When I went on optional retirement three years ago, my eldest daughter Loi and my elder sister Aurora told me on separate occasions: You’ve been working all your life. You might be bored at home. What will you do after retirement?
I knew what worried them: entropy! It’s a universal law which says that everything will be in a state of decline and decay, the only exception being the human spirit.
Today I savor the peace, calm and self-imposed solitude in the green space outside my home. My plants, my little, hairy white dog, and my lovebirds are the living things that keep me company every day. They give me happiness and contentment as I go around my little garden every morning after sipping my coffee.
Every day, my eyes wander around the four corners of my house which I have renovated and improved according to my convenience, comfort and taste. I rearrange the furniture every now and then to suit my mood at the moment. Every single thing in my comfort zone has a story to tell.
The library-gallery-computer room used to be my four girls’ common bedroom. All are married now, with kids of their own. They have left my nest, and two now live in two different continents. My four granddaughters and two grandsons (both abroad) inspire me to aspire for a longer, meaningful life.
My daughters’ original bedroom is now my sanctuary. This is where I browse through my 47 chronologically arranged picture albums. I stare at my framed, hanging pictures. I check on the family’s little symbols of accomplishments—trophies, medals, plaques, awards, certificates of recognition/appreciation.
My evenings are reserved for reading my e-mails; I read, react, comment or post pictures or messages on my Facebook account. I stay connected with family, relatives, friends, townmates, neighbors and former neighbors, former classmates, former coteachers, former students, former coworkers and, hold your breath, exes or “excess.” Keep guessing, but don’t be judgmental. Remember what dear Pope Francis said: “Who am I to judge you?”
Footloose me has collected various souvenir items from my domestic travels in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. I also have a separate collection of souvenirs from our Asian neighbors—Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan. I am a certified globetrotter, too. And I take long-haul flights alone! Understandably, I have brought home stuff from all over—Oceania (Australia, New Zealand), North America (mainland United States, Hawaii, Canada), Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe (Germany, Switzerland, France, Denmark): key chains, ref magnets, shot glasses, mugs, bells, decorative spoons, figurines and—the unusual—beach sand from Dubai, Toronto, Australia, California, Florida, Lihue Island (Hawaii) and Auckland.
Lest you get me wrong, I’m a poor tourist. But I travel the world. How come? My youngest daughter Katrina, now Helsinki-based, was a flight attendant of Cebu Pacific and later a first class cabin crew of Emirates. She provided all those tickets, upon my request. All I did was get in touch with relatives and friends scattered all over the globe. I belong to a big clan, both on my father’s side and my mother’s side. Indeed, it pays to be clannish. I study the map of the country I intend to visit, prepare my itinerary, save a small amount of the almighty dollar for my pocket money, and presto, I soar like an eagle!
In 2004, my second daughter Jaja wrote in the now-gone social medium Friendster: “Parties, out-of-town trips. It’s the late ’60s once again with Madur. She buys anything and throws it in, as long as there’s space.” My third daughter Junah, now Melbourne-based, once demanded to know where I would store the stuff I’m bringing home: “Mommy, saan mo ilalagay yan? Puno na ang bahay natin!”
What to do after retirement? I live and savor the moment! I collect memories! I now have the luxury of time when before it was all about meeting deadlines, enduring work-related stress, and facing the daily traffic jam. Methinks I deserve this peaceful existence, at last. After all, my past life was not easy. I encountered personal and official scorpions along the way. Thank God He did not leave me alone to face my challenges and trials head on. And with the legalese of my big brother Dante, I survived them all with flying colors! Today I can look anybody straight in the eye and say that I have emerged better, stronger and wiser.
I keep friends who are credible, reliable, have a happy disposition, and are sincere (read: not fake or a social climber). I love to linger with friends who share my interests—reading, writing, striding, ballroom dancing, bowling, videoke, watching quality films and stage shows, and, of course, traveling. I’ve just organized the New Lady Retirees Club, whose members and future members (not necessarily ladies or retirees) meet the required “virtues.” I have dumped the few toxic ones and those who cannot be reached by any gadget or social media. I am collecting quality friends.
I have regained my freedom. My marriage was annulled, rendered void ab initio, after a decade-long legal battle, with the other party, the petitioner, ironically declared psychologically incapacitated. I’m single again! “Will you remarry?” asked the gossip or plain curious. I replied: “Marriage isn’t one of my collections. I’m complete without a man.” On second thought: Hey, where are they now? Is it true that Lando has died? Is Rolly still around? What about the other Rolly? Are Alex and Joe happily married? Does Berry have health issues? Any update from Minio, Dinio and Ninio? Am I kidding? Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t write crap, you know.
Kat Viacrucis, 65, was a high school teacher and college instructor in private schools in Manila. She completed three divergent courses—education, paralegal, and international relations. She later joined the government and retired after 37 years of continuous service.
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