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The Trouble with Time

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For the longest time, it seemed like forever. Then suddenly forever arrived.

It was just about a decade ago that we first thought of moving to the Philippines. One day, after twenty-three years as a Los Angeles Times staff writer, I arrived at work to hear my boss say, “Let’s take a walk.” It was a long one, down a corridor traversed many times before en route to the company cafeteria. This time, however, the destination was different; the Human Resources Department, a fact that dawned on me only gradually as it began drawing near.

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“You know that these are hard times for newspapers,” my boss said, “and today is especially hard for the Times.”

When it hit me, it felt like a punch in the gut. What he was saying, I realized with a jolt, was that while the day would certainly be hard for everyone at the newspaper, it would be especially hard for me. Plus a few dozen others. More specifically, it would be a hard day for those who, by its end, would no longer have jobs at the Los Angeles Times.

It was several hours before I had the courage to tell my wife. By then she had been in the USA just under five months, and we had been married for just under three. How do you tell someone who’s left everything behind for a new life abroad that the new life is now uncertain? And that the man she married as David Haldane of the Los Angeles Times is now just David Haldane? Perhaps more to the point, how do you tell it to yourself? In other words, just who was I now that I was no longer the man who I was?

It was while staring into the abyss of those eternal questions that the new idea was born; why not, we fantasized, chuck it all and start anew? And why not do it in the land wherein Ivy too had been born?

Thinking of something and making it real, of course, are two different things. God knows I’d already spent enough time in the Philippines by then to know that I liked it. But visiting someplace and living there are two different things. And both of us felt that it would take years of planning to make our dream true.

And so, we began. Eventually I got a new job, though not as good as the old one. Ivy too went to work as soon as she could. And then, in what can only be described as traditional American fashion, she worked, studied and clawed her way up until a fairly good job became an outstanding career.

I, on the other hand, went the other way. My career had already peaked, so when our son was born in 2010 I started winding it down. I announced my retirement to become a stay-at-home-dad. Then, a few years later, signed up for social security and started drawing my pension.

It was around this time that forever began. We sold our house in Long Beach, California, bought a cheaper one in a less-expensive part of the state and used the equity to start building a new home abroad. And while Ivy concentrated on earning as much as she could, I held down the home front and prepared for our transcontinental move. Though we still had lots to do, it seemed like we had forever to do it. But then the end of forever slid alarmingly close.

We are now eight weeks from moving day and suddenly I’m in a panic. To be sure, keeping our California house will make things easier. We won’t, for instance, be disposing of any furniture or making painful decisions regarding what to keep. Nor will we be smothered by enormous shipping bills.

Still, there are many things to do. In the next two months, for instance, we must re-organize our finances, dispose of our car, teach someone to service the spa and, well, pack for the rest of our lives. Not to mention, of course, get our documents in order and bid farewell to our friends. When I lay it all out, it doesn’t seem like much. And yet, I’m enveloped in dread.

For what is approaching, I think, is a kind of death; the demise of an old life and the birth of a new. Like any reincarnation, it is both scary and exciting. Above all, though, it is real, because the time has grown so short.

In the end, that’s the trouble with time. It sneaks up on you, stealthily like a snake. And if you’re not very careful, it will bite you in the behind.

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David Haldane

A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and radio broadcaster, David Haldane (website http://davidshaldane.com/) fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications, including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists (available at the link below), recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be in Surigao City where, at the tip of a peninsula jutting north called Punta Bilar, he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. They hope to be living there soon.

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Roy
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Roy

Hi David, good post; I’m in pretty much the same situation – filled with trepidation, but at the same time excitement at the prospect of new adventures. We fly out mid-June and will be living out in the sticks for 6 weeks or so, at my wife’s parents, until our furniture arrives and we can move to our new condo in IloIlo.

Hope your move goes well.

Gary
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Gary

The human mind is remarkable in how quick it will adjust to drastic changes. I moved to Ormoc City in September right before typhoon Yolanda. We didn’t have anything but water for 3 months as the city put a big generator on the water pumps. Three months is a long time without electric and all the entertainment that goes with that. But when the power came back on, I remember all the kids outside cheering. And I was happy too. But to be honest, it just wasn’t really that bad. My mind adjusted to being without fairly quickly and life… Read more »

David Hakdane
Guest

Wow, that’s inspiring, Gary! Makes me feel a little more confident, thanks…

DDsn
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DDsn

It has been 11 months since we moved here. Just got our SRRVs this week. I think you are not really moving here 100% since you are not selling your CA house and furnishings. Please, to go home for you is a cheap flight to CA, not farther inland. You are so fortunate to be able to maintain residences and have a place to go if PHILS does not work out. Most of us face a reality much starker than that! God Bless and hope you like it!

David Haldane
Guest

Thanks so much for the good wishes.Yes, we are very fortunate not have to “burn our bridges” as-it-were. We’ll see how it turns out….

John Reyes
Guest
John Reyes

Hi David – I’ve been wracking my mind since you joined LiP as a writer trying to remember where and when I first heard or saw your name. It seems I may have seen your name mentioned in the Washington Post or in some publication at the height of Vietnam protests at the Pentagon or on the Capitol Hill in early 70s? Or, maybe in a publication about Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, or the Woodstock festival in 1968? (In 1968, I drove to work on Capitol Hill everyday in an MG convertible flying a black flag in solidarity with the… Read more »

David Haldane
Guest

I used to write for the Berkeley BARB back in the early seventies, if that helps. Anyway, thanks for your kindness and good wishes…

David Haldane
Guest

Wow, that’s inspiring, Gary! Makes me feel a little more confident, thanks…

CtryLwyr
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CtryLwyr

Well-written and interesting.

Rudolf Scholz
Guest

I’m looking for an writer who could make a book or script for a movie out of my notes which I kept in prison.
Best Regards
Rudi

Jason Weiland
Guest

Hey, David! I just wanted to say, from someone who aspires to be a great writer, to someone who already is that your writing is just damn good. To many others, it may seem like a simple article, but the way you told the story really makes me want to try harder every day. With that said, I have been on the receiving end of a layoff too. It was hard, not just for losing such a high-paying job, but the bruising my ego took. I never did find another job in Boston, and my life went downhill from there.… Read more »

David Haldane
Guest

You are very kind. As a writer, I’m sure you appreciate the sweetness of being recognized by a fellow practitioner of the craft. Write on!

David Haldane
Guest

You are very kind. As a writer, I’m sure you know how sweet it is to be recognized by a fellow toiler in the craft. Write on!

Luke Tynan
Guest
Luke Tynan

David Great article. Thank you for sharing, I went through it back in 2013 but prepared for it 2 years in advance… and It caught me be surprise a couple of weeks ahead of the move. But we had sold the house 5 months before. It all worked out

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

I always enjoy your writing David. I read the Berkeley Barb regularly in the late 60’s and on into the 70’s.

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