Ram Chugh - Personal Retirement Story
Retirement was alien to my thinking. I thought I would continue to work until the end. However, too much obsession with work proved quite harmful to me and to my family. In January, 2000, I suffered a serious illness and had to be hospitalized. After recovering from that illness, I decided to go back to my old routine. Nevertheless, my wife put her foot down. She left me with no choice but to retire. It was a difficult decision to make with which I struggled with for almost a year. Finally, after working for nearly 58 years, 32 years at SUNY Potsdam, seven years at other universities in the USA and India, and about 13 years in the Indian Air Force, I decided to retire.
I signed my retirement papers in December 2001 and decided to move to Albany to be closer to our daughter in NYC. Retirement itself was a difficult decision, but moving to a new community proved to be even more difficult. Even though Albany was more of a metropolitan area with a wide variety of social, cultural, religious, and educational, activities, I missed not having a circle of close friends as I had in and around Potsdam. I was in a big city but deep down I felt lonely and somewhat depressed in this crowded city.
I needed to stay busy and remain connected with academic environment. We bought a house within a mile of Siena College, in Loudonville, where I could go to the library and attend various college events. Later, I decided to take a course under Siena's program for senior citizens where one could audit one course per semester by paying a nominal registration fee. Availing myself of this opportunity, I took courses in astronomy, human biology, counseling theory and techniques, negotiation, world religions, Buddhism, estate planning, Conceptual Physics, and digital photography. Through these courses, I was able to learn things I had never studied before and remained intellectually engaged and stimulated.
Having been with SUNY for many years, I thought it would be a good idea to offer my professional experience to the System Administration by working on some projects. I received a positive response to my request from the System Administration. I was given office space and allowed to work on several SUNY projects on a voluntary basis. My first project was to work with a System's group responsible for examining the economic and social impact of the State University of New York on the state's economy. Later on I worked on several other projects sponsored jointly by System Administration and University Faculty Senate. These projects included, Rational Funding Policy for SUNY, Enhancing SUNY as a Global University, and SUNY Retirees Service Corps (RSC).
Working at System Administration has been quite rewarding. I consider SUNY as my second home. Through my work with the System Administration, I continue to remain connected to the academic and collegial environment while maintaining flexibility in my schedule.
I also became involved in our local Hindu temple and worked on many projects including developing a new election process and revising the temple's constitution. My wife and I have visited India several times since retirement and have visited our friends and relatives across the US. Our daughter got married soon after my retirement , and we now have four grandchildren. The grandchildren keep us entertained keep us mentally, and physically alert. They have given new meaning to our retirement. I am also working on my memoir highlighting the major events of my 75 years of life (and still counting) on planet Earth.
Many people ask me how does it feel to be retired. How do I spend my time? What would I tell others planning to retire? Transitioning from a full-time job to a retired life is hard, but it can be made less stressful if we put things in perspective. Here are some pointers based on my own experience.
1. Be prepared to expect the unexpected - go with the flow as they say. Read the book, Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, MD. It helped me greatly. 2. Moving to a new community after retirement can make the adjustment very difficult. It takes time and lot of effort to make new friends and to develop a supportive social circle. 3. Keep busy - stay involved - find meaningful work whether paid or not. 4. Stay healthy by following your doctor's medical advice and doing meditation, physical exercise, and eating right. 5. Take care of your financial and estate planning -such planning frees the survivors from a lot of hassle, legal and otherwise. 6. Count your blessings.
Note: Ram was executive director of the SUNY Retirees Service Corps from its creation in 2008 through 2012.