By Temnotfo Mvubu
When I was much younger, I had a deep-rooted idea of what my adulthood would look like. You know, the desirable 20’s. I figured life would grow in a straight line. A steadily inclining chart of good fortune, good job, a fat bank account and a very happy life. I had watched enough TV shows to hunger for this. Seen enough scenes of women in corporate spaces looking bossed up and absolutely gorgeous. I wanted it.
By the time I was 11, I was convinced that the world of cubicles and fax machines on someone else’s terms just wasn’t going to work for me. I was already obsessed with outdoors and paint by then, so I knew that if I was going to live my life well, I was going to live it outside of an office set up. And I was adamant about it. When I got to high school and started peeling off the layers of childhood and taking on a much deeper and meaningful understanding of who I wanted to be, I fell in-love with Marine Biology. I suppose momma had made me watch enough free willy movies to feel as if that was my calling. However, after reading over and over again about coral reefs and sting rays, I packed that dream away and settled back into my natural love for creating. By the end of Highschool I was convinced of two things: That I absolutely could never be a suit, and that my career had to be a passion
Fast track to internship season during my final year in Uni, after battling sleepless nights and endless assignment deadlines, I was once again thrust into a similar boat. Up to my neck in all sorts of jobs and tasks that my supervisor deemed fit, I found myself confronted with the reality that the transition from lecture hall to employment was a very grey area. I felt a confliction of some sort. One that I couldn’t pin point but rather brushed off as a fleeting moment of being overwhelmed about how real, real life was. You’d think that with all the tests we had written throughout our schooling journey, there would’ve at least been one that had a core lesson on manoeuvring the work area. You know, the work area that consumes 70% of our day at most and almost forty years of our lives. The one that has a hierarchy and politics and sometimes a boss that likes to make derogatory remarks. While going about this internship season, I quickly found out that what I had felt as a child growing up about the glamour and shine of the corporate world, was really just dependent on whether you were built for it or not. What am I talking about? A 9-5 where you’re another fish in the sea or the 9-5 where you are the shark. And here I was, finally on the inside and not outside looking in. Interning and trying my level best to feel bossed up and gorgeous as I had seen as a child, but only feeling less than. I struggled to express myself through my work because I had lines I needed to write between and a box I couldn’t colour outside of. I was just another fish in the sea.
I wish I had a very great understanding of why some people don’t mind a 9-5, while others simply cannot make it work. Which brings me back to a conversation I had in passing with a hommie where he found a way to metaphor employment to modern day slavery. Painting a clear picture of how although the chains and cotton fields were no longer in play, the slave master, (your boss or if you’re woke like most people claim to be, the system) was constantly driving you to build HIS dream instead of yours, working umpteen hours on a yearly basis and only getting paid a morsel of the whole damn financial pie. Could it be true? Could employment be slavery of some sort. And if so, could this be the leading environmental factor in the unprecedented entrepreneurial boom in our generation?
In recent years, the job sector has seen an employment freeze and experienced a rising wave in entrepreneurial ventures. With school programs such as JA prompting the youth to think more creatively, the number of high school leavers seeking careers that are fixed in the comfortable state of getting hired has declined as compared to those who choose careers that have the flexibility of self-employment. Deemed the laziest generation ever, the millennials have somehow surpassed all candid expectations by taking the bull by its horns and stirring up a culture of being their own bosses. There are so many factors at play in regards to this, especially in our country, where time and time again we have had to live down corny lines of “don’t call us we’ll call you “and emails that start with “We regret to inform you but..” and from my own observations, it’s seems as if millennials are hell bent on creating not just an economic shift, but a mindset one as well. I suppose we were upset about the economic landscape for a bit, and then woke up ready to change it or better yet, survive despite it.
I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with my peers on the never-ending debate of “to be or not to be employed” A varying perception amongst us, but, without a doubt, the loudest voice in that dialogue is the one that BEGS to be given a platform or space to creatively influence the world on our own terms. Maybe, the new school of modern-day Africa has gotten tired of waiting for the slave master to pour out breadcrumbs for them to be fed, and have rather sought after a new mentality that strongly resembles the one that sparked the green and industrial revolution a very long time ago. Maybe, this is a revolution of its own form. An uprising of a generation that hasn’t been given the best odds odd and ironically so. You would think that being in the 21st century and on a more local perspective, moving towards vision 2022, there would be a sense of job security as a development goal. But, here we are, the children they once called the future, having to take the heavy task of being innovative enough in order to ensure that the next generation doesn’t have to be just as hard as we have in order to be. The Millennials truly are an evolutionary group within our society, don’t you think?
Self-employment is still a tricky narrative to our parent’s. When we speak of building our own businesses, they are often hesitant on joining in on the conversation. It is even more disheartening to them to try and understand the concept of creative businesses too. The other day at a Wordis meeting, Ntando, our newest member, made a hilarious remark about how at home they don’t consider her role in the podcast as an actual job. We all laughed it off and even made refence to a Trevor Noah joke about his grandmother saying the daily show wasn’t a real job because he didn’t have an office. Now, looking at all the start-up being led by 20-somethings, there is a clear creative trend. From Photography, to fashion, graphic design to art and even the most dreaded music industry. In other African countries, one can build a very financially secure life through these ventures, but the local fabric makes it hard for Eswatini’s bright and talented to do so. We are forever fighting barriers that range from the arts and culture policies to our very own circles. If anything, our society has somehow brainwashed everyone into believing that in order to be successful or even remotely close to it, you must either be employed or at least start a business that makes “sense”. Office working, cubicle surviving, fax machine and accounting sense. Creativity doesn’t seem to be financially fashionable enough and yet, the millennials continue to push towards it. Pressing forward. Investing themselves and slowly but surely proving everyone wrong.
So now, looking back on younger me who dreamt of a corporate future but still felt a hunger for chasing a passion, to much older me who understands that if we are to spend plus or minus forty years working, wouldn’t it be better to do something you love, I can surely say that our generation is making strides in ensuring that despite the circumstances and the cards we have been dealt, we thrive. The debate amongst millennials that choose to be employed and those who choose to forge their own path will forever stand and to be honest with you, that is alright. Both are necessary in redeeming our economy should there ever be any form of redemption for it. We are all necessary pieces in this big old puzzle and if what I have seen in us is anything to go by, we are doing our best in finishing it up. What remains is now your own perception of this and whether or not you believe that the creativity of 20-somethings may just be the change that this country needs. Regardless however, the fish and the sharks still wake up to do the most. Forever about their mandate to prove society wrong. We surely are a remarkable generation. And who knows, maybe this truly is the creative revolution the future will write books about. One day.