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On turning 60

This year, I am set to retire from “work” as I have known it the past 40 years, and a new world beckons. I have been looking forward to retirement for so long. But will retirement be as wonderful as I think it will be?

Here is my realization: My retirement will be as wonderful as I make it. I will create my own happiness, with the certain support of my husband and my whole family.

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At 60, I am a different person. When buying shoes, I no longer look for my old favorite Ferragamo shop; I look for Clarks. I do not need bags in all colors, or a black bag in five different brands with five different shapes and sizes.

I have earned my stripes but do not need to show them off. I (more accurately, we) have earned material self-sufficiency, but do not need to flaunt it with a logo on my bag or my wrist or my ears or my feet.

I have exchanged my Rolex for a Fitbit, which records my steps and how much water I drink in a day. The Rolex sits at home in our safe, waiting for a special occasion when a wearable gadget is not appropriate. Or maybe just waiting to be inherited by someone who will be more appreciative.

Last December, our family went to a big outlet store complex in Japan, and for the first time I did not buy a single item for myself. I did not really need anything, and more to the point, I did not crave anything. To be honest, I will still wear my jewelry and use my signature bags, but do not look to accumulate more. The accumulation phase of my life is past, and I do not miss it.

I see what you’re thinking. It’s true, too. Maybe it’s because I know that the semimonthly deposits to my bank account will soon stop, the bonuses that come periodically will soon end. Or maybe it’s because I am becoming more like my mother, whose detachment from all things material is admirable, almost legendary. (I have a very, very long way to go, though!)

Or maybe it’s just because I have turned 60.

One evening a few weeks ago, when our eldest son and I were talking, I mentioned that for his dad and me, the future is definitely shorter than the past. He scolded me and said he did not like hearing me talk this way. But it is true. If we are lucky, our future will be half as long as our past.

And we need to make the most of every minute that is given us—to savor life, to cherish our loves, to dance and sing when we feel like it, to squeeze every joy that we can out of the opportunities afforded us.

I have, for a long while now, understood that I am not invincible. The aches and pains, the body parts that no longer work as well as they used to, the frequent feeling of tiredness, the sagging, the wrinkles, the unstoppable bulging of the belly, and everything that comes with the passing of the years—all these are constant and ever-increasing reminders of aging. But I have come to terms with all these. With the “age-appropriate” changes have come some precious lessons that I now live by.

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I do not worry unless there is a definite reason to worry. Premature worrying helps nothing and no one. If I or my loved ones take a medical test and the results need further tests for confirmation, I do not worry about it, until the subsequent tests turn out positive for something serious. They never have, thank God.

I do not squander a perfectly good day by getting angry, or at least I try really hard. It is not worth the energy, especially if the other party is oblivious to the fact that he/she caused me to lose my cool. I do my best to rectify the situation and move on.

I still do not suffer fools gladly, but I am more tolerant of them. I have come to accept that we are all different, with some more different than others.

I make time for myself. This has become easier now that the kids are grown and have their own lives. I honestly don’t have a bucket list, but I know I really enjoy traveling with my husband and with the whole growing family. I know I love spending time in the kitchen and becoming better at baking and cooking. I know I relish every milestone our grandchildren go through. And I will do all and more of these when I retire.

I accept my limitations. I know I will never be a good pianist; I took lessons for a couple of years when I was 50 because it was a childhood dream, and quickly realized that the piano did not like me. Well, I certainly do not like it either. So there!

I still juggle many balls every day, but I absolutely know which balls are made of glass and which ones are not as fragile. The glass balls I make sure I catch, like family, and faith, and friends, and health. Everything else is on a “best effort” basis, assuming I even want to expend the effort. If some of the other balls fall, then hopefully they bounce. If not, que será, será.

As Fr. Mon Merino said in his homily at a Mass to start off my 60th birthday celebration, a study showed that true happiness is a result of the relationships we nurture: our relationship with God, our relationship with others and our relationship with ourselves. Those are my glass balls.

I will be grateful. I will wake up every day thankful that I have been given a new day to live, and I will close my eyes every night thankful for the day that was. I will be grateful for the loves of my life who love me back, for friends who care, for God who has blessed me and my family immensely.

I will give back. I will pay it forward. I will make a difference somehow, and this will not be measured by revenues raised, or costs reduced, or projects completed, or careers jump-started, or staff mentored. My mother, in her talk during the celebration, said that I am a woman of grace and substance. I think I need to work on the “substance” bit more. Maybe when I write another piece 10 years from now, I will be able to tell you if I have found a way to inject more meaning and a greater purpose into my life.

In the meantime, I will apply for my senior citizen’s card, brandish it proudly, enjoy its privileges and focus on making my last year in the office, and the coming retirement years, count.

Here’s to 60!

Gigi Bautista Rapadas ([email protected]) is an IT practitioner whose personal Wi-Fi hotspot is called “Laman ng Kusina,” because she loves cooking and baking for family and friends.

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