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How I Learned To Love My Ugly Name

Aperture #3 by Epiphanio Alexander. 36″x 48″ Oil impasto on Board with UV Gloss Varnish.

Once I commented on a vloger’s post, she thanked me for the comment and I thought that was it. Later in the day someone replied to my comment. The reply had nothing to do with her post, nor with my comment —which was about how the real transmission is in between the words and how we all use filters to perceive the world and exchange information. The reply said:

“Is this a legal name? Or a mixture between an elephant and a rhino?”

When I checked the comment I thought: “Wow, I haven’t had one of those in a while…” Now, I don’t mind sometimes shooting the shit with my friends, but you’ve got to build rapport you know …well, at least that’s my style anyway…

I was born in Mexico in the late 70’s, so the 80’s was my childhood. Now, if you think that the current social condition in the US is nasty, it’s nothing compared to Mexico during the 80’s. I don’t know how it is now but back then: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, machismo and elitism ruled the land galore. I’m so grateful I had it light because I know how hard many people had it.

In Mexico, my name (which in Spanish is Epifanio) is considered quite ugly, the name of a “naco” if you will —the term naco (pronounced nah-koh) is akin to the term redneck, but worse because usually people labeled as rednecks are strong and willful, while nacos are considered weak and destitute. And by the way, none of the above labels mean a thing to me, I know that we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re here (among other things) to learn how to appreciate each other’s unique individuality.

So since I can recall, introducing myself almost always elicited condescendence and all throughout my childhood I felt I was disgusting. I couldn’t understand how my parents hated me so much to give me such an ugly name. I was so wrong…

My mother is a remarkable woman. After her divorce, she started a construction company from zero and fought her way up like an amazon in an industry dominated by misogynistic machismo to raise me upper-middle class.

I attended a private British school in Mexico city where the large majority of my peers were highbrow, ignorant rich kids for whom elitism and condescendence was the norm. So as you can imagine, I grew up a shy, insecure kid. I was the “weirdo”, I was “the Epifanio” …uugh!

My father was a solid man. Whatever issues my parents had with each other, and although his upbringing made it hard for him to show his love, he loved me dearly and he was very proud of my name. Epifanio had been his father’s name (my grandfather) which I never met, but I was told that he was a rancher. Maybe that’s why my father liked to dress like a cowboy, with the hat and everything. He was very handsome and elegant but for my own insecurities in an elitist environment, his dress code was a source of shame. Every now and then he would show up to see me at school and every time, I wished the earth would eat me alive. In my mind this was the proof that I was indeed a “naco”.

To compensate for my insecurity, I became a masterful liar and among the litany of lies: I told my fellow schoolmates that my father was the owner of many Toys R’ Us stores across Texas …lol! Now, he wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, he always held high positions in the government and made good money, but even if he would have been a peasant, only being the son of a criminal could be a source of shame.

However, maintaining the masterfully crafted lies I concocted throughout the years demanded that I be a recluse. So my only friends were my neighbors and my mom’s friends’ children. Years passed and all was sort of fine until middle school when I started to like girls and the kids were being invited to parties outside of school. This is when it dawned on me…

“It’s going to be just a matter of time before my world of lies collapses and the whole school learns the truth of who I really am …a naco and worse, a worthless liar!”

If my life was a book, this is when I had my Deus-Ex-Machina. We moved back to Veracruz, Mexico and I was saved. I felt I was given a second chance so I told myself that from then on I would tell people the truth, they wouldn’t consider me a naco because I came from the big city. I thought, “ I’m distinguished, I am above them little city folk anyway…” —I guess the elitism had rubbed off on me by then, lol! Nevertheless, my name followed me anyway, even in the “little city” I was still “…the Epifanio” but at least now I had friends at school and joined with them outside. This was my first step towards discovering the lie of the world:

I began telling the truth.

I also began using my middle name Alejandro outside school as my main name (Alejandro is the Spanish version of Alexander and it’s considered a “normal” name in Mexico).

Many years passed and basically I was now Alejandro until one day somewhere around the year 2000, while living in the US and studying spiritual mysticism, I realized that even after all the training I’ve been doing for the last several years, I still felt ashamed of my first name. So I decided to dive into the wound to find out what was still making me feel that way.

After some time, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the name or any resentment towards my parents. I knew my parents loved me and that it wasn’t their intention to give me this name just so that I would be marginalized …and then I got it:

“It’s not that I’m ashamed of my name because it’s disgusting …I am ashamed of it because it is grand and I feel that I’m unworthy of it!”

—The Latin roots of my name are: “epi” which means “hovering or above” and “fane” which means “apparition”. In christian mythology it describes the star that lead the Magi Kings to the birthplace of Jesus. It means “manifestation”.

Epiphany is the sudden intuitive perception or insight, a revelation into the reality or essential meaning of something.

So I had my own epiphany …lol! I realized that my whole life I’ve been “manifesting” what was dwelling in my subconscious: a fear of being seen, a fear of what people will think of me and do to me for daring to speak my mind and express my talents …for daring to be who I really am. This is when I realized the lie that the world keeps shoving onto any one who dares to stand:

“That You Are Not Good Enough …how dare you stand out?, how dare you shine? …you should bow your head and don’t ruffle the water, be nobody, be small, shut up and follow the rules …because: You Are Not Good Enough!”

That’s right… and it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

Every single individual, I don’t care whether you’re a penniless hobo sleeping on the sidewalk or you live in a castle, whether you’re the greatest quantum physicist the world has ever known or you have down syndrome and you struggle to even speak. You are grand, you are magnificent just because you are you —a unique individual with a unique genetic set-up and a specific purpose that no one else can fulfill.

Without even ONE of us, the puzzle of evolution is incomplete, that’s why the world needs YOU now to recognize your own value and stand, to just be you, whatever that is.

As a kid I wasn’t making any stand, it was the power of my name that was doing it for me and since I couldn’t do anything to avoid it (roll call is the name of the game), I had to learn what it feels to be ridiculed, bullied and ostracized. Now, you may think this is lame because I was a well-to-do kid and there is so much deeper real suffering in the world than being a sissy about your name, but read between the lines; what I’m talking about here are not degrees of suffering but about the opportunity to gain wisdom. The lesson comes in many forms and levels of intensity yet it’s essentially the same:

“How can you know love when you’ve lived your whole life in the castle’s tower and every wish at the snap of your fingers?, How can you know compassion when you’ve never been on the receiving end of marginalization?”

I hold no resentment towards any of my life’s petty tyrants because they still have much to learn and much of that will be very painful. I feel compassion for them because no power over another will ever give you the peace and fulfillment that love brings.

Now I laugh at how ridiculous labels are (I delve deeper into this on: Labels Are Like Ghost Blades ). Besides the fact that most people don’t understand what the heck I’m saying when I introduce myself. After my own epiphany, the percentages reversed: now the majority of the people I meet think that my name is beautiful, while a few people here and there still see it as an opportunity for their condescending impulses to find an outlet.

Either way, I now know that people see life through their own filters and their opinion about me or my name has nothing to do with me. Whatever people think of you is just a reflection of their relationship with themselves.

—Epiphanio

  • Aperture #3

    $3,200.00
    Aperture #3, 2016 by Epiphanio Alexander. 36"x 48" Oil impasto on Gessobord with UV Gloss Varnish.
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