My new sunrise
On Aug. 1, 2019, I retired from the World Bank. I hate to admit it, but my work was my safe haven for close to 25 years. I could have stayed for five more years, so it was not an easy decision. I had and still have this “fire in my belly” aching to be used.
One nagging question was, “How will I redirect my passion?” Every day at work was a new day and there was never a dull moment. I had fun. But the circumstances were clear. My husband and I pulled out our residence from Bangkok back to Manila.
I realized that I did not want to retire because I was in the right place at the right time, doing things that I loved most with the most intelligent, passionate, and fun-loving colleagues anyone could wish for. I had deep gladness in my heart while at work.
I remember this quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place where God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
My work was not without challenges. It involved managing strategic engagement with various stakeholders amid possible reputational risks. As an advisor to management, I had to be constantly aware of the current sociopolitical situation. A few colleagues were unbelievably self-entitled. Control freaks… with whom I had to be too extra careful. Fortunately, there weren’t many.
To manage my passion, I did not allow myself to think that retirement is like going through a sunset, as many people say. No! Quite the opposite.
I called it my new sunrise. And I embraced it.
How tight has my embrace been? With the lockdown in Manila since March, how did I take each day? With a little help from the internet, slow as it was, each day was greeted with anticipation. And every bedtime was filled with thanksgiving.
And what about my new sunrise?
A few days after my retirement, I went back to the University of the Philippines, which has helped me be who I am today. But this time, I went back to pay forward—by teaching a course on Strategic Communications to a group of young people pursuing master’s degrees. I volunteered to help an NGO deliver a course on cross-cultural communications. I wrote two articles that were published in a local national daily. I also contributed to a booklet on COVID-19 which addressed the questions, fears, anxieties, and anger of many people.
I help our local church. I also try to support a group of brave volunteers who cook to distribute hot breakfast meals to street dwellers in Quezon City. I am directing a weekly show on Facebook that livestreams conversations on faith and development issues, amid this pandemic. I have been saving gym fees and getting better results through daily exercises promoted on the internet. I cook, thanks to YouTube which has been my faithful mentor, so I am no longer a “woman of order” (I used to order for food and drinks). I am now preparing to teach again—this time, a course on Participatory Communication, via remote learning methods. It is out of my comfort zone, but part of my new sunrise is learning and unlearning.
I think I am happily embracing my new sunrise.
Leonora Aquino-Gonzales, 64, retired as a communications specialist at the World Bank. Based in Bangkok for close to five years, her work covered Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. She is a contributor to the books “Passion and Power” and “What About Covid 19?” both published by OMF Literature Inc.
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