Everyone I know is a ball of anxiety. Everyone I know works too much, and doesn’t have enough hobbies, and has to choose between exercising or hanging out with friends. Everyone I know has a fantasy backup life that they go to in their mind whenever they read the news.
Millennials want to escape, with good reason. We work long hours largely out of necessity to pay off massive student loan debt. Because many of us graduated into a recession, we took jobs that are outside of our skill sets, or don’t align with our personal values, and our wages have fallen 7.7 percent since 2000. In a bad economy, companies have cut levels of management to cut costs, so we can’t even say that all our hard work will pay off with promotions.
We are unhappy with our work lives, we feel stuck, and we want something better. Honestly, every person of every generation has probably felt that way at some point. The difference is, some Millennials are doing something about it.
In 2015, people 18 to 34 took over the majority of the workforce, and just as the number of Millennials in the workforce has grown, the number of Americans quitting their jobs each year has spiked, far surpassing the number of annual layoffs. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey (of 7,700 Millennials worldwide) found that 67 percent of female Millennials expect to leave their job within the next five years. While we don't know if this is people switching jobs at a more rapid rate, or people quitting careers to pursue goals of being self-employed or freelance, it does show that Millennials will not stick around in a job they don't love. If we’re going to struggle no matter what we do, we might as well live good lives.
Emily Esfahan Smith, editor at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, says it's all about finding purpose. Her new book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, argues that seeking a meaningful life—one that is more challenging but feels like you’re making a difference—leads to greater happiness in the long term than seeking happiness moment-by-moment. For Jake Keiser, the subject of our article about #GirlFarmers, running a successful PR firm by day and partying by night had her in a cycle of quick hits of happiness and low periods of wondering if any of it actually mattered at all. So she gave her city life up and bought a goat farm in rural Mississippi. Even though it was harder (she had zero experience farming) and she makes much less money, the tangible, high-stakes work of caring for her animals has paid off in happiness dividends in the subsequent years.
Cosmopolitan.com’s Escapes issue is putting a face to the life-changers. Read about the Americans who were so disenchanted by recent election results that they moved to another country. Or the biologist who decided to make her job more challenging by doing it in space. Or the couple who got rid of all their money worries by selling everything and building a tiny house (with no WiFi, and no bathroom door). Be inspired by the woman who lives on a private island, and another who, when faced with unimaginable grief, quit her unfulfilling job and built a new life she could be proud to live. Find out how those enviable Instagram couples who travel the world actually pay for their nomadic lifestyles. Then tell us on social media what part of your life you’d like to quit this year with #WhyIQuit.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.