As many people have remarked, I seem to have an easier time making changes in my life, especially as a septuagenarian, a time when some people scale back and others often give up. Over the years my friends have seen me confused but not defeated when change was not of my choosing, like divorce. And yet, they witnessed an energy spurt when I took positive steps to change my life, like finding a new job at the business school, selling my house, and marrying Bruce.
A big change occurred as a youngster when mother shipped me off to summer camp for eight weeks, and then years later when I was a teenager, she uprooted me again, sending me to a boarding school in another state, which meant leaving my hometown high school and the girlfriends I loved.
Mom would have been called a change agent if that title was used during her day. I credit her ability to promote change as well as easily accept it on the DNA molecules passed down by her parents and grandparents, a lineage that endured centuries of change, brought about by famine and war. One of my mother’s biggest change was forced upon her during war time. When she was only twelve, her mother grabbed all four kids and ran for their lives as they watched their war-torn village burn down in Northern Greece. With optimism cemented in their frontal lobes but no English words on their tongue, the family boarded a ship and sailed for America, not knowing exactly what to expect. They just knew it would be safer than staying in Greece. This genetic pattern of seeing the glass half full rather than half empty was passed down to me and my siblings and to Mom’s grandchildren as well. With an alcoholic for a father, Mom didn’t have an easy time growing up, but she learned to develop a tough skin, called resilience, and eventually she met and married my dad who saw her as his partner and not his assistant. Early life situations that involved a very mean father and a mother who spoke no English helped my mother to develop her strong and resilient self. Her resilience taught her how to be tough as nails, a quality I believe is embedded in me and all of the Perkins women I know today. She was an inspiration, and although her toughness often rubbed some people the wrong way, now that she’s gone, we see how that edge helped her survive through the same disappointments that many of us face today.
Mom’s attitude and determination were expressed in many ways, most notably when she and dad sold a thriving restaurant business to build a motel, a hospitality concept that was just taking shape in the tourist industry in the 1950s. Many people in our small town thought they were nuts to take such a financial risk, but risk didn’t frighten them. If anything it was empowering, especially as they saw their business grow and succeed. Mom and Dad lived through wars in their home land and a depression in their new land, and I believe their survival came from the genetic threads of the Vlachs, an ethnic minority group, now living mostly in the Balkans, people known for their independence and grit. In their 60s my parents, both Vlachs, sold Perkins Motel, moved from the small town they lived in for 35 years, and found a new home in a city 100 miles away. They relocated there because they wanted to experience a growth spurt, learn new things and meet new people. This big change helped to keep them healthy and more vital much longer in life. Appreciating this genetic makeup has helped me understand why I adapt well to change, and in some cases why I’m eager to make it happen.
Such was the case in our buying and moving to a new house in a new city after 16 years of living in the same place. Bruce wasn’t quite as eager to make the change as I was. He had his reasons. He was comfortable; his office was only ten minutes a way; we were close to Whole Foods; could walk to the gym, and eventually walk to the movies as a cineplex was under construction right up the street. It took some convincing on my part, but eventually after reading through my list of the five most important reasons to make a move now, Bruce agreed. In this crazy Silicon Valley real estate market it took a while before we found something that suited us well, but when we did, we loved it so much we didn’t care that we had to drive to Whole Foods and take the freeway to get to the gym. Now we live in an established neighborhood fairly close to a vibrant downtown. Some of our closest friends weren’t completely surprised when we left our turn-key town home with HOA amenities and moved to another city 25 minutes north to live in a one-story house built in the 1920s that needed some work and would require structural changes—plus an addition.
People who don’t know my inclination for change assumed that a residential move for us would come much later in our lives, perhaps when we could no longer negotiate the stairs, or lost interest in traveling, or even not wanting to cook for ourselves. Thankfully, we are not even close to this stage yet, and because we are healthy and active, we hope to have many good years ahead of us in a new house we can enjoy along with the big and exciting changes. So yes, we bought an old house with a high maintenance yard and a huge vegetable garden that needs tender loving care. We also know there’s no management company to call if the roof leaks.
Living in a new house in a dynamic city makes us feel young again. We’ve embraced change like my mother did all her life, but we didn’t have to cross the Atlantic to emulate her experience. We can still enjoy the wonderful Bay Area climate, the same ethnic diversity, and a city with historical significance that has developed an exciting vision for its future. We also live closer to San Francisco. Switching gears, repotting and change are necessary to keep our brain cells alive, prevent ennui from setting in, and to live life to its fullest.
Viva Le Change!