SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
Beverly Rainforth

Beverly Rainforth - Personal Retirement Story

Editor’s Note: Beverly is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of
Binghamton University

retirement story

I enjoyed reading Augie Mueller’s story of his retirement in the SUNY Retirees Newsletter Fall-Winter 2013. I suspect there are others like me who envy the energy he still has at 80, which far exceeds mine at 64! And that is the reason I retired at age 62; chronic fatigue was making it hard to do my job as I believed it should be done.

As a professor of special education, I was passionate about my work – with my program, my professional organizations, and the public schools and agencies in my community. My work consumed so much of my time, energy and thought, I was afraid retirement might mean 30 years of vast nothingness.

I had other interests; I just wasn’t sure I had enough of them or the retirement income to support them. So I started making lists of ways I could spend my time. I had three categories: what I could do for free; what I could do for low cost; and what I would have to budget for. Within a day I had filled a page with my interests, mostly free and low-cost, so I let go of that worry and retired.

Some options were never pursued, and opportunities I never imagined have popped up. Sometimes I think, “If I knew I would be this busy, I could have kept working and gotten a nice paycheck!” But then I remember that, in retirement, I can do just what Iwant to do. And what I want to do is have options for activities that are outdoors and indoors, active and quiet, at home and in other parts of the world, with care for myself and care for my community.

I have always enjoyed gardening, and now I spend more of spring, summer, and fall in my own gardens as well as some gardens I’ve adopted. (I had all the tools so I thought of this as free or low-cost, but plants and mulch are wild cards.) I became a “citizen pruner” assigned to prune street trees around my neighborhood, and I got appointed to the city’s Shade Tree Commission.

I dabble in other outdoor activities: swimming, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, and skiing. I just discovered free exercise classes at my local senior center, so I do that twomornings a week when it’s not so nice outside. My endurance isn’t great, so my activities are not all action-oriented.

When working I had little time to read for pleasure; now I’m in two book clubs and enjoying fabulous books. I can get most books from the public library, and many on CD (great for long drives); if not in my local library, their website lets me request books from elsewhere in our four-county library system.

Without work consuming my mind, I am able to meditate every day and I’ve attended two 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats. (They charge no fee!) I found a church that shares my passion for social justice and, since retirement, I’ve gotten involved in many activities there. A by-product of all these activities is that my friendship circles are expanding.

Travel is certainly my most expensive activity, due to the cost of gas. Most of my trips are by car in the northeastern US, and about once a year I go farther afield. My most recent trip, in February 2014, was a Road Scholar/Elderhostel tour of Cuba (http://www.roadscholar.org/). This “people-to-people” tour connected us with dancers, painters, potters, and photographers of all ages, as well as youth and seniors at community centers in Havana, Matanzas, Cardenas, and Varadera. While the country clearly suffers from deprivation of material goods, the people exude warmth, rich culture, and a strong commitment to education, for the arts as well as academics.

Cuba wasn’t in my travel plan for this year but it is one of those opportunities that appeared and I couldn’t pass it up. After all, I have no pressing deadlines and nowhere else I really must be. Today I have the freedom to enjoy whatever comes my way.

 

Retirees Service Corps