“What’s Your Name?

What’s your name? ~ Rose-Marie, also known as Mom

That’s a question that my mother has asked me my entire life. When I dared to compare myself to someone else.  When I told her that I wouldn’t succeed because someone else was rejected.  When I told her I wouldn’t try for an opportunity because there were rules and conditions that I had yet to meet.

I have always been tenacious. I had to learn that going head-to-head with my mom about my potential was equivalent to a hamster stuck on a wheel. The conversation would cycle back to, “what’s your name?”  She would somehow use my rebuttal to empower me.  She would tell me to come back after I tried, then return to a magazine or a book that she was reading as if nothing had happened. It would happen so fast that I was often left in a daze.

I still remember the very first time she said it to me.  She had been waiting for me one afternoon in parent pick-up, and I got into the car looking kind of down.  She asked me, “what was wrong?” I said, “I wanted to try-out for the school’s play.”  Her response, “so why are you getting in the car?”  I said, “because so-and-so said that it’s too late for me to sign up and that even they wanted to audition, but considered who else is auditioning and decided against it,” and that’s when it happened.

BOOM!! “That’s so-and-so. What’s your name?” I looked at my mom and said, “what do you mean? ‘what’s my name?'” She repeated the question and explained to me how I am to be my own person and that the results of someone else’s efforts had no bearing on my future success. I tried to explain to her why so-and-so’s point made sense and she defeated my flawed logic and repeated the question. I tried one more time, and she cut me off and said, “listen, that’s so-and-so, she is not my child. I only know you, so again, what’s your name?” I responded with my birth given name and she told me to get out of the car and to go ask if I could still audition. The answer was yes. I ran back to the car and told her, and she told me she would be back to pick me up and that in the future I have nothing to report to her until I have tried.

In high school, it was at times frustrating, but now looking back I thank her for it because it stuck with me. As soon as I heard her say, “what’s your name?” I would feel like I had an incomplete mission to attend to because the conversation would also be at an end.

If I had a dollar for every time she said it to me in undergrad, I would be a multi-millionaire by now.

In law school, when I didn’t know a thing about networking and feared rejection, I would hear her say it and knew exactly what I had to do; which is, do. When I was away from home, studying in Geneva hoping to land an internship, she said it, and that’s also when I learned how crazy she was and that “what’s your name” had no constraints.

You see, I wanted to stay in Geneva to work at the United Nations immediately following the term of my summer courses, but there were strict rules. The United Nations typically accepts applications a year in advance, and those selected must go through a six-month security clearance. I explained this to mother, and she said…you guessed it, “what’s your name?” I said, “come on mom, that’s helped me a lot and I say that to myself now, which is why I am only coming to you now, I’ve already tried.” She said, “but you want this, and you are in Geneva. Are you really going to let the application process and six-month security clearance stop you?” Confused, I said, “what do you mean? Yes! Of course. That’s the process. I’m no one special.” She responded with, “oh, is that right?” I remember thinking to myself, “my mother has lost her mind.” She empowered me and schooled me on life. She told me what sets those who are fulfilled apart from those who live in regret is that the fulfilled are persistent and they have nerve. She told me to go try again and to continue asking ambassadors and delegates to be their intern. I did just that.

I got turned down well over 50 times that summer, but I kept asking. That summer I became comfortable with failure. I learned that, no matter how many times I got turned down, all I needed was one yes. I also learned that when my mom told me to only come back after I tried that she didn’t mean once, she meant after I got a yes!

My mom helped me understand the importance of differentiation. She taught me early on that comparison was a futile exercise. She helped me understand that my walk is nobody else’s, but my own. That I have power, that I was uniquely designed and that’s what makes me beautiful. She taught me not to shrink down for anyone, no matter the circumstance. She taught me that God designed me for a distinct purpose and that I am without substitute. She raised a female misfit with vision and audacity.

What is it that you fear? What is holding you back from pursuing your dreams? Why do you care that you are unlike the rest? Why do you care what others will think? Why do you care what happened for so-and-so? Have you tried? Have you tried again?

You see the problem is you don’t know what you are capable of until you try. Embrace who you are! Embrace your vision! Walk in your purpose! There is no substitute for you.

It is what sets you apart that makes you great. So, I have one question for you, “What’s your name?” ~ Brave

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