Dedicated to my (much) older friends on the verge of mandatory retirement and my younger friends contemplating optional retirement, as well as anybody else thinking of disengaging from corporate life even just for a while, that they might benefit from my experience.
The first anniversary of my early retirement is fast approaching. Has it really been one year since I watched Bridge of Spies? It still seems fresh and intelligent on TV. Come to think of it, I’ve seen dozens of movies since then, usually at noontime on weekdays with my senior citizen friends sleeping in the other seats. Last Thursday I saw Sully and Train to Busan back to back and felt no guilt whatsoever over spending an entire afternoon watching movies. So yeah, I guess it’s been a year.
I thought I’d have the most difficulty with the big adjustments—transitioning from breadwinner to bread eater; living off a lump-sum rather than a regular paycheck; waking up each morning with nothing to do, no purpose in life, and no hope for anything new other than a movie. Turns out, those things were easy. When my hard-working wife gets home from the office, I’m usually sitting in front of my laptop and I simply have to pretend that I’m not on Facebook. As for the paycheck, every two weeks I go to an ATM and stuff my wallet with nice crisp bills. Same, same. And the movies, even the chick flicks and local films, are actually pretty entertaining.
The more annoying part of rejoining the un-corporate world was dealing with the little things that I’d taken for granted for so long. Re-configuring life’s settings.
Start with e-mail. I was always proud of my distinguished, highly professional, standard corporate address: firstname.lastname@example.org. So proud that I gave it out to everyone including friends and relatives. It also seemed to make sense to have all e-mails come into a single inbox, something that in the olden days could only be done by using a single e-mail address. As a consequence, when I retired I didn’t have a spam-free unhacked personal e-mail address that I could switch to readily, and needed to create one. Unfortunately, all the distinguished and professional-sounding e-mail addresses in gmail seemed to have already been taken. I thought of using DanDFatOne@gmail.com, but eventually concluded that if I put that as my contact address in my CV, nobody would hire me as a consultant. These days, companies seem to be looking for triathletes, not wise but roly-poly retirees. Sayang din ang racket.
I considered email@example.com, but it screams lack-of-creativity to everyone who reads it. Plus, it gives out information that an identity thief can use to buy things with my credit card. That’s something even my grown children should not be able to do.
Part of the problem, I realized, was that I had dropped the “S”—for my middle name Samson—from the initials I commonly used. Having more names or more letters in your initials helps get your username approved, but I had shortened my initials. I did this many years ago despite my sainted mother’s admonition to always use the “S” to honor her side of the family. Mom (I know she reads the BusinessMirror up in heaven), please forgive me but DDP is just snappier than DSDP. You can clearly imagine executive assistants, junior associates and front-line managers jumping up and hopping to it because “DDP needs this” as opposed to the lazy response to instructions from DSDP. At least that’s what I imagined back when I was a junior associate.
Besides, my colleagues found my initials to be curiously appropriate when it became fashionable to read initials as letters in the Tagalog alphabet, as in—
“Bakit tayo natalo sa kaso? E, kasi pinahawakan kay Da-Da-Pa.” or “When you give a project to Dan, he runs with it extremely fast but when he gets near the finish line, Da-Da-Pa.”
Mom, I’m just kidding. I was good at my job.
Anyway . . . I had all sorts of problems getting a new e-mail address that was identifiably mine and yet not a joke. I’m not going to say how I ultimately solved this because some readers out there might actually be identity thieves. Let me just add that changing your e-mail address affects your email application which affects your contacts list which affects your calendar which affects your knowledge of birthdays and anniversaries which affects your marriage which affects your life expectancy. E-mail is a matter of life and death.
Even as I was sorting out my e-mail accounts, I had to grapple with a new laptop to replace my company computer. Buy a sleek, top-of-the-line, super cool MacBook, and you quickly find out that it doesn’t come with Microsoft Office. You need all new cables and connectors, too, because it only has a USB-C port. Then, you want a new iPhone in a matching color and then a case that will hide the color and then bluetooth earphones and then a car that recognizes your phone and then a new house with more parking space for your new car. Ever hear of the Diderot effect? It’s real.
With a new personal phone comes a new cellphone number. Of course I sent it to all the people in my address book, but I’ll never know if they got the message because they never replied. If they didn’t get it, well, there goes a beautiful friendship.
For days I wasn’t getting any messages in Viber and Whatsapp. I began to wonder whether I had been so quickly deleted from the lives of my former officemates. Were my friends shunning me because I had become a jobless bum not worth knowing? Had they created new chat groups without me? Eventually it dawned upon me that my new phone number had to be registered in each of these apps and groups, and sometimes it had to be done by a chat administrator. Hassle. But, whew, I still had friends.
E-mail, laptop, cellphone. I could tell many more stories about things like ID cards, calling cards, and HMO cards, not to mention the really complicated stuff like investments and tax returns. They may not seem like much but these are the headaches and heartaches that made me want to quit retirement and go back to work, until I woke up one day and realized I had no meeting to rush to, no traffic to fight through and no reason not to go back to sleep.
Maybe I’ll go for a swim and watch My Rebound Girl later.