This story exists solely because of Twitter…

Instead of overrated New Year’s resolutions that no one ever keeps, for the past two years I’ve chosen one word to guide my path for the next 12 months. In 2013 it was “strength” — physical and mental, chosen for a variety of personal reasons. For 2014, I selected “connections.” It was a purposely broad concept to make me think about my place in the Raleigh community, remind me to better stay in touch with old friends and family, and circle back to my creative roots. As part of that commitment I chose to embrace social media for the first time and decided to go out on a limb—for me—and tweet one photo each day.1

The “one photo a day” commitment required me to actually be present in my life. Walking to lunch took on new meaning as I discovered a random gnome thanks to @WalkYourCity, noticed textures in centuries-old buildings and even imagined what it would be like to live in an era where a sign denoting a Fallout Shelter might be relevant to my life. The bravery I gained by “putting myself out there” personally on Twitter also fueled my voice to tweet on other issues I feel passionate about: sustainability, city design, art and creativity, yoga and the awesome innovative vibe in Raleigh.

My voice chimes in with the many others who are passionate about any or all of these subjects, and I soon learned these random online connections—both following and followers—would make a difference in my offline life. After my first few weeks on Twitter, @RogersWork reached out to gauge my interest in writing for Raleigh & Company; that’s why you’re reading this now. We probably never would have met in the real world.

But why this story? I remember learning the definition of serendipity in fourth grade; it was the title of my language lesson book: “an aptitude of making desirable discoveries by accident, good fortune, luck.” But on this first Friday in May, I wasn’t thinking about serendipity. I was too busy being supercharged by the contagious energy in the packed house at HQ Raleigh during NC State’s “The New Economy of Purpose” forum. Educators, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and government officials gathered together to learn and discuss how our economy will grow, thanks to innovative social entrepreneurs working to make the world a better place while fueling local jobs. As one panelist said, “students want to change the world, not own it.” Capitalism is far from dead, however; it’s simply that to be successful, businesses will need to capitalize on the processes, products and services that move us forward in a positive way instead of focusing solely on profits.

I ended up meeting three of my Twitter connections for the first time that morning. It was more than a little surreal to walk up to a person and introduce myself with “hey I follow you on Twitter” as an icebreaker. Who were they? Matt Tomasulo, “civic instigator/urban designer” and the guy behind the gnomes and Walk Your City movement. Jay Dawkins, “civil engineer/planner/real estate broker/tech entrepreneur” and founder of Cityzen app. Matt Whitley, “juice man/community-engagement engineer” of Happy+Hale.

After soaking in wisdom from the star-studded panel, those inspiring conversations and some really amazing carrot-orange-ginger juice, I headed back to the office. Back at my desk, I decided to keep my vibe going and ordered a spinach, quinoa and feta salad from Happy+Hale for lunch2 and met Matt downstairs. As he pulled out my salad from a picnic basket, we marveled at the can-do positive spirit from earlier that morning, and I casually mentioned that the most interesting conversation I had was with Jay Dawkins. With that, his eyes grew wide and jaw dropped a little, and he blurted out, “Did you know we were roommates?”

Nope, I didn’t, but living in Raleigh is more than serendipitous. Without knowing it at the time, my first tweet pic ever on January 1 was of Happy+Hale’s poster declaring “2014 is going to be EPIC NOW is the time.”

Bottom line? I can’t wait to learn more and help connect the dots between our community and the new economy of purpose. I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot of it has to do with simply making the right connections. Now IS the time.

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