Some of you may know what YOLO means, I wasn’t amongst that group. The other night I was out to dinner with my husband, Steve, our son, Jacob, and his girlfriend Mary in Portland, Oregon, as we end our 2-month break from teaching in Korea. Jake used the acronym during dinner. Steve and I looked at each other wondering what YOLO meant. Jake and Mary laughed with a bit of incredulity that we hadn’t heard this before. You Only Live Once! Well, I may not have heard this before but I am certainly living my life believing this.
It has been a year since I first went to Korea to start a new adventure. I began this blog to chronicle my journey and the joys and challenges that come with changing your life after 60. I head back for my last semester in just a few days after an incredible two months that included six weeks in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a few days each with dear friends in Sarasota/Venice, Florida and Charleston/Kiawa, South Carolina and a final 10 days in Portland, Oregon, staying with a dear friend who has become family. It has been an amazing journey within a journey. Six weeks in a sunny warm climate was so much more than I expected.
We arrived in Zihuatanejo on Christmas Eve after a series of airline mishaps and lost luggage. I soon realized that I really didn’t need all those things that I had so thoughtfully packed. When the luggage finally arrived a week later I began to wonder about needs and wants. Less became more. We spent the next six weeks in paradise. I either ran or went to a yoga class most mornings and ended both on the beach with a swim in the ocean and a cup of coffee sitting on a chair with my feet in the sand. The days unfolded into weeks and suddenly we had been there for 6 weeks and I was packing up all those things I brought. We were both more relaxed than either of us had ever been. What had taken us so long to experience such an amazing paradise? Was it really this place with ex hippies, lots of newly tattooed seniors and men with greying ponytails and Che Guevarra bags over their shoulders, or was it just where we are in our lives? We were ready to let go of all the pressures that life had piled on over the years, no more worries about where the next job was coming from or whether our children would be successful and find someone to share their lives with or whether would we have enough to retire. Living in the present moment seems much easier as I get older. The time in front of me is a lot shorter then the time behind me. I can cherish my past and look to the future with a true sense of excitement. There is more to come and each day really does matter. No time to waste.
We met people on this journey in all stages and circumstances of their lives. Some had retired in their 50’s, others worked some kind of job but had lots of time off and spent their winters in Mexico, Florida, South Carolina. Anywhere warm. No one we met was living an extravagant life. There were all sorts of ways they were doing their retirement. But no matter what the circumstances, the story sounded the same. People wanted to live their lives to the fullest while they had their health and were able to travel and be fully mobile. Everyone has a story of someone they know who retired after a lifetime of working and either got sick or died and the dream of retirement was never realized. I asked myself so many times: When is it enough? When do we stop what were doing to do what we dream of? I have heard friends say over the years; once I work for X more years I’m going to do what I have been dreaming of. I never really understood the impact of those words until now. I don’t know if a time will come when I’ll regret the decisions we have made, but I can’t imagine when or why that would happen. My husband, Steve, and I have met wonderful people, traveled to incredible places, had unimaginable experiences and opportunities and so far there are no regrets. We do have to work and although I’m turning 65 in June I can’t imagine stopping work. My job in Korea ends after this semester and I know that something else is waiting out there for me. Maybe I’ll publish this blog, or start a new business, or live in some, as of now, unknown place. Whatever it is, I’m ready for the adventure. I have challenged myself throughout my career to stretch beyond what I imagined and that has brought me a world of adventure. It hasn’t cost a lot of money and although I haven’t saved a lot of money, I have lived the life I wanted. I used to worry about so many things and now it seems a waste of energy and time. This is my life. One filled with adventure and travel and the hope of some meaningful work to help subsidize the rest of the time. Without sounding cavalier, I’m glad I didn’t wait.
As we head back to Korea I look forward to seeing my friends and so many people I call “family”. I’m excited about teaching a new group of students and motivating them to love learning. I don’t know what lies ahead for me when the semester ends and in some ways I’m ready for anything. Things change as I age and I am clearer now about the truth of YOLO. It’s true, you only live once and if I keep playing my cards right, I will have the adventure of my life–every year.
Stay in touch and I will too.