01 Jun The Magic of Serendipity
is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. www.janfowler.com. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.
by Jan Fowler
Have you ever wondered about those times when, while looking for one thing, you accidently stumble upon something new? I know I’m not the only one to be granted such favor from our universe, but this rather astonishing phenomenon does show up in my life so often that I’ve pretty much come to expect and receive it. Or could it be the other way around? Is it because I’ve trained myself to remain open to chance discovery that it continues to chase me down? Whichever way we look at it, the word that describes favorable luck of this nature is serendipity.
“Serendipity. Look for one thing, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” Lawrence Block
There are so many documented examples of scientific breakthroughs and accidental discoveries that were revealed on the way to solving other problems. In fact, serendipity has often played a major role in science, medicine, pharmacology, technology, and geography over the years. Some examples are:
Chemistry: Silly Putty, Teflon, cellophane, helium, and iodine.
Pharmacology: Penicillin and other antibiotics, smallpox vaccine, and the anesthetic ether.
Physics and astronomy: The planet Uranus.
As a writer, I personally am always grateful for self-stick Post-It notes. But did you know that they are actually the outgrowth of a 3M laboratory researcher’s accidental discovery of weak adhesive in his efforts to develop a strong adhesive? It was then followed up by a choir member’s experimental use of this sticky non-damaging “goof-up” as page markers for his hymnal?
So what does serendipity have to do with seniors? Plenty. While I can’t claim to have discovered a new continent or planet, I do know that it’s sometimes tempting for those of us over sixty to become preoccupied with the more serious aspects of living. As we journey through life, however, we all need to remain open to the magic of unexpected discovery and to make time for the possibility of chance encounters throughout the day.
“We met by chance, one split decision to turn right instead of left made no sense at the time but it felt right and then there was you.” ― Nikki Rowe
So I urge you all to please go on that morning walk, smile often at others throughout the day, and be open to new connections. Usually we all want to save time, but if we don’t “make time to take time” in our retirement, then when? I can’t resist telling you about a minister friend who–while making routine volunteer hospital visits to patients–met, fell in love with, and eventually married one of the hospital nurses—in his late seventies!
We never know when unexpected relationships and friendships may be formed just by attending or volunteering to assist with activities held at the local library, community center, retirement clubhouse, YMCA, house of worship, or group travel excursion.
Serendipity. Claim it, be open to it, rejoice in it, expect it because new discoveries keep us young. But remember that serendipity isn’t something we expect to meet head on; instead, we must be seeking something else.
“Luck is being ready.” Brian Eno
My “Senior Moments” column series is a perfect example of the outgrowth of such serendipitous good luck because it was most certainly unforeseen. In fact, I still shake my head in wonder when I think back to the fortuitous circumstances of how it all came about.
One sunny April afternoon approximately ten years ago, I walked into my local newspaper office to pay my subscription bill. While there, however, I unexpectedly struck up a lighthearted conversation with the newspaper’s editor-in-chief who casually asked, “So what are you up to these days?” When I told him that I was busy laying groundwork for hosting TV shows on the medical, legal, and social-recreational aspects of senior living, he surprised me by inviting me to become a regular columnist for his newspaper about these very topics!
Serendipity… Imagine, I was only looking to pay my bill, but stumbled upon an opportunity which eventually led me to a brand new career in print media, with two million readers in ten states at one time.
I’ve always loved life, and I’ve never known what’s ahead. I love not knowing what might be round the corner. I love serendipity. Twiggy