Office Desks Are Where Dreams Go To Die

(Photo cred: Mutua Matheka)

Unless of course you love the ‘thrill’- and sleeplessness that comes with the corporate world. Or you genuinely found employment that fulfills you; financially and spiritually/mentally. Then this post is probably not for you. But read on if you like.

From a really young age, i had a deep unexplainable repulsion towards employment. It was only recently that i sat down to try to figure out why. And this is the conclusion i came to. My dad is in the construction industry, started his own company in his early 20’s, has never worn a suit or anything official in his life (in fact his daily wear is linen shirts and Khaki fabric pants- very Italian style of dressing), has never owned or tied a tie, and has always dictated his schedule.

My mother was employed for a short time, up till i was about 12. And thereafter  started her own company.

So you see, I grew up with two parents who dictated their own schedule, had freedom of dress, made good earnings without having to be at the mercy of some employer who decides how much you are apparently worth each month, and lastly could take holidays whatever month they felt they needed it; it did not have to be during the mad December rush. And honestly? We lived a comfortable life.In a single word, freedom.

On the flipside, i also spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house, where both parents were in the hardcore corporate industry. This was characterized by long hours, longer weeks, only December vacations but they also lived comfortably- however within the confines of employment. Which obviously means less freedom.

So it is apparent which lifestyle appealed more to me. I liked the taste, the smell of freedom. Being a Gemini means that i cannot stand monotony and predictability- or not being able to do what i want when i want. It is the biggest battle between my mind and my heart, because obviously you can’t always do what you want when you want.

You would think, with two self-employed parents, they would not only be supportive but encouraging of my journey into entrepreneurship. No. Not in the slightest. In fact, for the last couple of years it has been a fight that occurs like clockwork; once a month. We will fight over how they feel some semblance of routine that the office environment offers is necessary. They will preach about how a little experience goes a long way. And i think, hold on. This is from the same man who, in the 70’s started his own company. Can you try to imagine Kenya in the late 70’s? Exactly. There was certainly more resistance and hurdles then, than now. In fact now, nearly every other person you meet is an entrepreneur or running a ‘side-hustle’ that they plan to transition into their full time job. But here they are preaching water and drinking wine (is that how the saying goes?). You get my point.

But you also get to a stage where you realize you can no longer base your decisions on people who won’t have to face the consequences. So this year, i vowed to take career risks. The very last thing you want to die with, is regret.

The generation I belong to? Apparently we are called ‘millennials’ or “generation Y’s” (born between 1980 and 1995). We’ve been called the lazy generation, entitled, narcissistic, unfocused, self interested. The reasons for these labels are a myriad that I wont get into. But they stem from the fact that ‘millennials’ want their work to have meaning, but also want to be valued by the organization they work with. They don’t want to be another cog in the system.

In this video (here) motivational speaker Simon Sinek says millennials are not only, all the negative character traits listed above; but they also don’t have meaningful relationships. That their relationships are purely superficial. He goes on to add that milennials have people to party with, but no one to really count on. I’m going to go ahead and say these are American millennials, because the people i’m surrounded by all have deep meaningful relationships. Either with me, or with other people in their lives. I think it is a rash generalization; but I won’t even get into how much i disagree because I will go into an entire rant. He also says ‘millennials don’t have the coping mechanisms to cope with stress’; but rather we turn to technology as a distraction from stress and discomfort. I will say, i have met people my age who rather than asking the tough questions or having difficult conversations, they will ‘coast’ through a situation or simply- ghost a person especially if it has to do with matters of the heart. But in the same vein, i have also met grown ass adults, who are incapable of difficult conversation (ie my father). So you want to tell me this ‘problem’ is unique to my age group? I think not.

I will admit though, that indeed we are a generation obsessed with instant gratification, owing not to any fault of our own, but the nature of the time we grew up in. It is a conversation I have had with my friends before. We can however, deal with stress productively- not all of us turn to alcohol in times of difficulty.

Which brings me to a brilliant article I came across on LinkedIn the other day (here). Perhaps it is brilliant because i am biased and the writer says all the right things.

“We have to be cognizant of the fact that it is during this generation of the millennials that the most significant changes have occurred in very fundamental pillars of their lives. The same pillars that define or structure their upbringing and character. These pillars include education, technology, culture and even family. It is as a result of these disruptions that millennials have become what they are, and therefore who they are should not come as a surprise”.

These pillars have shaped so-called millennials and I think the labels ‘lazy, delusional, entitled and unfocused’ is an inadequate analysis of the reality.

Also, isn’t every generation ‘revolutionary’ or ‘millennial’ compared to the last?? Look at our parents for example in comparison to our grandparents. Our grandparents didn’t recognize this ‘work from home’ culture that now, most of our parents subscribe to. Especially as they hit their 50’s their lives are characterized by home offices and flexible schedules. Yes they did do their time in employment, then shifted as a result of changing priorities and responsibilities. In comparison, my generation is working from home earlier, from as soon as they exit university; shunning employment, searching for flexible schedules and building revolutionary brands. Our model of work has changed, i mean you just need to look at Europe; flexiwork is a thing. But isn’t this the model we should essentially be aspiring to? Given that unemployment in Kenya has become some form of national disaster; with current youth unemployment rates standing at 17%. Let’s not even mention the Youth Enterprise Development Fund that was set up with the sole aim of providing funding to youth entrepreneurship- of which 1.5B in funds went missing in 2016. Or that youth unemployment has resulted in hundreds of youth turning to crime and/ or being radicalized and recruited by terrorist organizations on the premise of earning money, while being offered a sense of belonging and meaning. A dangerous combination. Unemployment and the failure of initives like the YEDF has produced an entire generation of marginalized, desperate, jobless youth who are prime targets for terrorist cells.

The reality is that our economy is not growing at a rate fast enough to absorb the amount of graduates being churned out by local and  international universities (for those who choose to go abroad).

And we are still not advocating for self-employment?

So this idea that you must be seen in the office to be paid; and to be recognized that you are in fact working, is really beyond my understanding.

It is okay to live a life that others don’t understand. Eventually, after the sweat and tears, you will become the bar against which younger ones after you, will be measured by.

To call millennials ‘lazy’ is the kind of statement that makes me want to set something on fire. Because honestly, the economy as it stands now, is one that is forcing people to do more just to make ends meet. People are juggling all sorts of side hustles AND a day job just to achieve the lifestyle their parents did. For instance, I grew up in the suburbs, and I’ll be damned if my kids don’t grow up in a garden as well. But to reach this financial position will take jumping through all kinds of hoops and becoming a jack of all trades (and master of all). Do we have a choice?

“We have to look at the 3rd side of the coin in this one and think about them as a generation who are very dynamic, exposed, ambitious and are hungry to impact the world. Millennials are in most cases the most educated lot in an organization. This is the generation where people attain PHD’s under 30years and they get their MBA’s by 25years.”

I don’t believe in living a life shaped and governed by others. I have been through so so much in the past three years, I really shouldn’t even be here. But you know what living through darkness teaches you? That you should only live the life you  feel is worth living. When you wake up one day and you’re 60 and asking yourself whether you enjoyed your life…and the answer is no. What then? This is not a rehearsal.

So I vowed this year to do all that is in my power to live a fulfilled life. If that essentially means being labeled ‘unfocused, lazy and entitled’ then so be it. But I will not let my dreams die at an office desk.

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