Before the holiday season consumed us, Next For Me friend Shilpa S. hosted an intimate gathering at her home in Madison, Wisconsin to discuss the topics near and dear to our hearts. Work, finance and community.
Eight people ranging in age from their mid-forties to mid-seventies met around Shilpa’s dining table and the conversation was remarkably open on topics including life choices and of course what’s next.
In our public events we’ve been hearing that there is interest and a need for a community to host these conversations. This came through clearly during the event and the group have plans to continue meeting on a regular basis.
There was also interest in discussing the absence of intergenerational interaction in today’s digital world. Families and generations are often thousands of miles away and the connections and sharing are limited.
Following are some of the highlights from the evening:
Serendipitous Events Can Drive Your Life Story
I think staying in tune to what you need, you’re going to know when it’s right and you’re going to know what the right thing is. Even if I thought one thing and then something else came, but just being open each day. It’s not necessarily about other people.
I hear a lot about people in their sixties and seventies starting new careers now. It really starts with your purpose and your intention. You can manifest whatever you want and I think it starts with you and the doors will open.
One day my husband was selling something on Craigslist and he checked out the bio of someone coming to buy this thing at my house. He found that this woman was doing consulting for museums and he said, you should talk to her. Just go introduce yourself when she comes. And I did and we connected.
That helped me launch into doing consulting for socially responsible and cultural organizations. And I met what was my future business partner and we did a wonderful project for the National Park Service.
I helped my husband start a leather importing business which was to last a couple of years. Thirteen years later we were still doing our business and then we finally had to close down the business. It was just by chance that we were closing the store.
The shutters were down and some lady came in, knocked on the door and said, “Oh, I’m meeting a friend of mine here and we love your leather goods can we come and can purchase something?” And I said, “I’m sorry the store is closed, but come in and take whatever you want.” And so she said, what are you going to do from now on?” It was like a light bulb went off and without thinking, I said “I want to be a speech pathologist.” She said, “Well, why not now?” And I said, “I’m too old, I’ve got three kids and life is over.” She said, no.
We remain friends and it was that nudge that changed the future around a vocation I had worked towards at another stage in my life.
Intergenerational Exchanges and Family
It felt very grounding coming back here again. San Francisco (where we lived) was sort of the land without time. There are no seasons, everyone’s between the age of 25 and 55 with no younger people and we didn’t have kids. Time didn’t pass and that’s a little unsettling. So it was really good to come back here and feel that passage of time again and see the children grow up and be near family.
One of the pieces that it seems many of us had, but a lot of younger kids now don’t, is connection with elders. I was so close with my grandparents. Our social contract is that after a certain age you’re retired and you’re less useful, you’re not a “production unit”. And that’s not the ethic that I grew up with. It was far more honorable to be the older adult in my families.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with the Ojibwe tribes and learning more about kinship systems and how the tribes are using culture and history in a positive sense as revitalization–reclaiming culture as their health and their gold.
The role of the elders in the ceremony that goes into how you discuss anything with an older adult in those communities has just reminded me of how I missed that.
I see the void for my kids and I’ve really made an active effort to help my kids get to know older adults that are willing to take the time, that are willing to actually give the gift of their time to my kids. And it’s rare.
A Community to Belong to
The nuggets are in the stories and if we don’t really allow ourselves to open up and tell the stories, then we’re just getting into opinions. The stories are just the beginning and if we meet again we can continue to unwrap some of the markers of this conversation.
This is the kind of gathering where there is an energetic flow, where we see what emerges. There is an openness, willingness and interest in what develops. It’s really cool that there are varying genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds tonight.
What’s Next – Transitions
I left my career without a plan or a job. I had some experience in the hopper and so a year ago I started a business that’s fundamentally integrating my data and experience, my training in my professional facilitation with art.
So how do you move forward in a disrupted time? I’m using everything that I’ve got to do it. So that’s how the flowers of experience are opening again.
I love going to the Senior Center because all these people are just genuinely wanting to connect with you. It’s about connection. I think that’s what we all ultimately want is connection.
But what’s different from before is that I don’t think this conversation was as common. People are evolving and getting more in tune with what makes them happy and thinking about what, what is it, what is my inner voice saying and what is it that’s different right now?