The Last 3rd of my Life

Undulating sand in Libaong Beach, Panglao

We are all eventually going to die.

There, I said it.

We. Are. All. Eventually. Going. To. Die. . .

Nope. This isn’t the fatalist in me talking. It’s not even that cryptic. Ha ha.

My other Gemini side has no time to rear its ugly head. I felt the need to address my current situation and there isn’t any other way to sugarcoat this statement. It is a powerful set of words. How many times have you mulled on it? Were those words uttered in the peak of a brazen argument or a casual banter between people pulling stars down from the sky?

I remembered when my friend Melissa, may she rest in power, intimated to me about her plans to retire early. This was back then in our PE days, late 2005s. Only a few of you will understand what PE meant. I will leave it as that. We wished we had enough money to retire on yet she said that she would take an early retirement and do whatever she’d set her heart to. Dawn Avanuday here affirmed, why not chocnut! If you could afford it, do it gurl! it might even add another third in your life. While watching someone pour hot candle wax over a groaning navy man’s hairy chest, she asked the infinitive questions; Why are we bound by the almighty dollar that is almost impossible to tear away from its shackles? Why is there a need to meet the expectations to own this house and or that car, a designer crap this and that? Why retire at 60 or even later when our health begins to deteriorate that we spend the rest of our lives under the breadth of healthcare, nursing homes and wheelchairs? Why not do things NOW than later?

Those questions kept coming back to me. I was in between jobs till I interviewed for an Office Manager position at University of California – Berkeley’s College Outreach Programs in May of 2006. I didn’t have enough money saved up and I was in my early 40s. During the inquisition, ahem interview, the lone African-American member of the judging, este, interview panel asked me how long will I stay for this position. I exclaimed this word with the confidence of a winning Miss Venezuela contestant, “Forever,” without batting an eyelash. Two weeks later, I was offered the position.

Fast forward February 2019. Melissa, in her reincarnation as John, is retired, a single dad, and has settled in the Philippines. Auntie Leo’s COPD was getting worse. I was working on my last semester for a degree in Creative Writing, and was dealing with an always cranky and demanding perfessor, who happen to also be one of my direct reports, at the Economics Department. I didn’t know what I was thinking of but I thought I’d talk to one of the retirement specialists who happened to be close by and was free for consultation. He said that I was eligible for retirement since I was grandfathered in the old retirement system that was updated at the end of June 2006 and IF I turn age 55.  I asked what would I get if I retired at age 57, 59 and 61. He showed me a graph using some odd logarithm that produced amounts of extra $100 to $200 on top of the amount should I retire at 55. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t even that much to retire on and that I might need to augment my income by working PT to be able to live in my current situation or even in the bay area alone.

The first 6 months of 2019 was one of the most eventful parts of my life. I considered it a huge learning curve. I retired at age 55 in June. Auntie Died in April. I received my BA in Creative Writing in June and eventually moved to Davao. This way, I can stretch my pension a little and live comfortably after expenses and bills. I realized that as I grow older, money will always motivate the will to live, to eat, and to enjoy the life given to me.

I consider NOW is the beginning of the next third of my life. Why is it in thirds and not quarters or halves? I thought that the first third was about growing up, learning and finding myself, the second third was about living, still finding myself, still learning, even having to share it with someone, earning enough money to work and saving it for trips and homes, then the last third to finally retire from work, live the rest of my life still learning, enjoying the fruits of my labor from work and savings, and taking care of myself should anything catastrophic happen and then some. I consider this last third to be my fulfilling as well as productive so far. I’ve self-published two poetry books and am working on a third book of short stories due out in a couple of years. I want to exercise my cranium on learning more by applying to Grad School and see where that path leads me. It is what is. Fulfillment.

Oh, I’ve had friends and acquaintances alike who doubted my decision to retire early. I’d prod them to do the same but here’s the slew of excuses (with my rebuttal in parentheses); a) the healthcare in the Philippines is atrocious (do the research, you’re retired so you have the time – other than Philhealth, there’s Pacific Cross, Maxicare et al), b) my parents are still alive and I am taking care of them (You can still retire and enjoy it with them, bond, take the initiative to take them outside the house if feasible, have dinner with them, invite their doctors and caregivers, share responsibilities with your siblings if possible, etc.), c) I don’t have enough money saved (this is the most common excuse – I’d say liquidate assets – real estate, jewelry, stocks, or tap into your retirement account even if you have to pay taxes on it because once you die, there’s a whole lot of taxes that will be taken out of it leaving your beneficiaries with almost nothing, etc.) plus (budget what you could live comfortably and factor in all the expenses and see what you could come up then decide how much you are going to take from all the retirement accounts you’ve had), d) I still have a mortgage to pay (downsize, sell your place, get rid of all the junk you’ve accumulated all through the years by giving them away or sell them in any platform and start fresh). There are other things to consider; physical and geographical aspects that may or may not bode well for you. The emotional side can be daunting so be OPEN to anything that comes your way and come up with at least 2-3 alternative plans to counter them. In the end, you’d be surprised on how much you’ve overcome and will be able to be happy with your decision. Some of my friends who retired early went back to work as part time tutors, adopted children, consultants, grocery store assistants, or even started their own business. There was one who kept traveling on a shoe-string budget that when I’d open my IG or FB account every other week, she’s in another place soaking up the sun and boys. So no excuses! Really!

This is also the time where reality sucks when it came to health issues. Though my sugar, uric acid and bad chole numbers are low at the moment through intermittent fasting and eating sensibly, I have to take maintenance drugs and exercise, eat and drink right, and exercise more. I added Tennis into the fray as a part of my lifestyle. I play MFW in the mornings and at times, Thursday or Saturday afternoons. Tennis and Writing is what makes me busy. With writing, I can always write anywhere, it is a portable vocation and not-so deadline driven. I’ve also learned the health benefits of lemongrass and other natural remedies to counter this aging body. The body heals itself by helping oneself. We have to realize that it is important to take care of our bodies and minds.

This is just the juncture of the 3rd of my life. I have faith that I will be conveyed good health, friends, and the kind wherewithal to help out others and the yen to live my life to the fullest. Yes, I do pray. I pray for world peace and waking up alive and healthy the next day. I pray I don’t have to step into another funeral home to pay my respects at anyone at the moment, but going back to the statement at the beginning, we will eventually die sooner or later but remember to breath the air, listen to the birds chirping, and feel the wind wafting the sea breeze on your skin or sink your teeth and taste the healthy creaminess of Malagos chocolates.

In essence, live the life you want at any stage but keep in mind that it is possible to enjoy every single moment as if it was your last.

All Rights Reserved © joegasparauthor 2022

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