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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Retirement – The Greatest

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Mary B Summerlin

I retired from teaching elementary school when I was 55 years old. My district offered an incentive to encourage retirement and I was ready. I had not made any financial or work plans; I just knew that it was time for me to make a change.

The offer was made in April and I retired in June 1991, not knowing how I would make the September mortgage payment. That was both daring and a leap of faith.

A few financial windfalls came my way and I began working at jobs I invented or that I heard about through the grapevine. Some of them are: counselor at a farm camp where I drove the tractor and pulled a trailer full of school kids around the farm as I stopped and lectured about interesting things; worked for a company as a computer graphic person (just to learn how to do it); house-sitting jobs – for house and/or animals and/or kids and/or plants.

You get the idea – I was all over the place and loved every minute of it.

After some re-evaluation of what I was doing, I realized that I was operating in panic mode and that I had some choices to make. All my jobs were taking a lot of time traveling and bringing in very little money. Making any money gave me some security at that point but what I really wanted to do was be a professional storyteller and I couldn’t concentrate on that while doing other jobs.

By this time, I had figured out that I would be making enough money in retirement for the essentials of life. Therefore, I had some leeway in choices.

I put all my time and energy into storytelling, finding stories, learning them and writing personal stories. Then I began marketing myself and was successful enough to pay all the storytelling expenses and some extra. That was all I needed.

I told stories in my area at churches, schools, AARP activities, festivals and any other event that seemed promising both in an appropriate place to tell and in making money. I soon realized that my favorite type of stories was personal stories and so I began writing about myself.

No, first I told the stories but then I began to realize that I would have to reinvent the story every time I told it. It didn’t make sense to create the structure, the timeline, special sayings or words every time I wanted to tell the story.

Soooo, gradually, I became a writer and after that, a memoir writing leader. It was only natural – I used the teaching skills that I had and the story and writing skills I had developed and had a passion for.

I led classes at local colleges, Bard, New York State University at New Paltz, Marist College and Vassar College. The classes were a part of The Lifetime Learning Adult program.

Other places where the classes were held was The Fountains, a retirement center; the UU Fellowship; and some private groups. I did this for about 15 years. It was such a bonding time as we, the participants and I, learned from each other.

Life was such pleasure and discovery. I could create programs, market myself and express myself in creative ways. I felt like a flower blooming - nothing in my background said I could be creative. What a discovery!

I also helped begin and organized a coffee house known as the Spoken Word Café. I ran it, booked performers, did PR and was the emcee. It was a glorious time. I’m proud to say that it is still running and has a regular following. It’s my baby.

I also discovered digital cameras about the time I retired from teaching. Through trial and error and an occasional class, I have become a photographer. I have had at least six exhibitions and at the current time, I have photographs displayed in a B&B, a business office and a restaurant.

Oh, the discoveries I have made. One reason is that I have the freedom to take a chance, to experiment, to learn and question. Retirement has been such a time of discovery and exploring.

I have been fortunate in that my retirement takes care of the essentials (I mean basics) and therefore gives me room to be creative and not worry about the necessity of making money.

Good Health also adds freedom. I have been blessed with good health until the last year. Soon I hope that will no longer be an issue. Each bit of money always adds a plus to my life.

I think two of the best things that happen to us as we age is having grandchildren and being able to retire and enjoy it. Of course, that requires you to feel passionate about something; doesn’t matter what but something. Of course, that is what gives life its zest anyway, isn’t it?

To anybody thinking of retirement, I say “Go for it!” It’s like entering another stage of life – you’re not ever ready for it. But when you do it – it’s the greatest.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



What a terrific picture!

You look great and the photo absolutely shouts, " Have I got a story for you!"

You are a wonderful advertisement for retirement...

Thank you so much for such a wonderful story.

I plan to "Go for it!" very soon and welcome all the positives in making such a lifestyle change.

Great picture!

I too, retired from education at age 55. Twenty-one years later your story reminds me of the blessings I have had which your story summarizes so well. Grandchildren close by, enough money for the basics, good health and projects that have led the way to such enjoyment through the years. I would add the one additional PIECE of life I have learned. It is the joy of reflection, appreciation and PEACE. Surprisingly, this stage of life is not to be feared but enjoyed.
Thank you for sharing...
Michigan Grandma

Oh Mary, this was meant for me! Thank you so much. I'm making a very IMPORTANT decision right now and I think I'm going to go for it. You are one of the main reasons and this story is a reminder of that.

We have a teacher at our school who really should have retired long ago due to just having a bad attitude about kids. I asked her one day about retiring and she said, "I don't know what I would do!" You are living proof that when a change is due, it's time to move on and a person can make good things happen. I wish this woman would read this, though I don't know if she ever will. Your story says it all.

The storytelling comes easy, BUT it's that MARKETING that throws me for a loop. Good for you, Mary.

Inspiring! What a remarkable series of achievements after your "retirement."

You got that right, Mary
Nancy L.

And folded into that story are many other great stories--hope you will eventually share them all, especially the dog-sitting one. It's a gem.

Thank you friends for your kind words.

What a wonderful retirement story by a woman with a great smile.

"I have the freedom to take a chance." There's a line I love. I'll be reading this to my wife when she comes home from work today.

Like you, I'm a photographer, which has been lucrative, as a writer I've been published several times, as a story teller I have numerous speaking engagements and as the leader of a motorcycle group I travel with the club. There's so much to do.

She asks, "What am I going to do?" I'm ready to launch her in anything she wants to do and she is so needed in all the gifts she has.

Marketing? I've found that once you step out, invitations come. I've actually had to learn how to say no. Imagine that! Your story is a keeper, but only for sharing. And...like the others, that picture is great. It says, "Wait, there's more!"

No one mentioned that as you get older,time moves more rapidly, so yo can never find time after retirement to do all the things you want to do - and somehow your stamina is not always there when you need it - so it's hard to accomplish what you want to - but at least life is always interesting and almost always fun and you can enjoy as you fall asleep at night, looking forward to all the things you can do tomorrow.

Loved your piece and all the comments..It is nice to know when it is time to retire, but know that you will have lots to do to stay busy...WE are the lucky generation because even those of us who grew up in tough times, came through it and all the changes for women that occurred worked its magic too...even for the guys..equal is nicer for everyone as has been said many times by others...Your story is exciting and inspiring..Tis good to be mindful of your health and staying busy seems to work to keep us healthy too...so many people I know my age report that they are doing things they always wanted to have time for, but never seemed to have time for what they wanted..Thanks for writing it all down so that we have proof we are not alone in this great time of life..Blessings on the Elder Storytelling site..

Mary, This is a wonderfully inspirational story. I think the term retirement is becoming a serious misnomer. It may bring to mind the archaic notion of the old tired laborer who is too body broken to work anymore. But much more than that, it is the glorious birth of new talents and an amalgam of all your experiences culminating into a new life. Its being born again. Thank you for this nice story.

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