See, the thing about retirement is that I do only those things that I really want to do with my time. It has now become painless to say “no” to all the crap in life that used to rob me of precious minutes, hours and days. Now that I have far less time ahead of me than behind me and no one to please but myself, I spend my time as if it was money, carefully choosing to do only those things that I find time-worthy. That choice, I think, may be my greatest luxury! The truth is that it took awhile to realize that I could say no. I had been programmed to perform for others in trade for a paycheck or for approval, which is also a powerful payment. Saying no took practice. Now, I’m an expert without an ounce of guilt!
Yesterday, Diane and I went to the small island of Isla de Mujeres (Island of Women) so that I could interview Marla, an expat who owns and operates a very cool business called Dinnertainment. That was my assignment from International Living. One of the editors wanted a piece on expats earning money in the entertainment business. Marla and her husband provide upscale, in-home catering and entertainment for groups of 6-12 and even more if you wish.
Anyway, after the interview/lunch was over, Diane and I rented a golf cart to revisit the island. We’ve been to Isla before but it’s always great to return. Diane wanted to see the turtle hatchery again where thousands of baby turtles are raised from collected eggs and released when they are ready. We spent over an hour there and I’m sure Diane could have spent even more time. As we were returning to the ferry terminal to catch our return ride back to Cancun, we made a final stop in a small shop filled with local handicrafts among the usual tourist crap. The store’s owner and employees were gathered around a small desk, eating an afternoon meal of food brought from home. It smelled wonderful and as I walked by, I made sure to tell them how great it smelled.
Sure enough, they offered me a bit of their Tinga de Pollo, a scrumptious chicken dish. As Diane was wandering around searching for the perfect memento of our day on the island, I practiced my Spanish with the store owner. Not only did I score for more food while Diane shopped, I received compliments on my marginal Spanish skills as well as in invitation for Diane and I to return to the island for dinner in the home of the store owner. It was a wonderful day with perfect weather, spent with interesting people. We added some new explorations to our list with the potential to have made a few new friends.
I verbally express my gratitude on a regular basis, along with my astonishment at how my life has unfolded based on choices born from near-desperation some years ago. Now, with the understanding that our standard of living may be different from place to place, we have gained the skills and confidence to live anywhere on the planet that we choose and there are nearly limitless and wonderful choices, should we ever decide to experience other cultures.
As for retirement, it definitely does not suck!! I can sleep as late as I want, go to bed any damned time I want, take naps anytime or anywhere, wear mismatched socks, leave my bed unmade (Diane usually makes it), use disposable kitchen ware, wear Superman underwear, eat a chili dog for breakfast and engage in lengthy, spontaneous conversations with interesting people because I finally have time! And, I have time to write which is nothing but pleasure for me.
I’m sometimes asked why I write. “I thought you were retired” some say or “Why don’t you really retire” as if their definition of my retirement was a directive I have failed to follow. Well first of all, %$#@ you! Secondly, refer to the 1st sentence at the top of this piece. I am doing exactly what I want to do.
Our collective retirements should be held in high regard. There are many countries and cultures where such a luxury is not possible due to the economic hardships of their realities. Prior to the implementation of the U.S. Social Security System in 1935-1937, more than half of America’s seniors lived in serious poverty. While Social Security has made great strides in eliminating poverty in one’s final chapter, the system has faced opposition from the beginning and continues to face threats today. I’m certainly grateful for my monthly check and hope that the system remains intact, as it is currently structured, so that Diane may collect when her time comes.
I think something happens to us as we age. Something wonderful. We stop caring so much about what others think of us and how we live our lives. Not caring so much about what others think opens many more doors than you can possibly imagine. Hell, you may just run off to some exotic foreign country and start wearing superhero underwear!