- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 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. Up at 6 a.m. and getting home from work in time to watch the late-night news, she often worked weekends, too.

“I got burned 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.

Researchers say Miss Garcia is one of a growing number of Americans — particularly people in their 20s and 30s — who are making conscious decisions 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.

Pierce Mattie, a 28-year-old New Yorker, recently sold his car, moved out of a huge apartment and into something smaller 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.

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 — “You’d think I would have walked out and sat by the water or swam, but I barely did.” 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 Mr. Steiner, who now does customer service via the Web for Pinxav, his family’s diaper-rash-ointment business.

Mr. 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.

Michael Muetzel, another author who has studied twentysomethings, puts it this way: “I might refer to it as a movement toward family and social activities. … Why not put your trust and resources in things that you absolutely can trust?”

Indeed, trust is an issue for many young Americans. Although they are big into volunteering at a local level, they have little faith in such institutions as Social Security or government in general. Many, given recent scandals, don’t believe in the political process or corporate America.

“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 a sudden it disappeared,” says Miss Garcia, who now works for the Wyoming Business Council.

Although their parents’ generation might have focused on trying to “have it all,” many in Generations X and Y are taking a step back to reassess and prioritize.

“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,” Miss Garcia says.

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