In Nigerian culture,** parents typically assemble grandparents, close friends, a pastor, and relatives for a naming ceremony for the child, 7 days after birth. It is an occasion full of celebration, prayer, and inspiration as everyone revels over what the child’s name will be. Typically, the child will have several traditional names, an English (or name from a book within their religious faith), and a family surname.
My name is “Abisola Coretta Kusimo,” pronounced ah-bee-so-la | ko-reh-ta | ee-koo-she-moh. Abisola translates to born into wealth, Coretta (taken from Coretta Scott King) I jokingly interpret as destined to marry a king, and Kusimo translates to there is no more death or death does not know me. There is tremendous power in a Nigerian name. They are the dreams parents bake into us from when we’re young. It is over the course of our life that we come to realize what they saw in us from the moment we were born. For our families, our names are the dreams and the children are the visions that will carry it out.
Dreams are powerful. And just in how people will befuddle and overlook our names, so too our dreams, get mishandled and misshapen in this world. “Life can be a dream slayer,” Pastor Hurmon laments in one of his recent sermons. And it’s painful when these things happen. It still breaks my heart that things don’t work out the way I want them to–but there’s two pieces of good news! 1) Aligning my dreams for me with God’s dreams for me makes for more than I could ever imagine possible and 2) I am so grateful I don’t always get what I ask for, or what I think I deserve.
There’s so much more that can be elaborated on the two points above, but (lucky for you)I’ll save that for another time. For now, this post is dedicated to how I turn those seemingly good dreams into visions. You may wonder, why is this step necessary at all? To that, I say, a vision is a full-embodiment of a dream. Dreams are fleeting. The very nature of a dream is to be temporary and intangible. A vision is as close as I can get to the sensory experience without already doing it. It’s a committed meditative act that primes me to follow through on the small steps that will get me there.
Having a vision for my life is not just as simple as having a dream. Simply giving something a name, with no action, affirmation, consideration, or intention, is quite meaningless. Expecting a seed with no soil to one day bear fruit is absurd (though, I’m sure science is close). To provide another cliché example: MLK’s dream was just that. Simply a dream. Simply some desires he had happened to give a name to. Until, he courageously shared it with the world and it became a vision for what this country could be. To create a vision, I’ve learned that there are three things I do that keep me focused and accountable to follow through (although not necessarily always in this order): 1) I always write them down, 2) Pray and or meditate over them, and 3) Speak them into the world.
Writing it. The things I want in my life, I write down. Put it in a place I will confront in my room. Occasionally, I will write a letter to myself, from myself a few months to a few years in the future. I detail the things that I’m proud of accomplishing, that haven’t happened yet. I do my best to think beyond that moment that I’m in and create a goal that seems so far away; forcing my mind to then scramble subconsciously trying to figure out how to connect the dots (Note: Your brain will actually do this).
Praying it. Dreams need to be thought on, played with, flipped over and over and over. What does the dream feel like? Look like? How far away is it? How would it make you feel? Is it even BIG enough? I once sat in bed, set a 5-minute timer, closed my eyes and imagined giving my dissertation defense to a packed room of my closest family, friends, and supporters throughout this journey. I actually started crying. It had become that real to me.
Speaking it. Sometimes the first person who needs to hear what I want for my life is myself. Other times, it’s a friend, or my mother. What’s important to me, is that it doesn’t just stay on paper, or in my body, but that it takes on a new life of its own in the minds of others. That other people may hear this name, and remind me of what I set out to do.
Implicit in my vision recipe is the role of refinement. In everything I write, think over, and say, there is an element that requires updates to incorporate new ideas. From time to time, I even go back and edit some of these posts as my thinking changes. Sometimes it requires days of re-evaluating whether the goals I wanted still make sense for me. For whatever its worth, give yourself permission to not always know the answer, and offer yourself grace to forge ahead anyway!
I am so grateful to my parents for the name that they gave me. For the calling that my family has placed on my life. For the look on people’s faces when they ask me what it means. Our names are important because they are the first words we ever learn, and the only things we’ll leave behind.
**Note: there are specific nuances for particular villages and tribes, the ceremony described above is a high-level overview of a Yoruba naming ceremony as explained to me by my mother. In many countries (e.g. the U.S.) it is not possible to wait until the 7th day after a child is born to give them a name. So families are creative about when and how they hold the naming ceremony. Often, all of the names a child has will not make it onto the birth certificate. I personally, have more names than I know what to do with…