This flexibility story comes to us from Christie Peretti. Christie spent 20 years building respect in a high-stress career that left her proud of her accomplishments, but tired: tired of missing family events, tired of an unhealthy lifestyle, and tired of the rat race. Introduction to a more flexible option helped her to bring her life back into balance.

Over the course of 20 years I built a thriving career, driven by a relentless work ethic and hard-won knowledge. I had a high-level, high-stress position, and I was really, really good at it. I had worked my way from an entry-level post to a top management role, and I was proud of myself.

But a thriving career didn’t make for a thriving Christie.

I worked constantly and it put a huge strain on me—mentally, physically, and emotionally. Half of every day I spent on the clock, plus more time on call, plus additional work on the weekends. My health, my personal life—what were those?

I didn’t have any time for me. When my friends wanted to go out for happy hour, I never made happy hour. If I wanted to stop at the mall, it was closing by the time I got there. I missed a lot of family parties on the weekends. I felt like my whole life was me working.

On top of it all, I was struggling with debt and needed a second job, but I knew I couldn’t apply for anything with set hours. In the end, I found an option that would work for me: direct sales. With flexible hours and a commitment level that I could set for myself, I found it was the best choice for a second job that would complement my career.

Finding the right position was a little bit harder. Luckily, a little over two years ago, I managed to grab a few free hours with a friend. It feels almost like fate now. We were discussing my latest direct sales disaster over a bottle of wine. And while we were talking, my friend got a text about a networking event for work-from-home jobs. Because we’d been enjoying that wine, we were drawn straight to Traveling Vineyard, a company that markets exclusive wines through free, in-home wine tastings.

That night, that random text my friend received, that coincidental bottle of wine, changed my life.

I started working with Traveling Vineyard in a business model with no mandatory minimums or extended commitments, and I was able to make my schedule work smoothly. Since I’d picked a job that was all about setting your own hours, it drew other people that understood what it meant to have a crazy schedule and a crazy life. I really liked all of the new people that I met, both my colleagues and my customers. So I was getting a little relaxation and social time, even at work.

Then one of the new friends I’d made helped me make some other positive changes to my job situation. She knew of a job, similar to the full-time one I had, but at an easier pace. I weighed my options: Things weren’t going to get better where I was, and life is very short. I took a new full-time position in a completely new industry. It changed my life, again.

Now I don’t work 12-hour days, I work eight. I don’t work through family events, I take vacations, I control my own schedule. I also work the direct sales job on the side and it allows me to meet new people, get better at public speaking, and grow as a businesswoman. I’m paying down my debt and my health is improving.

But the best thing is that I can breathe. I’m not a slave to either of my jobs. I can see new possibilities. I’ve had a taste of freedom, and it’s giving me ideas.

A few years ago it would have been unthinkable for me to give up a traditional full-time job, but now I’m working on building my side career—with its flexible hours and simpatico people—into a full-time job. At my own pace, and without sacrificing my health or my family, I’m setting up a future where I control my life and I control my priorities.

Because this is what I tell my friends when they find work trying to take over their lives: Your happiness should be first.

I took the leap, and now I’m not just happier, I’m finally going to happy hour with my friends. Cheers!

photo credit: istockphoto.com