Time to sum up the year, I guess. I did review my short- and long-term goals in the fall, finding myself mostly on track and arriving at the decisions I had wanted to make by then. I have made some adjustments to the goals regarding financial planning.
I am feeling good—refreshed after a break and very positive from assessing my present situation.
First, let me talk about my holiday. I took the plunge, splurged and did a Mayan Riviera resort stay. My first time in Mexico and on an all-inclusive holiday package at a big resort. It was wonderful and worth it, even though I traveled solo. Just shy of a week away, it was a nice break that did the trick however short. I swam every day, lazed around by the beach or snoozed in my room, enjoyed the food and hospitality. I watched the live shows a couple of evenings and worked out at the spa gym a couple of times.
It felt great to be able to have a holiday at Christmas and to experience Christmas in a different way.
Probably the most worthwhile thing I did on this holiday was to take a day-long, guided excursion inland to see Mayan ruins. I had always wanted to visit a Mayan pyramid. There I was under the sun on the day of Winter Solstice at the pyramid of Chichen Ixta witnessing a Mayan procession and soaking in the history, art and spirituality of the place.
En route, we stopped to marvel at some high-quality, local handicrafts. We also paused to view a Spanish church made from stones of the Mayan structures. I witnessed Mayan youths performing indigenous dances, games, songs and prayers. We also took time out to explore and swim in an underground lake (“cenote”). What’s more, I had the chance to chat with some travel companions and listen to their extraordinary stories along the way. In addition, I relished the unanticipated sights of wildlife around the resort—birds of prey, other birds such as magpies and pelicans, small mammals including coatis (“tercones”) and a raccoon, deer, lizards and butterflies.
It was super special to be there at the time of Winter Solstice. I am sure I felt the power and beauty of the occasion. At least, the view from the quiet beach under the clear sky lit by the light of the full moon over the Caribbean Sea was perfection itself. It felt exhilarating to be there. This is the moment when I felt my spirits lift and the tensions and worries built up over the past months dissipate. The exposure to the moonlight and the good waters of the region acted like a balm. I was re-energized. A great way to conclude a year.
Decisions this year.
This past fall, I had pledged to myself to make some decisions regarding financing, livelihood, living arrangements, retirement and more. Here are some reflections on most of these decisions.
-I concluded that it is best to continue renting at least for about three more years because of the housing benefits for seniors that I can now access. That means I have opted not to try to buy a place, for now. Therefore, I am making improvements to my apartment with enhanced décor and proper furniture to replace makeshift set-ups. I am reorganizing things and making use of storage space that has just come available. That is, I am settling in here for a long haul.
-As for my livelihood, I have decided to rely on teaching employment no longer. I am instead making more progress with self-employment: writing projects, private tutoring, official testing. More work seems to be coming to me. For instance, a private institute contacted me today to set up an interview. If we go through with the job, I’ll have two or three shifts (12-16 hours a week) tutoring children. Also, a prospective student contacted me directly, circumventing the tutoring agency, to schedule French lessons four hours a week. To add, I recently had a couple of short projects reviewing English translations. Finally, I am maintaining a role as an official speaking examiner for some hours of testing most weeks. The hourly rate for most of this work is fairly high. I have been getting some unemployment benefits due to my previous months of employment with the academic English programs. Perhaps I’ll have enough income from other sources to do without it in January. I am feeling relieved to have more self-employment. It was my plan to depend more on self-employment after returning from teaching in Korea two years ago, it is apparently panning out.
-Finances. What to do with the retirement savings so far accumulated? My nest egg was release from some investment programs this past fall. I was avoiding using that money for living and luxury/ leisure expenses until I decided about buying a home. Now that I have decided not to buy a home, I have decided to make some of it available for travel every year and for living comforts such as the furniture. I think I may end up arranging something like an annuity so that the savings can go towards what they were intended, which is supporting my retirement life. I am so relieved to have resolved this question, for I was beginning to feel very constrained practicing frugality and continuing to endure makeshift arrangements such as the sleeping mat I’ve used for a year and a half, the shabby lighting here, and the sagging work table that’s been in the dining alcove. My place is more comfortable and pleasant now.
Summing up the year.
My life progressed. It generally moved in a positive direction.
I received blows, of course. The worst was being thrown out summarily in the middle of a new sessional instructor contract. I blame it on the unreasonable fear and negative imagination of people in charge at least of the program I was working in, as well as poor institutional communication and management. That was hard to live through.
There was also the ongoing strain of unfair and erroneous federal tax assessments. The assessments have been demanding a large payment, including interest and penalties. It is difficult fighting this anonymous bureaucracy in the series of blunders and misunderstandings and oversights about my financial situation. Gradually, it is getting sorted out, after a ministerial inquiry, meetings with a bank financial advisor, and numerous letters. The strain is easing.
Despite these problems, I have been able to keep income flowing in. Self-employment activities are increasing, without me making huge efforts to solicit the business. Though recent experience has turned off the desire to rely mostly on employment in teaching, I still have teaching prospects. I am meeting a children’s after-school ESL institute later this week. I am also meeting a new private student this week. Finally, there is a new writing project. If I complete a book that another ghost writer started, and books are sold, I am to receive a percentage of the sales revenue. It is an important book connected to my just peace activism as it is based on research and experiences of an activist seeking reforms to nuclear power plants and nuclear accident evacuation procedures in the US.
Furthermore, I am settling into this rental apartment, having made a decision about planning my retirement and using my retirement funds. This is a relief, as I now feel grounded in a place and position in life. Though I am not yet declaring myself retired and applying for senior’s pension benefits, I am enjoying some other kinds of senior’s benefits, which offer some relief.
Finally, I ended the year with a warming, distracting and relaxing vacation outside the country, getting away from it all, and also fit in some celebrating with co-workers and relatives. There was a fine Christmas party paid by the English testing company in late December, and I hosted a nice dinner party for family yesterday. If I want, I can attend a friend’s house party to welcome in 2019 tonight.
Things are looking and feeling good for me just as 2019 is launched.