Retired US Navy Seal James Collins
They say life begins at 40. I beg to disagree. Life begins at 60.
I’m at an age when people think the only logical thing to do is travel, take pictures of places you’ve never ben to before, meet new people, become a nomad—sell your house and transfer from place to another. That may well work for some people, but not for me. I’m an introvert, and people make me nervous. I’d rather stay in places I’m familiar with, be around people I know and trust. So, my parents and siblings got the surprise of their lives when I decided to enter the service when I turned 18.
It was the most important summer of my life. I knew I was different from so many of my friends. I didn’t like partying, and I spent my time on my own most of the time. But on my way home one afternoon, I met an old man who told me his life story. He told me to push my boundaries. He told me to get out of my comfort zone at least once in my life and see if I like the air outside. We ended up spending two hours together. I had to accompany him home since it was already dark when we finished talking.
Back home, I was stunned and intrigued by his many advises. I can still remember him saying that it was his greatest regret to not try the things he thought he didn’t like. I felt for him. And in many ways, I pitied him. I told myself that I didn’t want to have the same regrets. So, contrary to what people think I would and wouldn’t do, I enlisted that summer. A year later, I was in Subic Bay in the Philippines. It was the boldest thing I’ve ever done. My parents didn’t know if they would be excited or nervous. But I assured them that I would be fine. And that I knew I would learn a lot from my time.
Work was hard, and I was forced to be part of the community. I was my own community prior to flying to the Philippines. It took me a while to adjust.
A couple of weeks after I arrived, I realized that I was having fun. My mind, which was like a sponge, absorbed everything from the scent, the smell, to the kinds of people I met. It was the most amazing thing ever. I ended up staying there for 8 years. My golden years.
We were forced to pack our bags and return to the States. Mount Pinatubo erupted, and we had to leave the base. I always thought my time in the service was cut short, but I suppose it was for the best. Soon after, I started attending university. When I graduated, I got a job as an assistant professor. I taught for many years. I even published something about a study. I retired this year and decided to write a book about my time in the Philippines.
Life Begins at 68
My wife passed away ten years ago. My children have children of their own. I now find myself alone at home, which for some may be a nightmare, but not for me. Solitude energizes me. That’s the best thing about being an introvert.
Now that I have all the time in the world, I decided to write a book. A memoir about my time in the Philippines.
Before I began writing, I decided to upgrade my home office. I removed my old files and sent them to a rented storage downtown. I also got rid of my old office table. It was far too small. I don’t now remember why in the world did I not get rid of it years earlier. My son heard about what I was doing, so he sent what’s called a standing desk. On the phone, I urged him not to send it to me. Why in the world would I want to work standing up? I also thought that the standing chair required a specially tall office chair, which I’m not planning on getting. The delivery arrived, and the men assembled it for me. They explained how it worked, but it still didn’t convince me. I went online and found out the benefits of owning a standing desk.
In a traditional setting, people are expected to sit behind the desk, the article I was reading said. But studies now show that it’s important to stand and move around at certain parts of the day to stimulate blood flow. It was very interesting, and it sold it to me. I’m now glad to have the standing desk.
My son also sent me an ergonomic chair. In the navy, I was used to sitting on any kind of chair, but not anymore. My son said I need something to support my back and ergonomic chairs are designed to do that. He explained that an ergonomic furniture is designed with the human body in mind. He explained that those aches and pains associated with using ordinary office furniture are a result of ill-designed concepts.
I’m now six months into using my new office furniture and I can swear by it. I never once experienced lower back pains, stiffness in the shoulders and neck. Anyone thinking of buying new office furniture must consider standing desks and ergonomic chairs. In my opinion, they are great investments.
Writing is my life now. I’m approaching the end of my life and I would like to be able to share the stories of my experiences. I want people to know the lessons the old man I met when I was eighteen taught me.
I feared being old. I feared having regrets. Now that I’m here, now that I’m an old man, I’m so lucky to say that I did my part. I made mistakes, but no regrets.
I wish all of you happiness in your own lives. When it’s time to publish my book, I will write to all of you again. Stay safe!