Coping with retirement
IT’S KIND of weird when you have the feeling of not knowing what to do or where to go, especially if you are already in your 60s and have raised four children.
But that’s exactly how I felt a couple of years ago: I didn’t know what to do with the remaining years of my life. Call it depression, retirement blues or whatever, but I do remember staring blankly at the ceiling of our bedroom every morning, upon waking up, wondering what to do in the next eight hours of the day unfolding.
For a working mom with four children to raise, 24 hours a day would seem so short; there is so much to do such that you would wish you could stretch the hours and you had retired.
Yes, as a working mom, I always looked forward to my retirement—to that day when you can go wherever you want to, and do whatever you want to. And yet, when I reached that long awaited moment, I found myself with plenty of time but with nothing to do except the daily mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning and gardening.
The kids that once needed my attention had left the nest. While I was busy working for my retirement, my children were busy building their own lives. And now they have their own homes with their own kids.
Yes, nothing is the same anymore.
With retirement comes change, and like all other changes in life, it entails a process of transition. I knew I was going through a transition, but I didn’t know how to combat the uneasy feeling it caused. I would go out of the house, watch movies with friends and do many other things to while my time away, but the moment I was home, the anxiety would return. I would feel bored. The busy days in my preretirement years had been replaced with lazy days. My mind craved for things to do, and my body for the schedule I was used to.
This went on until one day, my daughter Reanne bought me a desktop computer. She must have noticed my boredom because despite my insistence that I was done with office work and that I would always get a headache whenever I read, she still bought me one.
For many days, the computer mutely sat in a corner of our house, patiently waiting to be used. I would often stare at it and muse how much money it cost, but I insisted to myself: I am done with office work, and I get headaches when I read, period.
Well, until that conversation, one lazy afternoon, with my daughter. I asked her if she knew where Maldives is, the place where her cousin Arlene lives. She did not answer me outright, she went to the computer, opened it and taught me how to “google” the answer. The search engine did not only show me where Maldives is, it also told me about its people and its past.
That experience started me on an almost daily affair with the search engine. I was amazed that I could visit different countries and see their beautiful cities with just a flick of my finger. From Maldives, I went to Africa, to Italy, to Egypt, and to many more places. And yes, I also went to Burkina Faso.
In Paris, I visited the Louvre Museum, took its virtual tours and saw up close the world’s most famous paintings, even Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” It was a dream come true, so to speak.
I was so fascinated with the ease and speed of getting answers to my questions that I became adept at using the mouse and the keyboard. Little by little, I became more knowledgeable with the new technology. I did not only learn how to search and visit different websites; I also learned how to e-mail and to chat, to reconnect with my faraway relatives and friends and, lately, to write and to blog.
My almost-daily chat with my virtual company of friends and relatives and my virtual tour of different places began to add color to what was once my drab, boring retirement days. Retirement has gotten to be fun.
Looking back: More than 40 years of my life was spent on corporate life and raising four children. When I reached retirement, my life suddenly changed; no one depended on me anymore and, worse, no one needed the knowledge I had acquired through the years.
I do remember the day I retired. Though sad to leave the camaraderie of office life behind, I was also eager and confident that with my big basket of experience I could easily go into business, give work to the unemployed and contribute to my country’s progress. Well, in six months’ time, seeing my retirement money go down the drain, eagerness turned into fear—the fear of having to depend on our children for support for the rest of my life.
Almost all employees long for retirement—for the days without commitments, without a boss; for “days of your own.” I waited for mine with anticipation. But when it came and the euphoria of being free had passed, and I saw my retirement money dwindling, anxiety and despair set in. I found myself asking, “What now? What will I do with the rest of my life?”
That was when I found myself staring blankly at our bedroom ceiling every morning.
I know I was not alone on that boat. Many senior citizens and retirees come across that feeling: After having amassed a vast reservoir of knowledge and experience, you end up feeling you have nowhere to apply it. Setting up a business is not easy, and you can’t go back to employment either; companies look at your age and appearance before they look into your brain.
But I am glad our children did not allow the new technology to bypass us—and gladder that just as we painstakingly taught them the alphabet when they were small, they are now teaching us the ABCs of computers.
Consolacion “Neng” Zaldivar, 65, used to work in Ayala, Makati City. Obviously, she now navigates a wider world and visits more friends from her home in Davao City—through her computer.
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