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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2009 Greg Asimakoupoulos
660 words


By: Greg Asimakoupoulos

The summer of 1969 was a memorable one for us as a nation. In addition to the incredible achievement of landing a man on the moon, that was the summer that hundreds of thousands of rock and roll fans camped out on a farm in upstate New York for what was called “Woodstock.” It was also the summer that Senator Ted Kennedy was implicated in a tragic car accident near Chappaquiddick, MA.

But the summer of ’69 was a memorable one for me personally too. On August 13th my identity changed forever. That was the day Edwin and Star Smith of Wenatchee, Washington stood with their two sons (Greg and Marc) before a Chelan County judge. As the sound of a gavel reverberated in the empty courtroom, the Smiths heard him declare that from that day forward they would be known as the Asimakoupoulos family.

After my paternal grandfather immigrated from Greece and be became a naturalized citizen, he changed his name from Haralambos Asimakoupoulos to Harry Smith. Proud of his new country, my Papou chose the most typical  American name he could imagine.

When my dad married and had two sons of his own, his personal pride in his ethnic ancestry was camouflaged by his alias. He regretted his father giving up that tangible part of his Greek heritage. On more than one occasion he told my younger brother and me what our real name was. Repeatedly we encouraged him to reclaim that which was authentically (and uniquely) ours.

Several months before my senior year in high school, my dad decided to act on his inclination. The legal application to change our name was initiated. The endless paperwork was processed. Weeks went by and then on August 13, 1969 with the bang of the gavel, it was official.

After forty years, I can honestly say I have never regretted changing our name. In spite of all the hassles and headaches associated with such a major change, the resulting sense of pride more than made up for the inconvenience. It was like being born again. I had a new start with a new name. I remember practicing my new signature by the hour.

There is something indescribably wonderful about having the chance to begin again. Just ask someone who has left a career they hated for a job they adore. Ask someone who has rebounded from an abusive marriage and is now in a loving relationship. Ask someone who claims thirteen years of sobriety to describe the change. They will all tell you the joy associated with starting over.

No, fresh starts don’t require you to change your name. They just require embracing opportunities for change. A first century rabbi by the name of Saul provides a helpful point of reference. He experienced much change. Although he was called Paul for the last half of his life, changing his name was not all that important to him. From his perspective what really mattered was choosing to bury past choices, regrets and related guilt.

In an ancient letter to a group of students in a Macedonian community, this rabbi wrote, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward…” (Philippians 4:13-14 NIV)  For Paul, the ability to forget (not a good memory) was the key to finding the means to make a new beginning.

August is a great time to ponder possible changes in our lives at work and home. What are some self-destructive patterns of behavior that prevent you from reaching personal goals? What if you were free from those habits or addictions? Maybe the fresh start you’d most welcome has to do with new attitudes related to others or things. Would you like to become known as someone who is positive? gracious? generous?

Take it from one who knows the joy of a new identity. It’s worth the effort.


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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