The Nature of Birthdays

I have just had what is often referred to as a ‘significant birthday.’  It was my 50th birthday and it did feel significant but not because of the fact of the number 50. The number 1 is in fact the reason for its significance. This was my first birthday as Josie Moon and that is what feels important about this mark in time.

I chose to change my name last year – along with a great many other things. My full adopted name is Josie-Anne Elizabeth Crescent-Moon, Josie Moon for ease. I chose to rename myself as part of the process of reclaiming myself. I had an identity and way of being that no longer fit the person I was gradually becoming.  I wanted an identity that reflected the changes I was making to myself and my life. The change was not a slight to anyone or a rejection of any other person. It was an embracing of self.

When we are born we are thrown into the world and a context we cannot comprehend. Our existence and identity is entirely dependent on others and we grow and develop as part of a family, a society with a set of rules and practices that we have not chosen for ourselves. We do our best to live within our context and our given identity.

But contexts change. Experience shapes and influences us and we change as a result. Last year as I looked ahead to turning 50, to the inevitable changes that middle life brings I knew I needed a name to take me forward, a name of my own choosing.

I’d already been writing as Josie-Anne for a while and Elizabeth was my given middle name and I like very much. It was the surname that was the most radical choice.

Every month the crescent moon appears in the sky, sharp, new and clear. For me that moon is a symbol of renewal, of possibility and of mutability. All of nature is influenced by the moon and its relationship to the tides, to the cycle of a month, to the very cycle of life itself. The moon reminds us that change is constant and inevitable.

I also love Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel that is now more starkly relevant than ever. At the end Professor Maryann Crescent Moon chairs a conference on Gilead studies. Women are once again powerful, the keepers and guardians of other women’s stories, academics and thinkers and holding names relevant to the earth and nature. Although the Historical Notes section is a shock after the journey with Offred through the novel, and can arguably be read as flippant, it serves as a reminder of mutability. Nothing is constant, including fascist, totalitarian states. All will fall. There is always the possibility of change and renewal. There is always the possibility of a Professor Crescent Moon to curate the past but live in the present and look responsibly to the future.

So I became Crescent-Moon.  With this name and identity I curate the past including the person, in fact people I used to be. I honour the past and value it for all it taught me and for all its connections, relationships, triumphs and disasters.   But I live in the present and I look responsibly towards the future aware of my mutability and all the possibility symbolised in the monthly, hopeful crescent moon cutting the sky, sharp but rounded.

With this more fully realised sense of self I celebrated my first and my 50th birthday on June 3rd. On a quiet beach in a quiet place, dawn broke and I listened to the birds singing, to the breakers on the shore, to my heart beating and I knew myself very well.