Suzy, in her early thirty’s, has the classic Armenian features of long dark hair, almond shaped eyes framed by a dense fringe of dark lashes and light olive skin. Having been born in Beirut, Lebanon, she moved to Boston with her family while still a child. Now settled in Watertown, the Armenian enclave of the city, she is in the same situation as many others, looking for employment while staying active in the rest of life and maintaining a positive outlook.
She’s worked in a biotech marketing consulting company but, during the recent economic downturn, was laid off. It was a small company, very different than what she was used to, but the work she was doing was new and challenging. It is the diversity and challenge that gets her productivity juices flowing. There is creativity to the work that is not immediately apparent. “I’d never written press releases before. I don’t know how well I did them, but I learned by doing,” she says in a self deprecating manner and laughs.
When asked what she would like to be doing, her immediate answer is “What don’t I want to be doing. I have my hands in everything.” In fact, she is very involved in both the Armenian community and outside of it. Finding a job is full time work and it keeps her relatively busy, but she is also a member of a dance group, volunteers her time to teach young children to dance, occasionally works on a freelance basis, and has a full schedule of family activities mostly spent with her niece and nephew. “I’m busier now than when I had a regular job,” she says and laughs at the irony.
“I made my choices willingly. Nobody forced me,” she says in reference to her current situation. Suzy’s zest for life is obvious. She claims that she’s gained weight because she loves to eat. “Every since I was a little kid. I was not afraid of that.” She also acknowledges that life sometimes is simply a series of stressful situations which also affect it. “Changes in life happening back to back – you get married, you get divorced, you change jobs, you move from one place to another – just life,” she says with a philosophical sigh.
All these events in her life all took place while living in the Boston area where she’s lived since she emigrated from her birth city. She’s considered living someplace other than Boston but claims that she’d have to have a good reason to move somewhere else. “Otherwise I stay in Boston because that’s where my family is. My family always comes in at number one. That is my decision. I can move far away but I’d want to see them very often.” Married and divorced by the time she was 25, Suzy now lives with her mother in the second floor of a duplex while her brother and his family live on the first floor. Family gatherings occur daily and the whole building bursts at the seams when her other sister, with her family, visit every few weeks from Baltimore. “My sister moved away – she made that choice – but it’s very, very difficult for her.”
This sense of belonging and involvement extends beyond the boundaries of her family and into the Armenian community where she began to actively participate through the dance group. “I’ve been dancing since I was eleven years old,” she says. Most of her friends and social connections are a result of this involvement.
The sense of camaraderie amongst the dance ensemble is a source of comfort and an opportunity for social interaction with like minded peers. “I also love to teach it. I’ve been doing that since I was seventeen,” she explains. “When I walk into the room and all the kids run up to me yelling ‘Suzy’ I can’t help but be in a good mood no matter how bad of a day I’ve had.”
Statistics show that, as adults, we end up living within three miles of where we grow up. Suzy has certainly embodied that because even when married, she was still within a comfortable distance of her childhood home. “But that was a different part of life,” she says without any bitterness. “I can honestly say my husband was not a bad person.” Nevertheless, after a brief two years, the marriage crumbled. “I think what got the best of him was his addictions,” she says. Married to a much older man at 22, she didn’t have enough experience to know how to manage it or how to overcome the challenges posed by substance abuse.
Now divorced almost 8 years, she has many life experiences far beyond her years. She feels much more confident and self assured than she did during the years of that long ago chapter of her life. Despite the difficulties of those years, she is open to the idea of marriage. “I would love to,” she says but adds “to the right guy.” She doesn’t plan to spend her days looking for the “right guy” because time is too valuable. “I want to do the things in my life the way that I want to do them in the way that makes me happy.” These days that includes working with people to put a smile on their face and to inspire them – very much like the effect she has on her young dance students. She takes her responsibility as a role model very seriously.
“I’m all about relationships,” she says. “The relationships I have, all the way from my four year old little niece all the way to the parents of my friends are very important. I will respect everybody. I want to hear their stories of what they have gone through in life.” She believes that the individual stories and understanding the choices that others have made in their lives helps explain why some are successful in finding their passion in life and others are not. Suzy believes that, ultimately, finding this passion is what makes people happy and content. And who doesn’t want to achieve those things?