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UPDATED: February 25, 2008 NO. 9 FEBRUARY 28, 2008
Being Myself
People born into the post-80s generation in China are pursuing a meaningful life, in their individual ways

Li is grateful to his parents, who have taught him to be independent. He also feels blessed to be born in the right time. "In the Internet age, wealth comes fast, whereas in the past, it usually took several decades to make a multi-millionaire," he said. Nevertheless, Li is also aware that wealth might also disappear fast in this era. He hopes that pcpop.com will not be short lived, but be a company with long-term growth prospect.

A meaningful life

Xiao Wei, Chief Operating Officer of a game company based in Shanghai, was doing well in his career. But unlike Li, for almost half a year, Xiao hesitated over whether to quit his job.

If Xiao kept on, he would rise up the career ladder and become richer. But Xiao sometimes felt that life was spinning so fast that it would go out of his control. He was so busy that he had little time to watch television. He felt he was constantly in a hurry and even lost his patience with the elevator after waiting for more than 15 seconds. "I began to question whether such a life was the dream that I had been after," he said.

During the recent Spring Festival, he switched on the TV and saw a popular TV series titled Struggle, which depicts the life of ordinary people who are not particularly successful professionally. Their goals are earthy, such as buying a house. Many 20-somethings find their own shadow in the TV series. It has been nicknamed the Bible of the post-80s generation. Shortly after the Spring Festival, Xiao quit his job.

Tang Ying, 25, is also seeking to live well and do meaningful things. She just quit her high paid job as a department director at a foreign company. She would like to return to school to do a Ph.D. in literature. Tang loved literature while she was very young, but in her middle school years, her parents persuaded her not to study literature because it would be hard for her to make a living from it. So Tang studied economics and found a job after graduation. While many people believe that the primary purpose of attending university is to get a better job, and the primary goal in life is to make more money, for Tang success is not only measured in monetary terms. It is important to be oneself and to pursue interests that make life richer, she believes.

Never give up

"Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly," American poet Langston Hughes said. For Xu Yibing, even if a dream is broken, life can still fly, just on another pair of wings. Xu recently won a "Most Outstanding Clerk in a Pharmacy Store" contest. Xu was born in the 1980s, and her childhood dream was to become a famous doctor. She did not pass the entrance exam for a regular high school, so her university dream was crushed. The setback threw her into deep frustration. Months later, she regained courage and enrolled at Shanghai Medical School to study traditional Chinese medicine. After graduation, she got a job in a drugstore selling Western medicine and trained herself in how to use it too.

Third place in the contest was Chen Ming, also born in the 1980s. Chen was not disappointed with her position. "Even though I am not the best, I am happy that I am better than myself before," Chen said.

Whether successful or not, the post-80s generation has become more mature. Compared with their parents' generation, the young generation lives in a world that is relatively affluent, but less financially secure. While their parents' generation enjoyed generous medical insurance and free education and housing, the post-80s generation is confronted with a tight job market and skyrocketing house prices. Nowadays, layoffs are so common that few young people can find an employer that guarantees lifetime employment. Job instability and rising living costs have forced young people to marry at an older age.

On one hand, young people have received better education than the older generation. The new era is also abundant with opportunities. The post-80s generation is not a lost generation, but one made up of individuals that do not give up easily in pursuing their own dreams. They are on the go, to live well and to live meaningfully.

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