Inquiring minds want to know. Will I be moving to the coast, or maybe Florida, after I retire from my day job as a school librarian? Downsize to a tiny house? Sell my home and hit the road in a gigantic RV, and cross the country, nothing to tie me down?

People have big plans for me, and I’m sorry to disappoint them.

I have knee replacement surgery scheduled for Aug. 2, I say. Then, when I’m back on my feet, I’ll probably look for a part-time job.

Boring!

I was, at first, irritated by the look of dejection in my interrogators’ eyes when I revealed that I didn’t expect my life to dramatically change next month. Then I realized they were disappointed because they wanted to live vicariously through me. If she can do it, then I can too — in five years.

OK, I get that. But what about me? What was wrong with me, that I didn’t want to plunge myself into a new life?

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That took some more thought, and a shower, where I do my best thinking.

I don’t need to go bouncing off into a new adventure. I’m good where I am.

Oh, as I wrote recently in this space, my husband, Paul, and I are operating a “kitty hospice,” as we care for four cats (and a lively senior dog) ranging in age from 12 to 19. It’s not like I’m living in some kind of paradise that will just become even more idyllic when I leave full-time employment.

It’s just that I’ve tried, for 32 years, to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I’m just looking forward to tipping the scales totally in favor of life.

I decided, as a teenager, that I wanted to be a writer. However, I was a child of first-generation Americans who had grown up during the Depression. Writing was not going to put food on the table. But with journalism, I could get paid to write.

Obituaries, planning committee hearings, town hall meetings — if I got to do a book review, I was on cloud nine. But it was really the prospect of working on Christmas that convinced me I needed to find another line of work.

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I’d had work-study jobs in libraries in college, and soon found myself running a tiny, rural public library. Then, I was hired by the school department in Augusta. I was able to be around books all day, and there was ample vacation time in which to write.

And yet — wouldn’t it be nice to retire early, and write full time? I had read the book “Your Money and Your Life,” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. It lays out a plan for people who want to do just that.

Although I never achieved all the steps, I was inspired by the ideas the book set forth. Paul and I determined to pay off our mortgage as soon as possible. And while I wouldn’t describe us as exactly frugal, we weren’t extravagant, either. For example, when our Toyota RAV4 reached the point of no return in 2014, we went four years with only one car (a hybrid). We finally broke down in 2018 and bought a second car: another RAV4 — used, of course, and paid for it as quickly as possible.

So, when Paul was offered a buyout at age 58, he was able to take it.

But I didn’t just focus on saving money. I wanted to live simply, and put our mental, physical and spiritual health above prestige, which, in this country, means earning a lot of money and spending it on houses, cars and travel.

I chose to work in the city in which I live; to use the public library (of course); to only replace the curtains when they started looking ratty, rather than when I got tired of them. Or because they were passé. You can judge me for my pinkish stair carpeting, which screams 1986. I don’t mind.

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Paul and I take time each weekend to do something fun. Pre-pandemic, it was often lunch and a movie. Now, we tend to head to the coast for a walk or hike, alfresco lunch and maybe a bookstore visit.

I give myself at least half an hour to read every day. I plant a garden each year. I like to cook from scratch, when I have time.

I don’t feel the need to make drastic changes. I am just looking forward to more time to live the simple life. I have already compiled a list of 85 books that I want to read. Usually, I have a fiction and nonfiction book going at once. I’m going to add a classics category. I have decided I am deficient in Dickens, Camus, Faulkner and Kafka.

I hope to become a master gardener, and learn to speak better French, which will drive Paul, a native speaker, absolutely crazy. (My accent is excruciating.) I will grow seedlings under lights in the basement next spring, like I used to do, before life got … complicated.

This avid reader isn’t starting a new novel; just another chapter in my life.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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