On my 30th birthday, I promised myself that I was going to live the next 30 years of my life healthier, happier and definitely more laid-back than I have ever been. That was 6 years ago.
Since then, I've become 30 pounds overweight, with a borderline cholesterol problem and very bad skin. I probably need to put some work into getting healthier. Okay, a lot more work. But hey, with a daily dose of multivitamins and twice-a-week badminton lessons, I happen to think I'm well on the way.
As for being happier? I'll let this photo of me with my wife and kids speak for itself, and then I'll tell you that over half of my best buds have left the country for "greener" pastures, with a few more to follow suit. The ones that have stayed behind are either very much in the middle of a rat race, or into some other things I'm finding too stressful be around with. I miss the good old days with my friends, but I love what I have right now with my family.
I happen to think that my biggest struggle to date is with becoming laid-back and staying so. Before I turned 30, I've always been a competitive, plan-for-every-possible-scenario, pain-in-the-ass perfectionist. For over 4 years, I've worked for a global services company operating in a highly stressful and highly-politicized industry. It's very corporate stuff, without the astronomical pay. Had there been no effort to keep things simple, flexible and relatively relaxed, I would not have stayed long in my job, nor would I have been very effective in it. But it has been an effort, and often a clash between how I've been brought up and how I've experienced things firsthand.
I obviously have my work cut out for me when it comes to keeping my 6 year-old promise. But I am quite positive about it, for two major reasons. One reason is that this early, I'm already planning for retirement. I don't have a financial stash yet; and, I still haven't a clue how to build it. But I often ask myself: "How many people at age 36 would actually let something like that stop them?" Some people at my age are busy trying to build business empires and change the world. I'm only planning for retirement.
The more important reason for my optimism is that I'm already where I want to retire. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about what things one can find here to try and make up for the things that one can't. I'll leave that up to the people who have come here and made a home out of this country for themselves. They are certainly welcome to share their stories and experiences in this website.
Let me just part by stating for the record why I want to retire here - People here love to smile and they find ways to do it all the time, even in the face of life's curve balls. If life were truly a gamble, then in my book this pot's good enough to make a bet on.