Michael Stewart: Other Michael Stewart

Friday, May 24, 2013
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2013

Weeks before I drove up to Providence for freshman orientation, I decided that I was going to change my name. For the past six years, I had gone by Stewie, an abbreviation of my last name that middle school “friends” had bestowed upon me. The summer before freshman year, I decided I would change some aspects of myself before I got to Brown. College was going to be one giant first impression, and I wanted to do it right; going by my first name seemed like an easy way to establish a new persona. Stewie was definitely too childish for a Brown student. Yes, Michael had less “personality,” but it seemed more mature, even intellectual. Michael might write an honors thesis, while Stewie seemed more likely to doodle in class. Also, I couldn’t just introduce myself to professors as Stewie, right?

Sadly, my plans did not materialize. During the first few days, I kept mixing up my introductions: “Hi, I’m Stewie … wait. No. Michael!” I kept reverting to Stewie, as if the name fought against its own demise. I gave up on Michael after that first week. Stewie, and all that I thought it implied, had followed me to Brown.

A few weeks later during my first shopping period, I learned that there are multiple Michael Stewarts at Brown. After receiving dozens of polite but urgent emails asking about ENGL 0180: “Introduction to Creative Nonfiction,” I realized that one of them was a faculty member in the English department. Each semester, eager students emailed me requests, questions and assignments for the class taught by Other Michael Stewart. Once, the head of the English department even sent an email informing me of my promotion to the position of lecturer. I was flattered, but knew I probably couldn’t be both a student and faculty member. This cycle repeated each semester and eventually came to signal the start of each new term; a few misplaced emails in late August or January got me excited about heading back to Brown. Even when I studied abroad in Scotland, those emails from misguided students reminded me of the school and community I had temporarily left behind. These messages came to highlight more than just the commonality of my name — they demarcated time and provided me with a lesson in how to find meaning in otherwise random, frustrating occurrences.

This past semester, I finally enrolled in Other Michael Stewart’s class. Sneaking in late to the first meeting, I heard him warn the class about making sure to email the correct person. Apparently, there is a student named Michael Stewart who gets some of his emails.

Looking back at the past four years, I cannot begin to list all the ways this place has changed me. It has been a sometimes turbulent but always interesting experience. It has made me into a more thoughtful person, even if I still encounter the occasional awkward moment.

“Stewie, what’s your last name?”

“Wait, your name is Stewie Stewart?!”

But I have learned to embrace these moments. They have shaped who I’ve become. Email mix-ups, late-night library realizations, a great class, that Spring Weekend story, a relationship or a job can all influence how we view our time here. My name was tied to how I experienced Brown. At first, I thought that it would greatly affect my time at Brown. It did, but not in the way I expected. The unintended side effects of life, revealed through these anecdotes, are what really changed me. These stories, and the meaning we find in each, are what define us. They allow us to continue learning after we move beyond College Hill and will continue to reveal how this place changed us, regardless of any plans we made freshman year.

Michael Stewart will enroll in Brown’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program and is excited that his future students may call him Mr. Stewart.

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One Comment

  1. awwwwwwwwwwwwwww STEWIE STEWART

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