What It's Like To...Downshift Your Life

I'm the poster child for reinvention. But if 9/11 hadn't happened, would I have changed? I don't know. I saw so much pain. That day still hurts, and I can still see it in people. For me, it made me stop and say, "Wait a minute. What am I doing for me, my family and my kids?" That's when I realized I needed to reevaluate my life.

My husband and I have a vacation house in Sea Bright, N.J., a town on the northern tip of the shore with a view of New York. After 9/11, I felt that I had to leave the city, so I moved there full time. I'd take the ferry to work, and every morning I'd wonder, Why can't I just stay here? Why do I have to go to Manhattan? So I let my contract at the Red Cross run out, and I left in June 2003.

I spent that summer trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I'd been working in IT for years and wanted something slower paced, something that didn't have a lot of new learning every day. I knew I wanted to help people, and I realized I cared a lot about the future of the community, so I decided to try real estate. I've been working at an agency in Fair Haven, N.J., since July.

A lot of the work I do is showing places, scheduling showings for clients and doing paperwork. It's really just basic project management stuff.

The pace is definitely different here. And even though that's what I wanted, at first it drove me crazy. There's no urgency. If you go to a restaurant, the waiter may or may not show up at the table to serve you. Same when you schedule appointments with contractors. If it's a nice day, they might just go fishing instead of showing up. But I'm getting used to it. If I want a shot of adrenaline, I can always go back to the city...for a visit.

—As told to Ben Worthen

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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