What Have You Been Doing These Days?

I’ve got the question “what have you been doing these days” a lot lately. After leaving my relatively comfortably paid job last Christmas, my answers range from “I am taking a break” (that sort of confuses many people) and “I am taking a career break” (that gives a deeper confusion) to now “I am retired” and “going through my 11 years of to-do list”. The responses to the later answers are a palette of emotions ranging from a cooler tone of disbelieve, disapproval, uninterested, and shocked to a warmer tone of genuine interest, throwing in new ideas, and being supportive. Social norms dictate our reaction to events around us. We work, we save, and at 65 or hopefully earlier, we retire. We retire without knowing how much exactly we need (can you predict life?) and without a clear idea of what retirement is going to be like. By then we are old, having difficulties even to get from point A to point B and we are looking at this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream that it will probably kill us if we eat too much of it (it’s an analogy to indulgence in life that we cannot enjoy when we are old because we are too old for that). That is, if we live old enough to even look at this golden pot of ice-cream.

To me, the approach to retirement should be like the approach of marriage: in normal circumstances, I endorse pre-marriage cohabitation just to have an idea of what marriage is going to be like. Traditions force people to plunge into marriage with less knowledge of what they are getting themselves into. We all think that retirement has to happen after the age of 65 (or before if you are well-off) but if we can take some breaks here and there, in the surface, we got a taste of what this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream is like. In a deeper sense, we know what to expect in our actual retirement and we know what we are working so hard for.

Many people wonder how I spend my time these days. I have known a friend’s friend who had a week of compulsory leave came close to consult me on how to spend his days (he never did). Some friends of mine from reading my website think that I have turned into a full time sportsman. Others think that I have turned into a movie-craze goer. My gaming friends think that I become a full time gamer. Some who know that I need to start preparing food at 6pm think that I have become a full time house-husband. Those of you who know I am working hard to memorise 5 of my songs for gig performance think that I am heading towards becoming a performing artist. And the books that I am suppose to write, my recent interest in oil painting … the list just goes on and on. In short, my days are very much fully occupied with all my passions on top of the time spent meeting up with friends for lunch and dinner and other social events.

Compares to my life before this break, right now I have 8 hours of sleep a day, eat healthy, exercise regularly, meeting people whom I enjoy the company, doing things I love to do, and most importantly, feeling happy all the time. Now of course, sooner or later I need to return to Planet Earth and do a reality check. Even if I need to return to the workforce in a couple of months’ time (provided that none of the business opportunities come through), I shall remember what this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream tastes like and what I am working so hard for.

3 thoughts on “What Have You Been Doing These Days?”

  1. Ok, that analogy of retirement was… how should I say… unconventional. Then again, everything about you is kind of unconventional. Realistically, the real retirement will probably be different from the ideal retirement that we all think/hope we will have. The lucky few will probably realise their dreams of retiring rich, with their kids and grandchildren, having a ball of a time living on a landed property with a beautiful view of the Alps behind and spectacular view of the sea or grassland… whatever…

    Most people though, might find themselves retiring with aches in their bodies, losing their minds and hair, relying on their children to provide for them (hopefully), or living in a 2 or 3-room flat alone either because they have no children or their children have abandoned them to live overseas.

    The worst of the lot will find themselves waiting for death to claim them, while their tortured bodies lay motionless on the hospital or old folks’ home beds… listless, lifeless, languishing… listening to the clock… tick tock, tick tock…

    The real lucky ones will be gone long before they reach “retirement”.

    Anyway, the point is to plan for retirement, but not worry too much about it now, because you’re never gonna be able to predict what it will be like, if it happens at all. I always like Nike’s slogan – “Just Do It”. Just set a direction for yourself now and do the best you can. I think apart from your balance scorecard thing, you may just want to have a bigger goal in mind, so that the scorecard complements that goal. Coming from personal experience, I might even suggest putting aside that thought about “if I need to return to the workforce in a couple of months”, because it creates a false sense of safety net and it may hinder your judgement. If it’s moving into business to do something for yourself, set yourself a timeframe, go full drive ahead. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the new perspective. Your idea is good: have a bigger goal in mind that compliments with my personal scorecard. I guess that is why another common answer I have to that question of “what have you been doing lately” is “seeking clarity in life”. I think I have struck many of my friends as someone with a clear vision in mind but at this juncture, I am still searching for it. “Just Do It” huh? I need to find a business that I have passion on that doesn’t need too much capital.

  3. To put things in perspective, again from my personal experience, when I left “the-company-that-shalt-not-be-named”, I had nothing but about $20k in the bank account, to start my own business. I had no clue, no business prospects, no nothing, except the idea that I needed to succeed in a business. Basically bit the bullet, tightened my belt and took on anything that came my way. Yeah I remember even taking up a low-paying job with Intel, stationed at Changi Airport when they first launched the Centrino. Not so much for the money, but it was fun times!

    Well, I was down to like a few Ks when I took up a new project and the rest, as they say, is history. Not that I’m a success now, but I am still surviving. Trying out new things and failure is not really that scary, so “Just Do It”!

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