Saturday, January 17, 2009

Change and Perception: Belasco and Stayer

"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer"Flight of the Buffalo"(1994)

The first time I was really old enough to be present and aware when we moved was when we moved from Panama City, Florida to Portland (well, a suburb of Portland, anyway).  I was 12 and had just left a home and a school and a neighborhood full of military kids - kids who had lived all over the world and who moved a lot and who's dad often did something mysterious for a living...there were always kids around to play with - even if sometimes they weren't the kids you were hoping to play with.  I had a southern accent and I was used to swimming every day in summer, riding my bike all over creation, stores called TG&Y and Winn-Dixie and Church's Fried Chicken and Capt'n D's.  Here, we moved to a house on a busy street across from a "development" - a place with a neighborhood association and rules about who could play in their parks and playgrounds and who couldn't.  There were never any kids outside playing - even in the summer...the swimming pools required you to pay per hour.  We had paid for the entire day, getting out only when the lifeguards yelled, "Adult swim!  Everybody under 18 out of the pool!" and we would all get out and run around for 30 minutes while the adults swam - splash-free.

I remember distinctly a day, maybe a month or so into the school year when I was in the 7th grade...all the kids had known each other practically since birth, they had all gone to the same schools and had already developed their cliques.  I had an accent and I spoke yearningly of my old life.  I had gone to a "sixth grade center" the year before - an experiment to separate the older kids from the kindergarteners, train them to the more complex world of junior high school but at the same time, protect them from the 9th graders.  My burgeoning friendships were weighed down by my longing for the past.  My inability to grasp the new and embrace it really hindered me in those early days.  One day, I could just see it in one of my friend-acquaintance's eyes - "If you say, 'when I was in Florida' one more time...".  So I stopped saying it.  And that was the beginning of not missing it so much.

For a military kid, it was a pretty easy lesson to learn.  Even if my friend hadn't had that reaction, that phrase would have worked its way out soon - I was used to moving and finding new friends ASAP - adapting to the new life.  It took a little longer here just because of the radical changes, but I got there.

Romanticizing the past is such a human thing to do - we make our fallen leaders, our old friends, our family members, our favorite stars seem like more than they were...What would JFK's legacy be had he lived?  Or MLK's?  What would Roby's life have been like if he had lived? What would more could Heath Ledger have done had he lived? Or Elvis? Marilyn?  We long for the past that was mythically easier (or harder when that is more convenient).  I understand it.  I do it, too.

But I like the reminder.  If your hands are full of the past, you can't pick up anything new. 


  1. 'if your hands are full of the past, you can't pick up anything new.' ~ i love that line and am printing it into my journal as a solid reminder to myself...thank you for that gift today, it is a much needed one.

  2. oh, and now that i'm thinking about it...may i ask your permission to use that quote in a book i am working in for a round robin book group? the theme of the book is 'if' and your quote has inspired my thinking around what i might do on my pages. it would be lovely to include the quote (credited to you, of course.) let me know...xoxox

  3. Hi Heather -

    Of course you can use the quote. I'm honored.

    I'm so glad that something here is beneficial to others, too. I know it is helping me grow. :) I'm loving this theme!!

    Have a great day!



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