As a founding member of the AARP Volunteer Leadership Institute (VLI), I had the opportunity to learn about the background research that went into developing the Life Re-imagined and Work Re-imagined programs. Time and again, the research revealed that Life Re-imagined is not about being 40 or 50 or 60 or any other age. Discovering “what’s next” and creating a new stage for oneself is a “frame of mind”. It involves being open to suggestion. It involves recognizing that yesterday’s activities do not necessarily have to be the activities of tomorrow. And, perhaps most difficult, it involves considering the unexpected as a possible path to greatness.
Serendipitous events often play a key role in these unexpected connections. For example, it is time for me to start a new exercise routine and swimming was to be the sport of choice; Aqua-aerobics to be exact. I went onto Yelp to find swimming pools in my geography. Between the Equinox Clubs and the local Community Centers was an ad for an aquatic program targeting pregnant and postpartum women. Although I am no longer looking to make more babies, I was open to doing a good aqua-aerobics class with this special group of people. And, so, this innocent phone call led me to Andrea; a 30-somethng year old woman who has already created numerous chapters in her life. As Andrea shared her story with me, she credited much of her journey to situations which simply fell into her lap. I agree that situations do come about when we least expect them to appear, however, even when something falls into our lap, we have to be ready to see it, to consider it and to do it. In other words, to create a Life Reimagined, we have to be open to receiving new experiences.
Let me share part of Andrea’s story with you. Through a series of fall in her lap situations, Andrea found herself becoming a go to person for pregnant women wanting a personal trainer. Andrea has never been pregnant herself. Schmoozing with a few of her pregnant clients, they started talking about doing new things. They spoke about doing new things that are difficult or challenging. Pregnancy is an example of something that is new (the first time for sure), as well as difficult and often challenging (“Oh, my aching back”).
As the conversation with the group continued, Andrea shared her discomfort with running and jogging activities. From the way she told me the story, this led to a conversation comparing pregnancy to the Marathon des Sables. Ranked as the hardest footrace on earth, by the Discovery Channel, the Marathon is a six day adventure through the Sahara desert. Rules require the participants to be self-sufficient; everything that you will need to survive –except for water and a tent to sleep in–must be carried on your back. Whoa! And, before you know it, Andrea, the non-runner is making arrangements to participate in the Marathon des Sables. She ran. In fact, she was the only woman from the US who finished the Marathon that year! The Superhero came out; Yesterday’s activities were no longer the norm.
I asked Andrea if I could include her story in one of my blogs for AARP. “What is AARP?” Andrea asked me. Remember, Andrea is 30-something. I explained that AARP is a member association of approximately 37 million people. While seniors play a significant role in the AARP agenda, the organization has programs that can help ALL people, at any age, to see the Real Possibilities that life offers. The philosophy, I said, is Life Re-imagined. “Sure, you can share our conversation”, said Andrea.
“However”— we both said almost simultaneously—-“this story has nothing to do with age and everything to do with frame of mind”.
Thank you Andrea for providing me with such a great story — better yet, is the great visual! Your motivational story found me; I did not go looking for it. Or did I…. by changing my own frame of mind?
So, where is my own Superhero hiding? Within my one original piece of artwork (that I felt was good enough to put into an expensive frame)? Within the six moves that I arranged for my family – each of which brought us to new neighborhoods in new geographies with new schools, new jobs, new friends, new doctors, and more! Or maybe my Superhero is waiting inside of the blogs that I will weave into a storyline of thoughtful anecdotes. Stay tuned.
Follow @SharonLewisNYC on Twitter or @AARNY
Tweets All Mine
Thank you for sharing this story, Sharon! You nailed it with this sentence, “In other words, to create a Life Reimagined, we have to be open to receiving new experiences.” I have the pleasure to work on Life Reimagined at AARP AND I also used to work with Terry, so I’m very familiar with all the great work you’re doing in VLI. Cheers! — Beth D.