Finding Miss Lively

I’m a sucker for zodiac signs – I have been interested in astrology since I was a teenager and strongly identify as a Virgo.  At the end of every year, it is my tradition to read my horoscope for the upcoming year.  I was forewarned that in 2016, the stars would have the following in store for me:

…You’re letting go of some attachments to the past, as well as some outmoded views of yourself.  This can be a very liberating time as you start to see yourself in a whole new light. …[Y]ou’re looking at what you do want, letting go of what you don’t – including unsuitable relationships – and embarking on a life that is more suited to the authentic you.

Your mantra for 2016 is: I choose to allow my authentic self to emerge.


While I am fond of reading my horoscope, I usually don’t take it too seriously.  But this year’s predictions have been eerily accurate.


I’ve let go of several significant things in my life this year, the kinds of things that have helped me forge my identity.  In May, my husband and I decided to separate and get a divorce.  Then in July, I moved from Toronto and ended my student days at the Academy of Realist Art. I could give more examples, but I think you get the idea – 2016 has been a year of big changes.  


In the midst of all of this change, a new self is emerging - literally.  I am in the legal process of changing my name.  May I introduce myself as…

Shannon Joy Lively

My snazzy new business cards with my new name!

My snazzy new business cards with my new name!

If you follow me on Instagram, my new name may not (probably won’t?) come as a surprise to you.  In August I started test-driving Shannon Lively on that platform, in addition to my website.


So why a new name?


I want to be true to myself.  Soon enough, I’ll no longer be my husband’s wife.  It doesn’t feel right to keep his name.  But I also am not the same person I was before I married him.  It doesn’t feel right to continue my life with my maiden name, as the girl I once was.


Other strong women I look up to also inspired me to make the change.  I loved the idea of following in the footsteps of Cheryl Strayed and selecting my own name.  My career coach was also instrumental, encouraging me to pick a new name for myself when I still felt unsteady.


When I embarked on the quest of finding my new name, I was disappointed to discover that many of the words that I thought were suited to me sounded like silly or pretentious last names.  In fact, even engaging in the process of selecting a new last name felt a touch pretentious.  I know that I am not alone in this feeling – in her memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed notes that “[t]o pick a word out of the dictionary and proclaim it mine felt a bit fraudulent to me, a bit childish or foolish[.]”    


But when a dear friend suggested Lively, I had a gut reaction – it immediately felt right.  This feeling was confirmed as I looked at synonyms for the word lively.  It was all I could want in a name:


1 a lively young woman: energetic, active, animated, dynamic, full of life, outgoing, spirited, high-spirited, vivacious, enthusiastic, vibrant, buoyant, exuberant, effervescent, cheerful; bouncy, bubbly,[1] perky, sparkling, zestful; informal full of beans, chirpy, chipper, peppy. ANTONYMS listless, lifeless.[2]

My new name isn’t just who I am – it’s also an excellent reminder of who I want to be. 


I also selected a new middle name – Joy – in homage to my days at the ARA.  There another dear friend described me as “the living embodiment of Joy, the happiest, most helpful, inspiring and capable of the characters in Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out!”  I love this comparison to Joy so much – it just delights me. 


So now I have two new names that I love and want to aspire to.  But I will always be Shannon – that will never change.  Now I’m just Shannon, re-imagined.


[1] The synonym bubbly reminds me of my high school math teacher.  When I was in grade 12, he nicknamed me Bubbles because I sounded so bubbly on the school intercom.  When I saw the link between bubbly and lively, I knew I was on the right track.

[2] The other interesting, albeit less pertinent, synonyms for lively are:

2 a lively bar: busy, crowded, bustling, buzzing; loud, rowdy; vibrant, boisterous, jolly, festive; informal buzzy, hopping. ANTONYMS quiet, dead.

3 a lively debate: heated, vigorous, animated, spirited, enthusiastic, forceful; exciting, interesting, memorable. ANTONYMS lifeless, dull.

4 a lively portrait of the local community: vivid, colorful, striking, graphic, bold, strong. ANTONYMS lifeless, dull.