Connection

One of the most important things of all, if you wish to have a happy, healthy post-long-career life, is human connection.  Life quality and length are both badly impacted by a skinny or non-existent social network (not talking Facebook here, but I suppose that counts, too, to a degree), and that conclusion has been reached in study after study.

When I hear about people ending their long career and deciding to move to a city where they know nobody, I always think to myself, “I hope they’re gregarious,” or “I hope they’re joiners.”  Some people, no doubt, will make a fine new set of friends and acquaintances wherever they go, but it’s not so easy for everyone.

While I know a lot of people, I tend to make a few deep connections, and those are the people central to my social network.  Sure, I meet up with other folks sometimes, but I do have a smallish core group.

And I’m not a joiner.  I’ve never joined any group, other than our synagogue — and that was for the benefit of our kids’ (and it turned out our) upbringing.  For those who are drawn to joining groups, well, one call always join service groups (Lions, Rotary, etc.), churches, clubs, or a variety of special interest groups (e.g., the group who gets together Friday nights in Palo Alto to watch a movie in French and practice their French language conversation).  There must be a lot of other types of groups to join, but I’m so group-challenged that I don’t even know what they are!

Yes, one really needs the human connection of close friends and family to nourish one’s wellbeing.  So it was important to me to stay put after my long career — here, I know some fine people and enjoy deep relationships of long standing.  OK, and my wife works here, so it was a foregone conclusion.  🙂   We also like this neck of the woods and will most likely continue to be planted here as and when my wife’s latest career (she’s on her 5th or 6th) is completed (actually, unimaginable to me — she loves it so much!).

Wherever you are, though, you need that social network.  So be thinking about that as you contemplate life after your long career.

Well, I lied.  I actually joined a group a couple years ago, much to my amazement, and am still part of the group, perhaps even more to my amazement.  I wasn’t seeking to join a group.  I merely signed up for a Leadership course with the same outfit where I studied to become a Life Coach.  I wasn’t even interested in Leadership (whatever that word means), but rather really liked the experiential learning and wanted to continue the personal growth spurt I had going.  The course was two 6-day and two 5-day retreats, spread out over 11 months, mostly up in Sonoma. Very fascinating stuff.  And I really grew attached to the other 23 students.

At the end of the course, I was sitting with a couple of my peers and noting that “I’m not a joiner, so you most likely won’t see me again if there are any reunions or such.”  And I was wrong.  Innocently enough, we continued some weekly calls where we supported each other in our quests to get to where we want to be.  And pretty soon, I found that I really wanted to be on those calls — it wasn’t just an objective-related task.  And when a reunion was announced, after little deliberation, I signed up.  Stunning — and totally new to me.

Perhaps you’ll find, or have found, groups to which you have a similarly strong affinity.  Or perhaps you’ll be groupless, as I have been until now.  However it works for you, be sure you assemble friends, family, whatever human connection you can have plenty of, because it’s so important.

That’s the “do.”

The “don’t” is to be the person who ends their long career, had their entire self tied up in it — and finds themself with no-one and nothing.  Those are the ones who drop into a sad downward spiral.

Human connection — so important!