A chilly, damp night in early December didn’t keep people away from Takoma Station Tavern in northwest Washington, DC where AARP members, prospective members and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday season with an evening of "Networking with All That Jazz". The AARP DC experience featured jazz musician, entrepreneur, and Washington, DC native Marcus Johnson and his ensemble. The jazz group provided the entertainment with original music from Johnson's vast repertoire plus some unique stylings of familiar holiday tunes.
It was a night of connecting as part of AARP DC’s Life Reimagined initiative. Everyone wore name tags and were asked to indicate underneath their name what they were passionate about, what they would like to see themselves doing before or after retirement, what were their true interests.
A buzz began to fill the air at Takoma Station as the crowd started a networking exercise under the guidance of Warren Edwards, a volunteer networking facilitator.
Practicing the Life Reimagined theme of looking at your “What’s Next?” was DC resident Tina Hampton. Tina is 60-years-old, retired and enjoys coming to Takoma Station. Once when she was still working full-time, she was asked what she could bring to a Christmas party. A friend had recently sent her a recipe for sweet potato cake. She baked two of them, took them to the party and when people began eating dessert many asked, “Oh my God, who made this cake, it’s so delicious. Could you make me a couple cakes?” Hampton said she was shocked because she couldn’t imagine somebody was going to pay her to make a cake. Thus the beginning of Hampton reimagining her life.
“That’s how I got started,” she said. “That year, I retired in July. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I made about forty cakes and that’s how I got into business.” When asked if she considered baking a second career Hampton said, “Not completely. It’s like a little side thing that I do but it seems to be growing so I may have to rethink that.”
Reimagining her real possibilities. That’s what Hampton is doing.
Leslie Nettleford, a former classmate of Johnson, is an attorney for AARP in the Office of the General Counsel. She is no stranger to Johnson’s Life Reimagined pitch. Her passion has been to pursue her singing. She attended previous AARP Life Reimagined sessions where Johnson, also an attorney, offered words of wisdom along with his great cool jazz sounds. After listening to Johnson, Nettleford had an “a-ha moment.”
“It just kind of hit me, finally,” she suddenly realized. “He’s an attorney – he plays music. I can do that too. Why do I have to be one or the other,” she asked herself.
Nettleford’s job, along with being a mother and an aspiring singer became a juggling act of keeping it all together, but she’s doing it now. In fact, at the beginning of the evening’s program, she sang an inspirational gospel/jazz song from her new CD "A Place Called Home".
Another audience member at the "Networking with All That Jazz" evening who has made her way through balancing her many roles in life was 91-year-old Carolyn Etheridge. Along with other audience members at Takoma Station, she enjoyed Johnson’s jazz.
Speaking about her life Etheridge said, “I’ve tried to balance it. Being a wife, a mother, and a State Department employee. You have to balance and realize you can’t do everything extremely well. It’s the pros and cons and the ups and downs you face in organizing your life.”
She continued by saying, “Everyone has different needs and my main need and passion is music,” Etheridge continued. “I run the gamut. Last month I went to see Aida in New York and I came home and played some Marvin Gaye and James Brown with equal enjoyment.”
Etheridge keeps herself current, informed and realizes her passions.
So the "Networking with All That Jazz" night at Takoma Station was inspiring to many in attendance. The casual atmosphere helped people get to know one another and share their dreams of what they love, of what they want now or after retirement, to accept change and embrace reimagining.
As Leslie Nettleford said, “It’s all about rediscovering the possibilities that life has for you and not being afraid to seek your moment. It’s a little scary to go out of the box and say, ‘I’m going to try something new,’ but I am so glad that I did and I encourage others to do the same.”
This story was written by AARP DC communications volunteer Rocci Fisch.