By AA Patawaran
Millennials are not an age group, they are a state of mind.
That’s why, though the elders of the Millennials are always complaining that the young are this, the young are that—lazy and self-entitled and unable to hold on to jobs because they want everything all at once—they cannot deny that they are the source of all these dreams-come-true.
Back when we were young and our elders were the authority, to whom we could not speak up, against whom we could not argue, when our elders had power to tell us what to do with our lives, from what to take up in college to whom we should marry.
Hello, life has changed and that’s thanks partly to the dreams we dreamed back then, while we were powerless against the tried and tested, against traditions, against the standards of the generations before us. Finally, finally, the world of the present acknowledges what we were only hinting at in our youth, “We didn’t start the fire/It was always burning/Since the world’s been turning/We didn’t start the fire/No we didn’t light it/But we tried to fight it (Billy Joel, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ 1989).”
And so we were Millennials before somebody invented the term and we launched our young into a freer world, a world that no longer cares as much about what the neighbors say, a world that looks at failure in a different light, as a springboard into more meaningful successes, a world that no longer pays lip service to the adage that “the past is behind us, the future is ahead of us, and all we really have is the present,” a world that can no longer be guilt-tripped to behave a certain way.
We those of us from Generation X were Millennials before the Millennials came to be. It was our hopes and dreams, our doubts and fears that gave rise to Generation Y, who are now so empowered, so entitled to their opinion no amount of SMH (shaking my head) can deprive them of their right to think the way they do and express it as loudly as they can, if only on social media, which now has billions of voices, two billion on Facebook alone, screaming to be heard all at once.
So recently, my college friends and I, born in the very late ’60s and now just two, three decades away from retirement, are dreaming up our own emancipation or, in less poetic terms, our retirement years. Nothing Millennial about all that planning—I mean, some of us are in fact running the numbers, computing how much it would cost to retire to places like Utah or Tagaytay or some distant plot of land on a mountain slope in Banaue, inflation considered, as well as the cost of house repairs, even the possibility that our grownup children might borrow money from us.
Maybe it’s not very Millennial to look that far ahead, but Andrew Matthews became a celebrated author among the generation that is now raising the Millennials and he said, in his phenomenal bestseller Being Happy, “It is not where you start that counts, but where you choose to finish.” I guess talking about retirement, but more like daydreaming about it, is very Millennial after all. The generation before ours—and, as a result, even our generation—cannot talk about death without knocking on wood, and retirement in a way is the penultimate stage to that grand finale.
Besides, though we did dream up the Millennial spirit, we were born at least one decade before the Millennial uprising, which took at least one more decade to ripen. We were children of the Baby Boomers, to whom we looked up and who had power over us. By the time, we slipped out of their sphere of influence, we had children to look after, to raise with the best of our intentions and aspirations, fulfilled or unfulfilled, and guided somewhat by the “neveragains” of our own time.
It is only upon retirement that finally we can be ourselves, not fathers or mothers or titos or titas, just us, free to be as Millennial as we want with our life and doing what we can, on our own terms, to make that life or what’s left of it count.
I don’t think I’ll ever retire, if retiring means stopping what I do. I’d like to think of retirement, though, as retiring from the rat race, from our obligations to the generation before us, our parents, and the generation after us, our children. Retirement is just doing what you like to do, but in the spirit of the Millennials, we are lining up what we want to do with a sense of purpose, if it means retiring from everything material to reduce our impact on what’s left of the earth.
I think I’ve been lucky that what I like to do has also turned out to be something I could do to make a living and, should God permit that I don’t have to make a living anymore, I would still want to do what I do. And luckier still that I only need pen and paper to do it, or a small gadget like a laptop or an iPad. If I must retire, though, it would be nice to live out my remaining days in a mountain cabin or a beach house or, should I decide I still want to be a city boy when I’m old and gray, a little house that’s easy to manage in Paris or Budapest or a small farm in Laguna, in which I could spend the days and the nights attempting to write novels.
Now I have only a couple of decades to make these dreams come true, not the writing, which I have been doing since I was 19 years old, but the Paris apartment or the Laguna farm or the idea of not having to worry about money anymore, so I can just sit on my desk or sit on a bench under a tree overlooking the beach or the mountains and fret over nothing except the stories and the writing. Truth to tell, novel or not, I think I’ll get by. Since I turned 40, I’ve had major changes happening in me, one of which is the realization that I’ve never really cared about money, around which my ideas about success and failure have now informed my search for meaning.
My only wish is that I’ll have enough money so I can do what I do with dignity. But I guess even dignity is all for show, and there is dignity, whether I end up poor or I spend much of my retirement years playing God to those who might have any interest in anything I might leave behind.
When I’m 74, I want to be above it all. I think that is the most basic unit of my retirement plans, if I have any plans at all. That—and to keep on living (and doing what I love) until the day I die.