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One year – if I can last that long. Fifty-two weeks before I escape SoCal and head north to find the green open spaces I’ve been craving all my life.

I’m looking to trade a burdensome house payment for a tiny mortgage-free cottage, my decades worth of clutter for the liberty of minimalism. I’ll donate my blazers and throw out the heels, sell the car, quit paying stylists and manicurists and dry cleaners, flee the shops and traffic and relentless intrusive advertising. I’ll find a place to contribute something that matters – something more lasting and humane than shareholder profit. I’ll live in blue jeans and cozy sweaters, and take time to stroll rather than dash. I’ll let my hair grow and toss out the curling iron, and only wear shoes and bras when I feel like it. I’ll sit outside at dawn and at sunset, wrapped in fleece and sipping something warm, with my feet tucked under me and the mist soaking into my upturned face.

And mostly, in the hours between, I’ll finally write my novels. Ten years I’ve waited, while life churns on around me and the incessant demands of debtors and employers eclipse the whisper of characters and stories I yearn to tell. The words will come, free and pure, unencumbered by the crushing stress we’ve all been programmed to call “living”.

One year — time enough for my youngest to finish his schooling and build his own life. Less than nine thousand hours. I’m starting my list and I’m making my plans. Already, my lungs expand in the promise of clearer air, my smile in the hope of new friends to love, my very life in the discovery that this trap has been an illusion all along.

Take the time to dream of it: without your house payment, who might you become?

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