Susan B. Meny, Senior Center Director of the Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem (I have nicknames, but you can’t print them!)
When and where were you born?
I was born in Elmira, New York at the Arned-Ogden Hospital, appropriately over Labor Day, according to my mother.
What do or did you want to be growing up?(Did you become this? If not, then what did you become?)
I wanted to be a multilingual ballerina who drove race cars in her spare time from performance to performance. That, or a comedian who also made beautiful art. Yes, I became all of those (tongue in cheek) and then settled into a career as psychotherapist/teacher/artist and now Senior Center Director. Turns out that checkered background makes you the perfect jack-of-all-trades person you need to be for this job.
Did you have an after-school job? What was it?
I always worked in high school. I was an English tutor, a waitress, a child care worker and an assistant to a disabled adult.
What extra-curricular activities were you involved in?
I love being active in art, theater, dance, Tai Chi, travel, languages, other cultures, metaphysics, wine and chocolate. You will find me in drawing circles, at World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (hosted at the Shepherd’s Center by me), at the Barber of Seville, on the Second Spring Arts Festival planning committee, in my art studio working on a painting, at the beach for a pastel workshop, in a sign language class learning to sign songs, touring the local wineries, just to name some. I was not as active in high school at all of these because I hadn’t discovered all of them. and I was once pretty shy.
Did you go to college or trade school or do military service? Describe.
I went to college straight from high school, finishing my last year in France. When I returned, I went immediately into teaching French to elementary students in a private school. Later I returned to college to get a Masters in Counseling. I switched from a French/English major, so I had to do two years of undergrad work to be admitted to the counseling program.
Who were your heroes when you were a child?
Maurice Chevalier made me want to learn French. Goldie Hawn made me want to be a comedian. My brother made me want to drive as fast as earthly possible. I wouldn’t call these heroes, but they were major influences. My grad supervisor in college made me want to live life to the fullest because we shared a near death experience in common and I liked the way she would say…”All you ave to do is live long enough!” That’s my plan anyway…if I can just live long enough to do everything I want to do.
What major historical events do you remember from your childhood?
First and foremost, John Kennedy’s death…the horrible feeling that there was nothing anyone could do to fix it. It was horribly final and heavy. I was pretty impressionable and that made a big impact.
Name one person in your life that has made the biggest influence. Why?
My students have made the biggest impact. What they share with me are things I would never have thought about. This always reminds me of why I love variety so much. Diversity is the lifeblood of existence for me.
What activities do you participate in that keeps you physically active?
Dancing, Tai Chi, Yoga, water exercise, swimming, biking, stairs, playing with little kids.
What activities do you participate in which keep you intellectually challenged?
Work, Stephen ministry, volunteer work, art, workshops, reading and just anything that makes me say “Wow!”
What advice for healthy aging do you have for the next generation of seniors?
If you think you’re old you are! It is really important to stay engaged, active and productive. Sitting around doing nothing atrophies everything, not just the body. We have no idea how long we’re here and most folks plan for the short term. I decided when I was too young to know what I was talking about, that since I only had one life, I was going to fill it to the brim with all the experiences I could. That was not a bad choice, turns out, after all.
Is there anything that scares you about the future? Explain.
No. I already had my near death experience and know that dying is a piece of cake. I won’t miss the carcass when I’m done with it either.
What do you like about being your age?
Everything!!!! I am too old to care about all the dumb stuff that used to plague me, and I’m finally smart enough to know what really turns me on, so I don’t have to waste time finding out. I can just go do what I want to do. Who wouldn’t like to be my age?
If you were granted two wishes, what would they
More art and more love! Not just for me, but for everybody.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am ecstatic you are doing this. I love Off Their Rockers with Betty White, because it pokes fun at our culture which so over glorifies youth. I did a lot of dumb stuff when I was young. I don’t see why youth is such a glorious time. I much prefer a mind that has wisdom in a body that still works with a love for life I could never have cultivated were it not for the 61 years under my belt. Life is good! I love it and I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow old. Beats the alternative so far!