Question:

I'm in my 40s and heading to graduate school for a completely different career. I've always hated my first name - it sounds great for a child but does not transfer very well as a professional name. I'd like to change it as I embark on my new direction, but I feel silly being my age and sounding like I'm having an identity crisis. Thoughts?

Answer: But do you like it otherwise? Sounding professional strikes me as a subordinate goal, not a defining one.

If you're sure: This is a pain-now-vs.-nuisance-forever question. Yes, you'll feel like an idiot changing your name at your age. But, climbing Idiot Mountain now means one day leaving the whole thing behind you.

If, instead, you decide the hassle isn't worth it, then be ready to ask yourself whether it's silly at 50-something to own this identity crisis. Though maybe at that point you'll have summited Mount Don't Give a Whit, which often occurs around then.

Question: I am an adult (35) with a great relationship with my mother. We have had one long-standing issue: When I ask my mother's opinion on things she will often say it is "fine" or "OK." To me, this leaves a lot of room for improvement. When I follow up with, "What should I do better?" she says, "I said it was OK!"

Answer: You could solve it in five seconds by saying, "Great, thanks," when she declares something "fine" or "OK." (Or in zero seconds by choosing not to seek her approval for things anymore.)

She could solve it in 10 seconds by replacing "fine" with something more usefully descriptive.

Neither of you does this, though, so it's safe to conclude both of you have objectives more pressing to you than resolving this issue. Maybe Mom's trying either not to say something mean or not to say something nice, while you just want kindness to be her first impulse. Maybe you can reflect your way to an epiphany on these objectives.

But it's also OK - fine, even - to reconcile yourself to the fact that this is just who she is.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.