By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ‘23
“What’s your name?”
“Do you have a nickname?”
“No, just Oluyemisi.”
“Can I give you a nickname?”
“No, I don’t do nicknames.”
My whole life prior to Pomona, I went by a nickname; it was how I tried to assimilate. It was a tool I used to make people comfortable when interacting with me. I decided to go by my full name, Oluyemisi, because I saw college as an opportunity to accept all aspects of my identity. Picturing myself as Oluyemisi, I imagined a woman who was unapologetically herself, refusing to “shrink [her]self for someone else’s comfort” (@recipesforselflove on insta).
I wasn’t entering college with the mindset that a name change would make me a completely different person. It was more like I could shed aspects of myself I didn’t like and develop my character. Kind of like the clichéd “REINVENT YOURSELF” vibe that makes one hopeful in a new environment. In this environment, I’m always introducing myself because there are barely five people from my entire school district at Pomona.
Most people I meet don’t realize how harmful it is when they try to pronounce my name, give up, and demand a shortened version. If you’re uncomfortable with my name, it’s like you’re uncomfortable with my existence. Then, a compromise has to be made so we’re both comfortable. The thing is, I’m not comfortable shortening my name … so if I give in to a compromise nickname, I’m really just being passive and letting you get your way. Correct me if you think otherwise, but nobody wants to start a relationship (platonic or romantic) with one person indirectly demanding a compromise and the other just … going … along … with … it…. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like that idea … right??
Thankfully, most people who use a nickname apologize and call me Oluyemisi the next time they see me. I will say, there was one nickname I was given at the beginning of the year and it rhymed, so I let it slide. We don’t use it anymore because the creator wanted to make sure there wasn’t the slightest ounce of discomfort with me having a nickname (even if it was a cool rhyme from a cool person!!).
That being said, the people at Pomona (and the greater Claremont Colleges) are always open to change and open to making room for change. I feel like the person I’m becoming in Claremont is the type of person I was too scared to be in high school. But I wouldn’t be her if I wasn’t in an environment that stimulated growth.
If you want to “REINVENT YOURSELF” at Pomona…go for it!! I embraced my daily dialogue and now I’m always saying “heyo dawg!” I played around with my clothes and now the color inside me shows! I picked academics as something to explore and now I’ve opened up a door or more! Okay, I’m done with the rhyme, I hope this post prevents you from having icky introductions that are sticky like slime!