Exploring Life After Channel 5

Boston is and always will be my home. It was this city and its people who wrapped their arms around me when my life changed so dramatically at the turn of the century. My daughter Lindsay was off to Vanderbilt, her father moved to Quincy, and, after months of cleaning out and selling the 25-year homestead in Needham, I moved to town.

Rather than feeling alone, I found myself embraced by the camaraderie only a walking city can offer. On foot — except in the worst of weather — I came to know hundreds of neighbors as we walked to and from our respective destinations. People, who knew me only from television, embraced me with familial warmth. I was home.

So today, after three years of travel, and boating, and exploring new opportunities, I find myself once again turning to my city for inspiration and the joy of long-standing friendships.

As many people who have left the “big career” can appreciate, moving on to a new season of life is a Yin-and-Yang experience.

It is wonderful to have time to do what there was never enough time for, primarily being able to spend more time with family and friends. When my dad was ill, it was good to be able to fly to Chicago at will. When my daughter’s work prompted several moves, it was such a gift to be able to fly to Chicago or Connecticut and help out, sharing wonderful mother/daughter time.

Life since leaving Channel 5 has offered me the opportunity to travel, and to learn to run a boat and navigate the Intracoastal Waterway. When you are not rushed to “do” things, your senses are allowed to take in so much you otherwise missed. Who would ever think a dolphin dancing aside the stern of our boat would linger in my memory as a special moment of life?

My “newest season” also has allowed me to meet people who never made the news. I have met gifted women in Boston who are powerhouses of intellect, entrepreneurship and generosity.

I’ve learned that I could read a book just for fun; create an online family recipe box; try to re-learn Spanish; teach a class at my alma mater, UNH; write a book; work with a start-up; create a website. I could do all those things — can’t say I have done them all — but it’s nice to know you could.

Before I left Channel Five, I had a plan to create a social networking site for people like me who were transitioning from a lifetime career to their newest season. For many people, it can be disconcerting to go from a “get from morning to night” life to a life where you now decide how you want to spend your day, week, month, your life! Up until now, those decisions were made for you by the necessities of earning a living, raising kids, etc.

I figured I’d create this site where people would get together and tell their stories and help each other figure it out — “it” probably being a balance that we never could have dreamed of before. But how do you find that balance? Now we don’t just plan a two-week vacation from work — we are on a permanent vacation.

Certainly our economic woes of the last few years have contributed to our anxiety. Looking for “work” at 60 years old, as in “I need money” vs. “I want to build a career,” is maybe not something we thought about before.

And equally unsettling for many people is identity. Who am I if I am not president of XYC Corporation?

It used to be that you worked until you were 65 years old, played golf or fished for a few years and then you died. Now at 60, if we are healthy and lucky, we are looking at another 30 or 40 years of life. Who can just play golf for 40 years? (I can hear a thousand busy people saying, “Just let me try!”)

I hosted a seminar at New Directions in Boston last year where some 75 people gathered to address this very issue. One man who was CEO of a major US corporation told the group of his seminal moment. After leaving his job, he decided to print new business cards.

“John Smith.”

“Second line, title?”
“Ah, I don’t have a second line.”

“Former title? Ex?”

And then he felt the anxiety and uncertainty of not having that second line. “I felt like I needed a title to describe me,” he said.

Our work can define us. And when we no longer have that “title” we can wonder, once again, “Who am I?” And now, the search for that answer takes on greater urgency because we are 60, not 20. We have less time to figure it out and fewer mentors to guide us.

Well, food for thought for another blog.