On Retirement

I can’t be sure who had it first – Su or I – but since Su said it was me, so it must be me. We have been nursing our cold for the third day now; and we expect to shake them off by weekend; for we have lined up some heavy stuff next week, but that’s not the subject of this posting. Too much sleeping can be bad at times, so I got up to type a few lines.

It is probably coincidental, but we have run into a few people recently who brought up the subject of what to do in retirement, some rather seriously. Frankly, I have never known retirement to be a problem, if retirement means not holding down a paid job that requires one to be in specific places at specified times or during office hours. I’d like to believe I have plenty to do all the time. Indeed, I am trying to cut down some commitments so that I can begin to live a normal retirement life, which by my definition is one that would find myself waking up whenever I want to wake up, eat or sleep whenever I feel like it, and never having to refer to a diary, look at my phone or turn on my computer.

People have written volumes on how to prepare for retirement, what to do in retirement, what friends to keep and what routines to follow. Some people actually would buy these books, read them and follow the advice therein. And I thought people don’t read any more! Maybe I should rethink about my plan to write part one of my autobiography.

I actually have a routine – I go to the gym every day, or I try. I stopped for the past three days on Su’s advice. It’s not good to stress the body when one is under viral attack, she advised. Going to the gym can easily be the most boring routines in life; and many of my friends are with me. They’d rather walk or run in the street, or go biking. I call it character building; and I congratulate myself every time I finish a 60-minute session which would technically burn out 600 to 700 calories, which is numerically rather satisfying. But what I find even more satisfying is the afternoon nap which I try to catch every day and which my long time priest and mentor, Rev. Fr. Deignan religiously follows and recommends me to do the same. I am sure you would agree that a guy who follows his priest’s advice can’t be too bad.

I have other routines too, mostly in the form of going to lunches. First, I try to have lunch every Thursday with a group of ex-colleagues. Now, I have retired since 2003, and these lunch mates therefore can’t be much younger. We have a group of about 20, and every week, 8 to 12 people turned up sharing the latest news of ex-colleagues and views on government policies. Second, I became a regular participant – indeed Su as well – of a Saturday Yum Cha group comprising my secondary school classmates and their wives.  We are planning our 55th Reunion after graduation next year, so they can’t be too young either. This group have been meeting for many years weekly, and we joined them or were invited to join them accidentally a year or so ago. A typical session is attended by 10 to 14 persons and the subjects are far ranging, but often repetitive, and sometimes fiery. Third, I belong to a dozen or so of Freemasons who would take turns to host a lunch on the last Tuesday of every month at a place named by the host of the month. All these lunches in whatever category and including those I have yet to mention sometimes go on forever, and the Saturday sessions normally are adjourned to another place where we would have coffee and whiskey. Such are the vagaries of life which I have been following; and it does seem that eating and drinking take up a lot of my time and have been eating into my retirement.

In between these lunches, I try to keep up with my younger friends. They include young Rotaractors who are at least 25 years my junior whom I have known since my active years in Rotary in the ten years from 1995. Then there are the mentees under the HKU Mentorship scheme and similar schemes – these are younger, ranging from undergrads who can be just 20 to late 20s and early 30s. They come and go, but some stay with us, as circumstances pan out, and we become good friends with quite a few of them. One of them, in her mid-20s, got married over the weekend and put Su and I on her family table with her parents. We felt like marrying off one of our children.

Yes, I believe in keeping company with friends of all ages, but I value a lot the bond we have developed with these young people, particularly and possibly because my children are both far away. They owe us nothing; and for that matter, I don’t feel that my children owe us anything as such. I’d like to believe that the young people who have continued keeping company with us have chosen to do so of their own accord and have no agenda at all, which is why I value them so much.

With so much discussion in the media about the behavior of the youths and their ideology in the wake of recent happenings and political development, I have tried to gauge the views of my young friends on such issues. Happily and rather predictably, most of them are rather sensible and level-headed, which confirms my deep rooted belief that most of our young people are actually OK. The media have been trying to make us believe otherwise, that our young people all are at variance with the grown-ups and the authorities and that most of them think and behave alike. The truth is nowhere near that.

On that optimistic note, I would return for more bed rests and I hope to talk to you again soon.

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