By departing our corporate work life, we allowed a door to close behind us. Instead of assuming that another door would open, what we envisioned was an open field where we could run in any direction, pick daisies, swing at golf balls, or even lie down and take a nap. The feeling of freedom was heady. Still is.
For months, we have gloried in our ability to relax and enjoy ourselves. We are healthier and happier than we have been in a long time, because we are not working and have more time to spend taking care of ourselves and each other.
But in the midst of the relative isolation of a Chicago winter, I began to reach out to friends and former colleagues by networking online. I’m frankly surprised by the joy and satisfaction I’m experiencing as a result of this contact. Connecting with close friends in a different way, finding lost friends and catching up, reconnecting with former colleagues whose careers have taken fascinating paths, and making new acquaintances based on mutual interests – all of these things are now easier as a result of social and professional networking on the internet. Personally, I am tuned in on Facebook and LinkedIn. The more I put into these channels, the more I seem to get back in return.
For example, let me tell you about this week:
On Monday, I had a delightful and stimulating lunch with an admired colleague I worked with 20 years ago at Hilton. She now works for a strategic meeting, incentive and event production agency headquartered in Chicago. We reconnected via LinkedIn just a few weeks ago (because of a mutual connection). She showed me examples of some of the work her company does, and we talked about the possibility of me doing some freelance writing for them on proposals. We have decided to meet for lunch on a monthly basis so we can share stories and ideas. I’m thrilled!
Wednesday, I headed to Evanston to meet a Northwestern student for whom I have been providing some pro bono Marketing consulting. He has an eco-friendly office supply company, and is looking for ways to grow his business. On Monday, he distributed a press release I wrote on his behalf, and is currently hoping for responses that will result in some exposure in the local media (including WGN TV). Our relationship also came from meeting up through a Northwestern group on LinkedIn.
After meeting with my new entrepreneurial friend, I moved on to a Career Day sponsored by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism – an opportunity extended to me via email as an NU Alum. I was a bit of an anomaly in the crowd of attendees (because of my…ahem…experience), but I made two great new contacts. One is a producer at WGN TV, who is now interested in the story about our eco-friendly entrepreneur. The other is a “Creative Web Director” for a company who uses freelance writers to develop content for web sites. With my love for writing, this is something I’m interested in exploring. It was a great visit to campus – and I got to see the purple and white crocuses blooming in full force on my walk from the el station to the student center by Lake Michigan.
What a stimulating week I’ve had! Being retired doesn’t mean I’m lying on the couch watching Oprah. To me, it means I have the freedom to explore my passions and to live the next chapter of my life.