Having the courage to quit my job and start again. #Mindfulchats with Yanda

Having the courage to quit my job and start again. #Mindfulchats with Yanda

TLDR: Why quit your job during a pandemic? How do we help our friends who are thinking about quitting?

When the pandemic plunged the world into recession, university graduates felt nervous. The fear of not finding a job or having your job offer rescinded was real.

Hence, to land a job and then quit your stable, full-time job during a pandemic makes you pause and say “Huh, why?”. Yanda has a different take. He asks ‘Why not?’.

Sipping coffee as Yanda shares his story

The Job Hunt Hype

Yanda, a final year student in 2020, took his time to enjoy university while it lasted. He mentioned that “everyone was rushing to secure a job. There was great hype for job hunting.”

It was definitely not an easy climate to be in. Rather than worrying about uncertainty, Yanda volunteered for Buddhist Organisations such as NTU Buddhist Society/ BYN (Buddhist Youth Network). He then took on the job search in his own time.

(No. Yanda doesn’t come from an uber-rich family where a job falls on his lap. He didn’t see the need for an all-or-nothing chase.)

Eventually, Yanda obtained a few offers in the engineering space and took on a role he thought he might enjoy. That is where things changed.

Is This It?

Work soon became monotonous and a routine for him. He noticed a routine of “working, going out for lunch, sitting back down and going home.”

This made him wonder, “Is this it? Is this how I am going to spend my life? What do I want? If I lived to 60 years, will I be content with doing 40 years of the same thing?”

In response to his musing, I mumbled: “Definitely not me.”

His attempt at sharing work struggles with some friends did not yield something he could relate to. They alluded to “finding meaning in your job rather than have the meaning come to you.” It was cold comfort.

I could see his thought process unfold and why that advice didn’t sit well. Yes, there was this sense of job security during a pandemic but it brought little meaning to him. That meaning was nearly impossible to find.

The turning point came when this question popped to mind, “If tomorrow, I am going to die, I would only remember that I did paperwork here and there. That’s it”. That spurred him into action. He tendered his resignation and left the company to the shock of his peers. New hires are usually expected to stay in that job for at least 2 years, but he stayed in that role for less than 6 months.

The Pains Of Change

“I had fear and felt scared”, he gulped when recalling the moment he quit and had no job offer on the horizon.

“So what helped you through the uncertainty?” I quizzed.

The fellowship of his Buddhist circle who listened patiently was what brought him to a brighter state of mind. Friends that were slow to advise but quick to listen to his pain helped him greatly. “That is what matters…being there for me,” he concluded.

“Confidence in the Buddha’s teaching, knowing that all these negative emotions would fade,” he added, gave him strength when he was alone. He viewed the transition as “uncertainty at its very core.”

Over the years, having done mindfulness practice enabled him to watch his emotions and to make  necessary changes without attachment. That gave him the conviction that it was not an impulsive move but an informed one.

Starting Again

Smiling as he recalled his Buddhist work, “I have done a lot of Buddhist work that brought joy to me. If this (engineering) job doesn’t fit me, what can I do?”

As causes and conditions came together, Yanda didn’t need to wait long for an answer.

“A friend told me that she had an opening at a preschool where they wanted a Dhamma friend to help build the school’s curriculum.” He recalled. He mulled on the idea of facing kids all day and decided to take the plunge.

Yanda is now studying for a Diploma in Early Childhood Education while working to help build the preschool’s curriculum.

“Uncertainty,” he answers immediately when asked what he loves about his job. “What the children can bring to you every day with every interaction presents uncertainty,” he added.

When he dived deeper, he felt lifted about being able to help kids appreciate this ‘thing’ called the mind. Letting them know that there are ways to develop their minds. Equipping them with Buddhist concepts, techniques and emotional awareness to thrive in a stressful world really motivated him.

“Kids are easy to teach, as they are free of concepts,” he quipped. At that moment, I recalled being an inquisitive child, something I felt I have lost along the way. It was interesting to see how uncertainty could bring us pain (job transition) and joy (teaching kids).

Helping Others Start Again

I was curious to hear Yanda’s take on how we can help our friends’ transition from one job to another.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but what I can say is that this is something cliché,” Yanda shared.

“Listen to them and be genuinely happy for them. Recognise that they took a courageous decision to step out of something that did not fit them,” he added.

On a practical side, Yanda shared that we should remind our friends to also financially plan ahead if they choose to resign without a job offer. As a rule of thumb, one should have at least 3-6 months of expenses saved in cash to weather them through their job search.

His advice was grounded heavily on the Buddhist idea of appreciative joy which is a joy in the achievements/victories of others.

“How can I support you? Do you need resources/contacts?” has been one of the most helpful questions friends asked. I instantly agreed by nodding furiously as I felt that we often are quick to develop solutions without considering our friends’ needs.

Turning Back Time

“Your first job is super important” is one piece of advice that Yanda recommends ignoring for graduating students. It adds unnecessary stress to the individual. That person may then seek out the perfect job which may not exist.

Having wisdom is crucial in helping us see the world properly. If he could turn back time to advise his graduating self, he would say this: “Have an attitude in life that let the results take care of themselves once I try my best. If it doesn’t go my way, what can I do next?” and “We are our own boss, only we can understand our emotions and the true nature of our mind.” 

Asking that question gives us the courage to be open to what life can bring. What we can do is to create conditions for success while developing a sense of non-attachment to the outcome.

“Understand we have a mind, and emotions are never truly ours. Just like a cup. The reason why we wash it is that we are confident that the dirt can be washed off. The dirt was never the cup.” he summarised.

It was a mind-blowing summary of expectations and emotions. Recognising emotions as transitory and being at ease with the unpleasant is a skill set we all need as we go through the different changing phases of life.

Yanda showed that Singapore youths are hungry for life and meaning. We need not stay in the same job just to clock a magical number of years before leaving. Asking ourselves “Is this it?” can spark conversations and paths we never dreamt of.

Yanda is currently working in Blue Lion Preschool as an early childhood educator trainee. 

This Is It: When Plans Don’t Go Your Way

This Is It: When Plans Don’t Go Your Way

TLDR: We get busy making plans after plans. But what happens when our plans are upended? With the pandemic, some plans such as having a holiday overseas may take another year or two to unfold. Maybe life is just it. This is it – with or without plans, we can learn to live life in gratitude.

Most of us make plans. One plan after another. Some are short-term such as going on a holiday. Others are long-term such as getting married and buying a property. For the last few years, I have stopped making plans except to take time off to go for meditation retreats. Thanks to COVID19, I realised that was a plan too. A plan is something you have in mind to do in the future. Despite not making as many plans now as compared to my youthful self, making just one plan is a plan as well.

In 2019, I attended a course and met several people whom I made a few plans with. These plans included travel.

When Plans Don’t Go Your Way

Making plans is a normal routine. You wake up, think of the task you have in mind for the day. Then you brush your teeth, have your breakfast, take a bath and act on your day’s plan. Though the daily routines of brushing the teeth, and having breakfast are small plans we make from one thing to another.

What happens when your daily routine or plan is upended? Maybe you are used to going to bed at 11 pm but a friend who needs to talk about an issue is preventing you from sleep. What about being told by your manager to change your presentation after you have worked on it to perfection? With the current pandemic, most of our holiday plans have gone down the drain.

This period of major changes does not allow our plans to go as planned. It can bring on frustrations and impatience. Some are suffering from the loss of their jobs while others are still trying to get used to having lesser social contact.

The Reason We Make Plans

What happens if you were to stop making plans one day? Try it. Take a day not planning to do anything at all. It is hard right? Our brain is wired to do things and to take rests in between. It feels uneasy without a job. There’s a saying, “An idle mind is the playground of the devil.” When we don’t give our brain a job, it seems to spiral downwards.

Having plans makes us feel alive because there is something to look forward. Without something to look forward to, life has no purpose and it may feel as though we are waiting to die. Though the truth is, no matter how many goals we have and how many things we have to do, we are still marching towards death.

Could it be possible that we make plans so we feel we exist? Is having plans a way to feed the ego’s existence?

It’s Time to Stop

Having plans can bring frustration when it does not come to fruition. Not only that. The time of death is uncertain. Having plans after plans can cause this fear that if death comes, these plans would come to a halt. Or you might never see the fruition of them.

Is it possible to do the tasks according to plans without thinking of its fulfilment? It is like going on a holiday. We plan and expect an enjoyable trip. But during the trip, we don’t feel it is special, and instead of being rested, we feel fatigued.

Imagine the possibilities spontaneity and acceptance can bring without us being attached to our plans and its fulfilment. Making plans is inevitable in life with family and work goals to fulfil. But many times, frustration and impatience set in because we want the plan to unfold as we had imagined it. A little inconvenience may cause blood to boil.

Not clinging to how a plan should be completed opens up fresh possibilities and creativity in spontaneous moments.

When I discovered that my mind was dissatisfied because I was hinging on my plans to unfold one day, I realised I had taken life for granted. I was not appreciating the moments I have. Even if there is nothing going on in my life, I have my breath. Watching the breath and wishing those around you well in meditation is a very pleasant job for the brain even in active life. My longing for a meditation retreat to reconfigure my mind of a bad year was really one of the causes for having a bad 2020.

Most of us go about our busy lives without questioning why there is a feeling of sadness, of dissatisfaction or frustration. I went through last year learning to lift my mind through relaxation. But it was not until I realised that even a small plan like wanting a meditation retreat could cause upheaval in the mind, that I became content with all that there is right here, right now.

Wise Steps:

  1. Make goals without being attached to the plan its fruition. Allow spontaneity and flexibility to add creativity in what you do.
  2. Give the mind a job to anchor it to the present (such as your breath) so it does not create an unrealistic image of your plans, which when unfulfilled can bring frustrations.
  3. Take a pause to breathe in and out slowly every twenty minutes by setting a bell on repeat to help you rest and feel refreshed.

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