By JC Wan/ Image created by Bing

Chang, a friend of mine, just quit her job of over 15 years, where she served as a director in a company. Having earned a satisfying salary with kids all grown up, she is financially affluent and can take time off to contemplate her next move. Chang loved her job. Although her days at work were not always rosy, she took challenges and grew until she outgrew her career one day. Then she left.

Like Chang, many people enjoy what they do and find financial reward and fulfillment in their careers. However, some individuals must take whatever jobs are available due to financial needs. They endure work they don’t desire, hoping to land a job that aligns with their passions eventually. In the Mandarin-speaking world, this is referred to as “Riding a donkey and then searching for a horse,” where the horse symbolizes a dream job, and the donkey represents a less desirable one.

Who doesn’t want a dream job? But if you happen to have to “ride a donkey,” knowing or doing the following things might help you feel better.

Don’t tell anyone in the office that you dislike your job

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Mathew 10:16, New International Version).” This is what Jesus taught about our life on earth. Sometimes, people have to be smart enough, if not shrewd, to not share everything with everyone. We don’t tell our “friends” in the office that we never like our jobs.

First of all, friendship in the workplace is as thin and fragile as an ice flake. It can break at any time for various reasons. Second, even if you and your colleagues remain “close friends,” what’s the point of dragging them down with our bad mood at work? Telling colleagues and coworkers how negative we feel towards our jobs won’t make our office life any easier. Third, the more we tell, the more likely it is to reach the ears of the ones who pay you. And you don’t want to lose a donkey when you haven’t found a horse.

You are putting food on the table at least

Uncle Chen was a magazine reporter. He enjoyed interviewing and covering exciting things and people with a pen, a tiny notebook, and a camera. But like countless print media that were forced to shut down due to the digitalization trend, the magazine he worked with met the unavoidable fate. He lost his beloved career and became a translator, a much less exciting career than his previous one.

Nevertheless, with this job, Uncle Chen raised kids, bought a house, and cared for his parents till their passing. Now in his 70s, he is comfortably retired with a monthly pension.

It’s good if we can get a horse, a job we love. But what if we can only ride on a donkey back? We should still be grateful for that donkey. We are feeding the family, after all.

You achieve your goals anyway

Perhaps you don’t have to feed a family. But do you have a specific goal to achieve?

Ho was a flight attendant, and an office job was never her career option. However, she got laid off when COVID hit the aviation industry the hardest. Instead of waiting to look for another flight attendant job, Ho spent no time and took an office job. She knew she had something more important to do than finding a satisfying career. That is to get a divorce from her abusive husband.

That job she never considered doing paid for her rent as she left her ex-husband’s house and paid out her lawyer fees. Eventually, she left that unhappy marriage thanks to an office job.

Enjoy the benefits of not caring

A Christian friend of mine took a job out of necessity but disliked it so much that she once told me she had to emotionally numb herself to not “feel the resentment” towards her job. She was not interested in pleasing anyone in the office. She did what was necessary at work without being overly concerned about office dynamics. However, she received a pay raise the last time I saw her.

I asked her how she could survive in a career she has difficulty identifying herself with. The answer is that she believed it was God who brought her to this place, and therefore, she was responsible to no one but her God. I reckon that her having a single-minded focus has enabled her to do what she needs to do at work. As to other things in the office, she couldn’t care less.

Sometimes, people care too much. This leads them to overwork, overthink, overanalyze, or overdo the things they care about. Overdoing can ruin things. Not caring too much, people might, in turn, perform better.

Remember that you are not defined by that donkey you ride

Some people find their worth outside their daytime jobs. A man in my previous job held a humble position, yet it turned out that he was a columnist, writing under a pen name and being followed by quite a few readers.

A young lady I knew spent the bulk of her off-work time surfing. She had multiple jobs but kept surfing. Not long ago, I heard that she is now a coach teaching people how to literally ride the waves.

Having a dream job and a career you are passionate about is nice. But what if you can’t have one, or at least for now? How about hopping on a donkey back? Know that you are more than what you do for work; your worth is much more than that. Then you’ll find that a donkey may not be that bad.


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