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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.

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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.”

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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.

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I think I am happily embracing my new sunrise.

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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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TAGS: Passion, retirement, world bank
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