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  • Writer's pictureDan Berger

Millennial Existentialism

He spends his time visiting friends around the country for weeks at a time as he goes through a divorce and contemplates where to live next and what to do with his condo in San Francisco given the fact he doesn't want to live in the Bay Area any longer.

She moved her things to storage in Brooklyn and flew down to Mexico where she could relax while working remotely. There, she is contemplating her next move—"should I move to Florida to be closer to my parents, stay in Mexico, or do something else?" The fact she just got laid off makes things even more complicated.

He left Oakland and moved to Idaho with his wife to start anew, took a coding bootcamp to reskill, and is now looking to make a career change but he doesn't know how to roll off his current job (which is picking back up after a pandemic) and make the move into tech.

She lives in Santa Fe where she has a successful business but she isn't completely content—professionally and personally... He lives in DC where he has a comfortable job but it's not fulfilling and he's itching to quit and move to NYC... At 40, he has been unemployed for the past year so he left Brooklyn and moved in with his mom in FL with no semblance of what to do next... She took a job because she felt that the fact they approached her was "a sign" but in reality she doesn't trust her new employer. He runs a fully remote company that's successful but he doesn't want live in Virginia anymore but can't decide where he does want to be.

Sound familiar? These are just a few of the stories of my millennial friends who are having an existential crisis, which is the culmination of no longer getting joy from the city they currently live in and having an unfulfilling job that is even less so without being with their coworkers in the flesh. The pandemic was the catalyst for the deeply introspective questions we all have.

Work has always been a very defining component for the identity of the average American. By working remotely, however, we have lost this guiding light. We no longer "had to" physically be somewhere.. and the fun things about work—like being with our tribe—were no longer... fun.

As I've reflected over the Social Tables culture we intentionally created, I think we were over-compensating for the lack of belonging our millennial workforce (the average age in 2017 was 28) had in Washington, DC. After all, a third of our departing employees moved to a different city.

As we look passed the pandemic, I think we're entering an era where one's work won't be as defining to her identity—and thus—belonging as it once was. Therefore, that begs the question: where will our belonging come from going forward?

I don't have the answers but it obviously starts with people. Where are your people? What is your tribe? This helps guide the place you want to be and live. This is no longer intrinsically tied to where you work.

So how do you figure this out? What has worked for me was to approach it like developing a new product... small and brief experiments. I moved to Boise and lived in a hotel for a week, then I rented an Airbnb for a few months, and only then did I purchase a home (that was also a good investment in case things didn't work out). I did this while I put myself out there and met as many people so I could bolster the gut feeling I had about the place.

As far as figuring out what I want to do next, that's on the back burner for now. I'm focused on self-care and not rushing anything. I am confident I'll "see the light" when I'm ready. This position, however, is one of extreme privilege and I recognize most can't do that but the same methodology described above as it relates to picking where you want to be can apply for picking where you want to work.

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