Shortly after I got out of college, I targeted 40 as the age I would retire.

That seemed pretty old, but I hoped it would still be young enough to travel and write novels.

When 40 came, I had three children and insufficient savings to last 50 or 60 years.

Just as important, I enjoyed being a journalist. Digging out environmental stories, seeing changes in the state and feeling I was making a difference were fun.

I put retirement on hold.

Since then, I’ve set numerous new target dates. Each time the date got within a few months, I reset it. Sometimes I cited reasons to myself. The real reason was that I wasn’t ready.

Leaving a profession you love is hard even if you know the hours, deadlines and stress are wearing you down.

Walking away from work relationships, both in and out of the office, is difficult.

Wondering what your identity will be when you leave a profession that has been a major part of your life is daunting.

Like others considering retirement, I had concerns about insurance and whether my savings were sufficient.

The question I most often asked myself was whether I would have enough to do without a workday routine.

At one point, I picked a retirement date three years away. As it neared, I punted.

Then for several years, I picked “next January” as my departure date, only to near that month and kick the date back another year.

My latest punt was only six months down field. This time, as I rushed toward it, I felt fairly sure I was ready.

It’s nice to get a divine stamp of approval on a decision, and that’s what I felt happened with this one.

About an hour after telling my boss I planned to retire, I got an email asking if I’d increase my teaching load at LSU in the fall. That quelled any concern about having too much time on my hands.

The following day, the owners of the newspaper announced negotiations for its possible sale to a then-unnamed buyer. Again it seemed I had chosen a fitting time to end a career at a place I’d worked for 42 years.

The biggest confirmation was the contentedness I felt in the subsequent weeks.

My last column won’t run until next Wednesday, but I’ve been using up leave time for more than a month. In those days I’ve decided retirement is wonderful.

Projects I’ve wanted to do for years are getting done, but without the pressure of trying to cram them into a weekend.

My new life offers a healthy blend of things I need to do and things I want to do.

My wife, who is off from teaching for the summer, and I are finding time to have leisurely breakfasts, lunches and late evenings.

We’ve taken time to visit children and grandchildren.

I’ve tinkered with a few fiction writing projects.

Suddenly, there’s almost enough time for the hobbies, books and sports I enjoy.

Maybe if I had retired at 40, I would have been bored.

Now, that’s the one thing for which I don’t have time.

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