Jeli walked on the scene as an official name just after my father passed away in 2011. During his funeral the priest asked me why I was still going by my “American” name, Elizabeth. I looked over at my mom with a shocked sense of wonder and asked, “Yeah mom, why am I?” She said, “To make it easy on the Americans.” Well, that response took me aback. To make it easy on the Americans?!? Why in the age of multiculturalism would I want to do that?
My name given to me at birth was Elizabeth, spelled Jelisaveta on my church documents. Pronounced Yell-ee-sav-ett-ah. Jelisaveta. That’s the literal translation of Elizabeth into Serbian, my first but not primary language.
So why did my Serbian name call to me, finally, after all these years? Because it’s Me. Yes. Me. Strange but true we all identify with how people regard us. I have never in my life identified with Elizabeth. It was always so weird to me. Elizabeth is so formal. It’s a name that evokes Victorian values and principles. Elizabeth doesn’t give everyone bear-hugs or engage in spiritual, witchy practices. Elizabeth doesn’t care about astronomical events, organic foods or the need to be in nature. Elizabeth doesn’t hold your hand and engage you in your inner fears.
I would react to “Elizabeth” but it always felt like a stage name to me. It was a false identity.
Nobody close to me ever called me Elizabeth. Over my lifetime I have been given many names that I immediately relate to and respond to, but Elizabeth was never one of them. Those names I have been referred to are Bev, Belka, Belkaschmelka (obviously from my pesky yet lovable sisters), Lil’bit and Lilly. But Elizabeth? Nah. It would take the wind out of my sails every time I heard it.
So why is so important to be Jeli? Because Jeli is absolutely who I am.
So who is Jeli you ask? Jeli is a soldier of love. Jeli is a firm believer in mankind. Jeli is that girl who has traveled 37 countries, mostly on her own, that knows for a FACT that people are beautiful and wonderful and kind, worldwide. Jeli knows that the goodness of mankind is indisputable. Jeli also believes in healing. Self-healing. Healing from the heart and soul. Jeli knows that good food and love can heal anyone. Jeli likes to ask open ended questions. Jeli loves her friends and family so fiercely that she may even challenge them to be who they are. Jeli loves sunrises, sunsets, the moon, eclipses and meteor showers. Jeli is optimistic and playful. Jeli believes in the infinite capacity of all mankind. Jeli believes in love.
Love reigns, so love all your friends and family with wild abandon. Be YOU, LOVE YOU and delight in it! You deserve it and it’s good for your soul!
Originally published at jeligavric.com