For starters, at age 45, I have reached my temporal halfway mark, meaning that if I am lucky enough to live out the rest my natural life without being taken early by disease or accident, I now have just about the same amount of time left as on this earthly plane as I’ve already used up.
That, to me, seems like a big deal. A very, very big deal.
As this “halfway there” awareness around my approaching birthday settled over me in the past month or two, I at first felt more than a little gobsmacked by it. Half my life is already over? How the heck did that happen? Wasn’t I just getting started not so long ago? Where did the time go? So basically, I’m halfway to THE END? How can I get to the halfway point without yet having done anywhere near half the things I want to do?
Talk about a birthday party buzzkill. Midlife awareness of creeping mortality isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes anyone want to celebrate.
But then, a week or two ago, while I was out walking Leo and pushing G in her stroller on the greenway behind our house, I was thinking about all of this when I had a flash of optimistic clarity in which I realized that at 45, my glass isn’t half empty, it’s half full – as long as I choose to live it that way.
Since that day, my perspective has shifted, and I’ve decided that this tangible halfway mark in my life should be a place where I pause in order to take a thorough inventory of where I’ve been and what I’ve done during Act I, as well as deliberately consider where I want to be 45 years from now. Then, with my personal audit laid out in front of me, I can sketch out the roadmap to take me from age 45 to 90 in the way I want to get there. When I think about my birthday milestone this way, it feels kind of exciting and empowering and very, very freeing. Of course, one of the hardest lessons I have learned in the first half of my life is that many elements of what make up our days are ultimately beyond our control, and I accept that. But for the four decades ahead, I can certainly be in charge of those things in life where I do get to drive the bus, and I can be more aware and deliberate and joyful as I travel.
In addition to looking ahead to plan what I do want to have in my life, and looking for ways to gather those elements in going forward, I have also realized that now is an excellent, logical time to thoughtfully consider which lingering messes or burdens need to be jettisoned for good as I embark on Act II. So I have been asking myself honestly whether there are any remnants of periods of my life now past that no longer serve me well, or at all, but from which I’ve somehow neglected to fully disentangle myself.
And there are. I have a list. It isn’t a long list, and the items on it aren’t necessarily negative things. Instead, these are simply parts of my life that I am determining to have an expired shelf life. It’s time to leave a few tattered artifacts behind, fully appreciating them for what they were to me at one time while looking ahead to what’s next.
And the most obvious of these Act I leftovers is one that has defined me to some degree for the past 22 years – my name. Prior to 1990, my name was Catherine Brittain Allison, and I went by Katie Allison. That’s how I was known to all who knew me, and I liked my name because I liked my family. But when I was 22 years old, I got married, and while I considered keeping my own last name, and I even tried hyphenating my new husband’s last name and mine for a brief period early on. But then, when I was pregnant with our first baby – born in 1991 – I decided that it made better logistical sense if the three of us shared the same last name. So I signed off on the legal documentation to officially change my last name to the one I have gone by both personally and professionally ever since.
I have not lived with the person from whom I adopted my new last name since late 2002, and we were divorced in 2004. But I kept the name. At the time of our divorce, I felt like it would be unsettling to my three then still relatively young children who were already adjusting to their parents’ divorce if I also changed my name from the one we shared. Plus, it also seemed like it would be a big hassle to try to reintroduce myself at work and everywhere else by a name I hadn’t really ever used as an adult. So the name I took when I had married more than a decade previously remained.
And it’s stayed with me ever since. But now, I feel very sure that the right time has come to let it go, and to reclaim the name with which I was born, and which ties me to my family of origin – especially to my father, whom I lost in 2008. Yes, my three oldest children obviously still carry their father’s last name, and it’s a lovely, wonderful name that I have been honored to “borrow” for the past 22 years. I love their names, and the history of their names, which now includes many years of their mom having it as well. But because I remarried in 2006, my three oldest children’s two little sisters have a different last name – my husband Jon’s family name. So there’s really no way for me to have a last name that is the same as all five of my kids, which offers another good reason for me to reclaim my own name. And of course, I am their mother no matter what it says on my driver’s license. “Mom” to Henry, J, E, C and G is not a name that will ever change for me
And so, after discussing it with Jon and the kids, as well as running the idea by a few good friends, plus my two younger siblings, I have happily decided that for my halfway-there birthday this week, I am giving myself the gift of a new-old name. Starting immediately, I am once again Katie Allison. I will be letting my colleagues and friends know of the change this week, and taking steps to get all the name-change paperwork filed with the court and the DMV and the Social Security Administration in order to make my birthday gift to myself “official.”
Switching over everything that has my name on it now to my reclaimed name will be a process, and may take some time (for example, I have to let the folks at Babble know that I will need a new byline at the top of my blog!), but I am getting the ball rolling this week, and as of today, the name I will be answering to is the one I answered to before May 26, 1990.
Catherine Brittain Allison
Yep, that’s me alright, a little bit lighter after this change, and ready to take on whatever it is that the next 45 years have in store for me!
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)