January 26, 2004
A simple life is a
By Martha Irvine
The Associated Press
--The RegisterGuard January 26, 2004
CHICAGO - Sandi Garcia
was living her dream - or so she thought. With a marketing degree from
the University of Wyoming, she moved to Florida, started climbing the
corporate ladder and was making good money.
There was only one problem: She was miserable. She was up at 6 a.m.
and getting home from work just in time to watch the late-night news,
and she often worked weekends, too.
``I got burnt out pretty quickly,'' says the 26-year-old, who longed
for a life that was ``calmer and simpler.'' She found it back in her
native Cheyenne, Wyo., where she now has plenty of time to ski,
volunteer at an animal shelter and enjoy her friends and family.
Experts say Garcia is one of a growing number of Americans -
particularly people in their 20s and 30s - who are making a conscious
decision to slow down and cut back on all that overwhelms them.
``It's true among people of all ages. But it's much stronger, much
more notable among the younger generations,'' says Bruce Tulgan, a
Connecticut-based consultant who tracks generational relationships and
trends in the workplace.
They're simplifying at home: Pierce Mattie, 28, a New Yorker,
recently sold his car, moved into a smaller apartment and gave away much
of his wardrobe.
``It feels great!'' he says, noting that having ``so much junk I
don't use'' was stressing him out.
And they're dramatically changing their work lives.
Gregg Steiner, a 29-year-old in Sherman Oaks, Calif., escaped the
busy high-tech world to work at home, and sold his beach home near
Malibu - he says he grew tired of never having time to spend there. He
also couldn't stand commuting two hours a day.
``I hate traffic. I hate dressing in a suit. I hate sitting under
fluorescent lighting,'' says Steiner, who now does customer service via
the Web for Pinxav, his family's diaper rash ointment business.
Tulgan says all those gripes are common for young professionals.
``The idea of working in a particular building with certain hours seems
ridiculous to them,'' he says.
But he and other generational experts say that doesn't mean young
people are lazy. They just want flexibility.
``It's much more likely they're going to tell you that they'd like
more control over their schedule - and more time for the life part of
life,'' says Tulgan, whose books include ``Managing Generation X.''
Michael Muetzel, another author who has studied twentysomethings,
calls it a movement toward family and social activities.
``Why not put your trust and resources in things that you absolutely
can trust?'' he says.
Indeed, trust is an issue for many young Americans. While they're
into volunteering at a local level, they have little faith in such
institutions as Social Security or government in general. And many,
given recent scandals, don't trust the political process or corporate
``A lot of us saw our parents or knew other people's parents who were
laid off. There was loyalty to the company, and people were getting huge
salaries, and all of the sudden it disappeared,'' says Garcia, who now
works for the Wyoming Business Council.
And so while their parents' generation may have focused on trying to
``have it all,'' many in Gen X and Y are taking a step back to reassess
``I see my parents; they just worked so much, and I don't think they
had much chance to enjoy stuff the way they would have liked to,''
Katherine Josephs said she, too, did some soul-searching.
The 29-year-old from Miami was a journalist for Money magazine in New
York but quit her job after a trip to the Northwest.
Later this year, she'll head to a small town in Colorado to write and
get a degree in ecopsychology, a field that explores the connection
between the environment and personal well-being.
``I'll be spending most of my time outdoors and transporting myself
on a bike and letting my spirit dictate my actions - not Madison Avenue
execs,'' Josephs says.
Some researchers are find- ing benefits in a simpler life.
``The upshot is that people who value money and image and status are
actually less happy,'' says Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College
in Galesburg, Ill., who has researched the phenomenon.
He says they often report being less satisfied with life and are more
likely to experience depression, anxiety and such physical symptoms as
back aches and headaches.
Those who weren't focused on possessions, fame and fortune were,
overall, more content with life and felt better, too.
Garcia hasn't read the research. Like many others her age, she just
listened to her gut and found the simpler life she craved in Wyoming,
the state she once wanted to escape.
``Someone told me that you can never appreciate what you have until
you've left,'' she says. ``I never thought that was true - but now I
ON THE NET