Chapter 21. Change Happens

After Sarah Roberts graduated college with a degree in political science, she did what her upper-middle-class family and society expected of her—she landed a good job as a consultant at an environmental consulting firm and set out to climb the corporate ladder.

A few years later, Sarah got married. She and her husband lived and worked in Washington, D.C., living what she calls "the typical D.C. lifestyle." She was working about 70 hours a week in her efforts to advance her career, and she spent a lot of her spare time thinking about work.

"We get so caught up in the work-and-spend cycle that we don't think about what really makes us happy. This job was bringing me a lot more stress than happiness," she told me.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were one of several factors that made Sarah think that she should be spending more of her time doing the things that were really important to her. Spending a majority of her waking hours at a job she didn't really like so that she could pay for a lifestyle that wasn't helping her find a lot of happiness became a choice that was hard to live with.

"Some of the things I worried and cared about began to seem so unimportant. There are just more important things going on than working 70 hours a week. Even when I wasn't at work, I would spend a lot of time stressing about it. I didn't think I needed to be doing this anymore," she told me.

In addition, Sarah and her husband were looking at houses. Their search made ...

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