With all that’s happening in the world right now, we’ve been required to shift in a way that many of us have never had to before. If we’re fortunate enough, we’ve been asked to continue working remotely and are continuing to serve campuses, businesses, and people, working in offices, meetings, rooms, spaces even the virtual ones, where we work hard to put our best foot forward and complete the tasks that are set before us. Even now. Many of us serve in leadership capacities in these spaces, working tirelessly to enhance and implement processes, progress policies and fill the gaps that existed long before our arrival.
In addition, we re-enter, in this virtual setting, some joyful and some oppressive relationships and transactions. I spent the summer developing my professional brand, rebuilding myself as a professional and intentionally setting goals that would require me to step out of my comfort zone. I learned so much about myself and about the life I want to lead. I learned so much about my habits, professional preferences and the pieces of my work-life balance that were not in sync with my values.
I cried. I laughed. I was frustrated. I was happy. I was tired. I also made the commitment to keep going and to work hard to expand this journey into something that would motivate me to keep growing. In doing so I realized that I was making myself small in certain spaces to appease those around me. I likewise learned that this was not only a disservice to myself, but to the people around me and to the people I serve. In making myself small, I was limiting myself and limiting my capacity. The capacity I count on to serve students and to serve my greater purpose. I’ve spent this academic year working to implement all that I’ve learned.
I consider this smallness in both big situations and small ones. At the most basic level, I was allowing people to call me Mar an abbreviated version of my full name, Marquisha. A name that only those closest to me use and a name that I have exercised as a means to unknowingly make myself small in spaces where I thought Marquisha was too big. It has taken me a lot longer than I like to admit to accept the fact that my nicknaming in these professional spaces, was not the same as my acceptance of this abbreviation in personal ones. In personal spaces I understand that being called Mar is an abbreviation of endearment and closeness. It’s not used because those around me cannot pronounce, don’t want to accept or think Marquisha is too long of a name.
Upon recognizing and accepting this difference, I vowed to communicate that my preference is Marquisha in professional settings. Not Mar. In doing so, I recognized that some people thought this was a small ask. Some thought this was an interesting ask. Some thought this was a random ask. Some thought this was an optional ask. I also have come to the realization that in higher education, an ever evolving space of limitless shifts, my requesting to be called Marquisha was not accepted in the same way that my gender non-comforming or transitioning students may change their names from Lydia to Lane or Jacob to Jessica. While I work in a field that encourages the use of pronouns during official introductions and gender inclusive language, my asking to be called Marquisha vs. Mar has become everything but simple. It is this realization that has pushed me to communicate my preference, again and again and again.
In this new virtual reality as I like to call it, I’ve been forced to reassert myself in this nicknaming of sorts. I also recognize that what I am up against are politics and optics. Components of higher education that I have not grown to accept. Still, I have remained consistent in my request, whether it’s accepted or respected, understood or ignored, I keep pushing for it anyway. As I described to my colleagues, It is what my mother named me and the only thing, besides Dr. Frost or Dean Frost that I will answer to.
I have personally, over the years, gone from rejecting to accepting to appreciating the name, I have vowed to never shorten my name in professional spaces for the sake of assimilation and for those around me, again. I feel that it is my name to love and my name to change. It is mine. I wrote the poem below almost a year ago. . . out of frustration. I share it today out of appreciation for my name, for who I am, and for who my mother hoped for me to be. In naming me, she elected for a unique, versatile, and special daughter. I’ve always been those things to her and the older I get, become more and more of those things to myself. I dedicate this poem to her, in gratitude, for the name she gave me.
Since I was a child, People would always mispronounce my name,
Making me feel inferior and bringing about shame,
I always wanted a simple name, so people don’t pause before they try,
Calling me everything but Mar-qwee-sha! When I was younger, I’d cry.
Sometimes I don’t mind, I say just call me “Mar”,
But people insist on trying Marquisha, & trying hard!
So I realize now, they’re right to try, They don’t shorten their names, so why should I?
If you can pronounce Schwarzenegger,
You can get my name right, whether it’s now or later.
If you have a name like mine, commonly mispronounced,
Where people stumble & fumble, never getting the right name out!
Don’t nick-name or hide, or play the shame game!
Demand that they E-N-U-N-C-I-A-T-E
I don’t care if you like it, or get it wrong, Yes my name is different, and yup my name is long!
I prefer it over Sarah, Ashley & Jane,
You may stutter, you may pause, but you will
SAY MY NAME!