YOUTH IN FOCUS: My job is driving me crazy. After graduation, I followed my friends’ and family’s advice and took a job in an office. I thought I would enjoy it, but actually I find it really boring. I want to quit, but I’m afraid that I won’t find another job.
– Rinzin, Thimphu

Well, before I discuss your issue, I’d like to say that I strongly believe that youth should choose a career that is connected to their interests and talents. These days, it is all too common for graduates to select office work because others persuade them to do so or because they believe that it offers security and status. However, they should realise that they will be doing this job for the rest of their working lives, not just for a few days or weeks. Basically, before embarking on a career, youth need to seriously ask themselves whether they want to do a particular job for five days a week for the next forty years.
I’m not suggesting that youth reject office work, but just pointing out that there are other alternatives to white collar (or should I say ‘white sleeve’) jobs and that they should take time to consider these options before making a decision. Basically, any honest job is a worthwhile livelihood and offers a means of contentment. Take working as a waiter as an example. Many youth reject this kind of work, but in reality serving other human beings has so much dignity and self-respect. It also helps develop positive traits, such as a generous mind, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration and even wisdom as it encourages us to examine our mind when we encounter demanding customers.
Furthermore, serving and taking care of others is a practical way to nurture the society of which we are part. It is like the relationship between a tree and the soil. The soil feeds the tree and tree gives nutrition to the soil. This is the attitude we (and our employers) should have towards any job.
As an example of this spirit, I remember a cobbler who worked on the streets of Tokyo. He had a small box that contained the tools of his trade and he would sit near a busy metro station fixing shoes. He had a strong sense of responsibility towards his customers, and so whether it was hot, cold, snowing or dry, he would be there repairing old footwear. Whenever he received or returned a pair of shoes, he would do so with two hands, as if he were handling a rare treasure. He did his job masterfully and never wasted anything. I remember him once taking a bent nail out of a shoe, hammering it straight and respectfully placing it back into the correct compartment of his toolbox.
He treated his tools and his customers with reverence and did his trade with great dignity. Everyone who knew him says that he was very content with his life.
I also remember an elderly lady selling noodles under the skyscrapers in a Taipei night market. Her children had repeatedly requested that she retire, but she wanted to keep her independence and not be a burden on her family. She made fantastic noodle soup, with each ingredient being added with care and respect. She also enjoyed mixing with the younger people in the night market and had a great sense of humour and was very generous. She was a real character and a free spirit. Everyone called her grandma, and she treated all her customers like her own children and grandchildren. After work, I heard that she would visit a temple and dedicate the merit from her efforts to others. Isn’t that a beautiful way to live.
Anyway, regarding your specific question, if you strongly feel that you chose the wrong career then it is fine to consider doing something else. However, if it is just boredom that is making you feel discontent, then I suggest that you explore ways to inspire your day. Basically, we cannot change jobs or relationships every time we feel bored or encounter a problem. Life is boring and filled with difficulties. That is a reality that we cannot change, but we can learn to accept it and deal with situations in a wise way.
Could you gain some ideas from the two people in Taipei and Tokyo that I mentioned above and make your day a cool experience that inspires you and others? I don’t know what your job entails, but take letter or report-writing as an example. If you have many letters to type, you might feel bored, especially if the content is similar. Instead of complaining or escaping the task by attending another meeting or workshop, you could learn to embrace each letter as a new experience. Choose words that are polite and easy for the reader to understand. Basically, write a letter that you yourself would like to receive.
Now, if you want to be a little crazy and transform your entire day into something cool and amazing, then before you begin your letter-writing you could think something like this: “May whoever reads this letter be happy.” Then, if you really want to be smart, after printing the letter, think that not long ago the paper was a piece of wood and before that it was a tree that grew through a combination of sunlight, rain and soil. You can further consider that not only the wood and paper are connected in this way but that everything exists like this. After finishing your activity, mentally send out good feelings to all beings with the wish that their minds be cleaned of ignorance (and free of boredom… HAHA). You can do the same if you are preparing tea or basically anything. In this way, you can transform your entire day into something cool, positive and a little crazy.
To recap, yes, do consider changing your career if you strongly believe that you made the wrong choice. However, if you just want to quit because you feel bored or have some problems, then I suggest that you hang on. As I said, life is boring and characterised by difficulties. Jumping from job to job is not going to change that fact. Instead, you should find your inner richness and apply your natural dignity to your work. If you can do this, you will no longer need to constantly seek new things to feel fulfilled. You can work with any situation and be content wherever you are employed.
If you are interested to explore these ideas further, I recommend this book: ‘Shambhala – the Way of the Warrior’ by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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