronja? This name spread over my whole life. Simply because scout friends introduced me to new people as Ronja without thinking twice. If my name had been "Popcorn", this would certainly not have happened. I became Ronja through and through and felt more and more connected with the wild and free Ronja of the book in my heart and soul.

For going to high school we had to take the postbus for an hour to get to Zurich. Everyone still called me Baba there. I was still blushing, but luckily passed the probation period so I could leave the dreaded class of middle school in our village behind me for good. We were an all-girls class in Zurich and it was kind of horrible again. One girl said: “You push our average grades up too much, so it’s your fault that my grades are bad!” I met two of my best friends forever in that class, so I’m very grateful for that even though it wasn’t a pleasant time for all of us.

"Ah, is there poison in the air?", a scout friend aptly summed up our class mood. Somehow, being cooped up in a classroom wasn't my thing....

...the night before I started my food engineering studies at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), I consciously thought for the first time: "Who am I? Ronja or Barbara? How will I introduce myself tomorrow to the 300 new people I'll be studying with?" The answer was clear.

When Valery, my best friend from high school, who studied sports, shouted through the ETH cafeteria: BABAAAAAAA.... my friends were always amazed: "What did she say?" "Ummm…, nothing!" Nobody knew that I had a different name on my birth certificate until we had to go and look at the list of names who passed the critical exam of our first year. There were so many sad faces: “We’re so sorry, you’re not on the list.” Never ever before was I so happy about my name: Anna Barbara Müller. Passed!

For my diploma thesis I was working in a big Swiss company that builds world wide famous processing machines and production lines for chocolate, flour, pasta and even plastic and color pigments. When I asked them to call me Ronja, they changed my name in their system. I was so proud and happy. The negative side effect: My little salary was refused by my bank. No account for Ronja Müller in OUR system, sorry.

I knew that this hiccup will be so annoying for future employers and I also knew that name changes are possible in Switzerland. Ken and I already had our wedding date set at the civil
registry office when I called the Zurich Justice Office about becoming Ronja officially. Renewing my passport and every other legal document only once would be perfect I thought.

“You can’t get married if you have a pending name-change running!” said the very bad-tempered employee of said office.

Me: “Oh, ok, so I'll do it afterwards.”
Her: “It’s not as easy as you think!”
Me: “Please, tell me what I need to hand in.”
When she listed all the things I had to have ready I answered: “That’s no problem at all, I have used this name for 12 years already.”
Her reply in an even angrier tone of voice: "Oh so you are a collector?"
I was proud of myself that her mood didn’t affect my excitement at all.
Me: “Have a great day. I’ll hand in everything AFTER my wedding.

The written use of a name had to be proved with legible postmarks, various handwriting on envelopes or postcards, documented over 5 years back without any gaps. I prepared a very nice file with hundreds of letters from the last decade I got from all over the world with RONJA on it. Sent together with the application and my explanatory statement.

We got married. I became Anna Barbara Sakata. I had to pay 300 bucks and then I got the confirmation that my name was changed officially. I was in seventh heaven. In my passport, hot off the press, it said: Ronja Anna Barbara Sakata-Müller.

Ken came home from Berne – the Swiss capitol - very, very angry… he had spent 8 hours at the Japanese Embassy. His job of registering our marriage was a little bit more demanding because the Japanese officials almost couldn't accept that his wife had a different FORENAME BEFORE and AFTER the wedding!!! You don't do that!!! You can't do that!!! He succeeded in the end!

Let's write our lives the way it's right for us! You for YOU, I for ME. Let’s consciously decide how we want to walk on this planet, how to spend our time… with whom we want to be together… how we do good to our body and soul, to be able to enjoy every day with energy, lightness and JOY and to realize our ideas and dreams!

These are the words Nadine wrote in her feedback: "At the Joy Academy you spend time with yourself and it is definitely worth it! Creating your life in a way that makes you happy is so important!"

You can read the whole testimonial in the PS. Nadine sums up the Joy Academy in a nutshell!

I invite you to invest in yourself today, and sign up for a year of Joy Academy! If you have any questions, reply to this email or book a call HERE.

If you are ready to write your life’s story YOUR way starting today, sign up HERE.

Sending you lots of love from Zurich, Switzerland


P.S. Nadine‘s testimonial: "Thanks to the Joy Academy I learn to know myself a little better every day, to trust myself more and to create my everyday life the way it suits me! Ronja's favorite phrase "It is your life and it has to be right for you" has become firmly anchored in my head and thanks to these words I have already adjusted some things in my life so that they suit me better. The monthly live calls are great too, you can be there, but you don't have to, because you can watch everything afterwards.

In the Masterclasses you look at different topics, Ronja gives tips and there are meditations and workbooks. I especially like the challenges. For each topic, you get 30 days of emails with inputs and ideas that you can/should implement on that day and if you like them, you can integrate them into your daily routine.

I think it's great that you can work on the topics at your own pace in the Joy Academy and that you are also supported by inputs in the Joy Community. This is also where you can exchange ideas and experiences with other subscribers and motivate each other to keep working on the challenges.

In the Joy Academy you spend time with yourself and it is definitely worth it! Spending time with yourself and creating your life in a way that makes you happy is so important!

Thank you Ronja for all the good ideas and inputs, for sharing your experiences and for your cheerful, motivating way. Every Masterclass, meditation and monthly call is fun with you!"


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