Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Walking off job to make up for absent dreams

By Ke Han (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-24 07:49

Walking off job to make up for absent dreams

The 10-Chinese-character resignation letter of a middle school teacher in Zhengzhou of Henan province has gone viral on the Internet. Her letter simply says: "The world is big, and I want to see it." But it has inspired many netizens, including young and senior employees, and even company CEOs, to imitate interesting resignation letters.

What these resignation letters all have in common is that they express the writers' dissatisfaction with their daily routines, and their eagerness to explore new, what they see as greener, pastures.

Resigning from a job in search of greater success or to pursue personal goals is nothing new. Recent years have seen some people quitting their jobs without having landed another; they call the period between jobs the gap year or gap period. The usual excuses for leaving a job include, "going home to get married" or "further studies".

The popularity of the Henan teacher's resignation letter indicates two things. First, her short, crisp way of expressing her desire has struck a chord with netizens. Second, it shows that people nowadays can say they are quitting their job to "experience life" instead of giving some excuse.

The fact that the teacher belongs to the post-1980 generation, majored in psychology and taught in a middle school for 10 years also played a role in her bold decision and "creative" resignation letter. After the letter was posted on the Internet, many young people reacted strongly to her decision. A Zhejiang University psychology teacher's post on the Internet said that many people believe the post-1980 generation is a freer generation, but in reality many members of that group are approaching their middle age and face boring career routines and job pressure.

The post-1980 generation spent its adolescence at a time when China was shifting from planned economy to market economy, and it was influenced by individualism. Different from collectivism - advocated by and rooted in China's traditional culture - individualism supposes that individuals have the right to safeguard their own interests. As the first generation in China to be influenced by individualism, the post-1980 generation became the first group in the country to pursue individual growth and self-fulfillment.

For the pursuit of individualism, however, people have to find the answers to questions such as "who am I?" and "how do I fit into this world" during their adolescence, according to Erik Homburger Erikson's "eight stages of development".

But the post-1980 generation began to think about these questions only after reaching adulthood, when they also encountered the questions of how to pursue creativity and self-development. The struggle between such diverse but overlapping thoughts has prompted some young people to quit their jobs to pursue their goals. The post-1980 generation's late self-discovery could be attributed to monetary and educational limitation during their adolescence.

The gap year before college is quite popular among youngsters in the West. An article in Psychology Today supports the gap year because it helps youths understand themselves and the world better.

But the different education system and severe academic competition in China do not allow the post-1980 generation to experience the world in any gap year. After they reach maturity, they find through the Internet that the possibilities in life and the world are more than they could imagine. So when they encounter inertia in their adulthood, when their mundane office job becomes a drudgery or when they start feeling claustrophobic in their surroundings, they become desperate to explore the world and make up for their absent dreams during their adolescence. This is why the gap year is becoming popular among Chinese college students nowadays.

The "running away" resignation of the Henan teacher makes up for what today's young employees lacked as adolescents. The cost and satisfaction of finding oneself can only be experienced by person concerned.

The author is a psychological consultant and writer.

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