Ten and a half years ago, I wiped the sweat from under my wedding wreath and became Emily Yates. A few months later, I learned to play the ukulele, wrote a song called “Try Not To Be A Dick,” and uploaded it to my brand-new YouTube channel. The views climbed to 1,500 and I wondered if I should be doing more of this songwriting thing. A few drinks and clicks later, Emily Yates, Eventual Ukulele Superstar was born. It never occurred to me that I might outlive her, but …
When he turned violent and then took off, it made no sense to me to keep half the identity of a person who very nearly permanently silenced me, but the divorce happened so quickly that it was over before I could even pop my head above the surface of grad school and breathe, much less consider dropping half of who I’d been for a decade.
Depression set in. I cursed the instruments he taught me to play, dragged myself through months of unwillingness to even live, much less perform. But finally the drive to create won out – I pulled myself together, released a new album full of songs that helped me process the monstrous mindfuck, and then, counter to every single ounce of conventional wisdom, decided now is the time to change my name.
I don’t want to share a name with anyone who’s raised a hand to me in violence. I want to wear a name that reflects my own heritage – like the one my great-grandfather brought over from Italy but anglicized to fit in because this nation has always been racist. So rather than walk around in an abuser’s family name, I’m reclaiming my own.
I’m also stepping away from a first name that’s never felt like the right fit. Named after a relative my parents didn’t even like, they told me they used my middle name till I was about 3, then stopped calling me Emmy Joy because “you turned into an angry kid.” Recognizing as an adult that this is a hell of a trip to lay on a child, I’m taking my middle name back and promoting it to the front of the line.
So now I’m creating all my music and art with my inner Joy on the outside – you can find it at my new website, JoyDamiani.com. Here’s to all of our past selves – may they rest well after carrying us as far as they can.