This post was originally published on April 27, 2012. I am re-posting it today because I’ve been thinking a lot about names again. I have three children with Arabic names that I thought were easy to pronounce, but clearly are not. Inaya (Ih-NAH-yah) becomes Ih-NAY-yah. Aariz (AH-reez) becomes Aries or even just Ari. And poor Alyzeh (uh-LEE-zay)…we get asked if we were drunk when she was conceived, thanks to Alize. These mispronunciations don’t really bother me. I think part of that is because I wouldn’t change their names for the world (Empathy, Respectable Man and Persian Wind, respectively), and the other part is that I have gone through my own process with my own mis-pronounceable one. And I trust that they will each do the same.
I can’t say I was always proud of my name.
My stomach would tie itself in knots when a substitute teacher would walk into the classroom. The other students reveled in a day of trickery and games, but I knew it would be a day of my name being butchered to bits, beginning with the dreaded roll call.
To non-Arabic speakers, Taslim is a tricky word to pronounce correctly. I should know. Even I don’t pronounce it the way it is meant to be pronounced; it just isn’t natural to me. Still, my watered down version of it is what I prefer to some of the other well-intentioned attempts. But I wasn’t going to correct anybody in elementary school. When my name was next in roll call, there would be the inevitable pause…a slight contortion of the teacher’s mouth…and then out it would come. My name, sounding not quite like my name and then…wait for it…the chorus of the entire class “correcting” the teacher with another name, not quite like my name, but one that I went by as it seemed easier for everyone else.
I liked making things easier for everyone else. It seemed to make things easier for me. (For awhile.)
I made a vow to change my name once I was legally allowed to do so and spent much time trying to figure out the perfect name for me. When I was 5, I told all the kids in my new neighbourhood my name was Rosemary. Later ideas of a new name were Melanie, Jenna, Jenny, and Phaedra.
Not only was my name difficult to pronounce, it has this incredible heavy meaning: Submission (to the will of God). I never wanted to tell people that. I mean, submitting to anything sounded so weak. And then the whole God part…it just felt too much for me to have such a religious name.
And then something happened by the time I was legally old enough to do anything about it. I grew into my name. I didn’t want to change it anymore; I wanted to change the way I carried it. When I started college, I introduced myself to people as Taslim (THUH-slim) and helped people pronounce it when they had trouble, even resorting to using the International Phonetic Alphabet in a Linguistics class. It turns out, it’s not as difficult as it looks!
A couple years later, I took a candle making class for fun. Of course, that led me to think of ways to turn this into a viable business. Well, I needed a name. I knew the perfect one: Submission Products. Since that first sign of acceptance, I have been growing into the Arabic meaning of my name. (This business didn’t go beyond selling a handful at my now mother-in-law’s candle store, by the way, but it was fun while it lasted).
Oddly enough, surrendering, submitting, giving up…to the will of God…is now my way of life. When I resist it, I find I am pitted against more than I can handle. When I do my part and I send out my intentions, I am much more at peace now with the “wait and see” part. What a relief.
Surrendering in other ways, letting go of the things I don’t need in my life – toxic relationships, fear-based thoughts, anger – well, that’s a work in progress. But I find the more I do of that, the more space I make for joy and pleasure.
The word submit has come to me in a new way in the last couple years. Submitting to calls for magazines, anthologies, and guest posts has been rewarding to no end. It’s a kind of release that I can only get from being who I truly am, doing what I am meant to do. Even typing in a comment on someone’s blog and clicking Submit is a reminder of just how powerful this word is. There is no weakness in it at all.
In fact, sometimes it takes all the strength I have to surrender.
Whether you’re Suzy, Amrit, Sean, Trang, or Boitumelo, be yourself. Don’t suffocate who you are to make things easier for other people. Don’t twist and contort and change yourself to fit some sort of mold that really doesn’t exist anyway.
Surrender. Submit. Release. Make Space. See what happens in exchange.