The idea of “Wise Elder” suddenly occurred to me. While standing at the counter at a full service car wash, I observed the discounts available. “Are you: Military, Student, or a Wise Elder?” Typically, I avoided the senior, senior citizen, or above X age options in so many other places. However, this time I swallowed and even said out loud, “I am a wise elder” to the young person behind the counter! It was the first time, at ‘my age’, I took the discount and the moment of reflection continued.
Ironically, it is AARP who has joyfully invited me to reflect on my lifetime of wisdom, to embrace their slogan of ‘Real Possibilities’, to focus on my life purpose and to celebrate the significance of an encore career.
When I received my degree from the University of Illinois in communications, it was a given to follow that education and related interest into my first career. My telecommunications journey started at ESPN where I focused on the real possibilities of cable television and on an industry on the verge of bringing twenty-four hour specialized networks into living rooms.
I spent over a dozen years representing eclectic programming networks, thriving as a road warrior, stopping at cable operator locations, whether in mom and pop furniture shops and homes or business centers and high rises to gain subscribers. I invited clients to college football games with ESPN. I amused my clients by giving presentations wearing a cowboy hat to represent The Nashville Network, then Disney ears to represent The Disney Channel and then a tie to represent Satellite News Network. I stood on one foot giving an example of gravity golf to represent The Golf Channel.. I put on an annual song and dance by wearing a yellow rain slicker as part of a ‘newscast’ and sang, ‘you are my sunshine, please don’t take my subscribers away.’ My colleagues, the clients and the industry were vibrant, enticing, intriguing and rewarding.
Then, it was my encore career that, unknowingly at the time, came because of education and related interest that was generated outside of my formal education but instead from life experiences. I spent my childhood in the foster care system. When I became a full-time mom (a dream I had because I didn’t have a mother per se), I began volunteering as a court advocate and shelter ambassador. I quickly realized the angst of the children immersed in thoughts that they wouldn’t amount to anything or anyone because of their lives in foster care. Additionally, I was stunned to learn that brothers and sisters continued to be separated in different homes when placed in care, splitting their families even further.
I had made choices when placed in similar care as many of these children. Positive, purposeful choices with real possibilities to defeat the odds of failure and find success as a college graduate, focus on health, priority of family and purposeful career, and even welcome a relationship with my sister (albeit later than anticipated) as sisters and best friends. I had an awakening to help other children find their way.
From the idea of Camp To Belong to the first summer camp program was three months. A week of sibling rivalry, sibling connection and ‘you can be anything you want to be’ programming ended with a question by one of the volunteer counselors, who asked, “What’s next.” My answer was, “I don’t know, but I just fell in love with 32 kids and I’m not going to say, ‘See ya, have a great life.’”
This was the start of my encore career. 22 years later, Camp To Belong exists and thrives to bring real belonging, real possibilities, real purpose to reunite siblings placed in separate foster, adoptive and relative placements – and – encourage the youth to take control of their own destinies.
I think many people do what they have to do in their first careers, just like my pursuit of a career in communications for the cable industry, all the while dreaming of the next thing that they so often do not get to pursue. I got to it, thankfully. And now I am humbled to give inspiring keynotes to social entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to fruition – and to rise up the foster and adoptive communities to embrace their purpose.
Encore. Purpose. Possibilities. Now, I am an AARP Purpose Prize™ Fellow. On behalf of all the wise elders out there who took a leap of faith in an encore career, living life on purpose, I take a bow.
Lynn Price received the AARP Purpose Prize™ Fellow distinction in October, 2017. To see the full details of this award please visit the AARP website.
[Photo by Michael Ensminger]