It’s been almost two years since I came off the beaten track of full-time employment and relocated to Accra to be closer to my mum.
And when I decanted from the hamster wheel of paid employ, I had no clear idea of what I was going to do for work while here. But this for me was just fine.
For a change, I did not want my job to be what dominated my experience of relocation. I did not want yet another job to be how I spent the majority of my day, or to be where my prime circle of influence would lie, while living in Ghana. I strongly felt this way because this had been my reality umpteen times before, whenever I relocated for work.
Now, this time around, my intention was to explore the employment landscape in ways counter to my usual, which was to apply for jobs—related to my qualifications and work history—through online advertisements or some reputable employment broker. Get the best position. Then, move location.
Instead, I wanted to see what could happen if I loosely engaged with multiple ideas and various sectors in my local environment, as well as on the worldwide web, simply based on curiosity.
I wanted to see where serendipity might lead and what unexpected opportunities may organically emerge, if I were open to everything, for a change—especially that which is artistic, esoteric and somewhat fanciful.
My insistence on acting in ways that certainly felt counter-intuitive, was also due to a restlessness I had been feeling in my work life—for one too many years.
As some of you might also recognize, today’s world of hyper-administration in every sector, makes it so that many of us question the utter rigidity of the 9-5 work existence—one in which many also do long hours of unpaid and unappreciated overtime.
Consequently, many of us also wonder why it is we sacrifice well over 40 hours a week of precious life-time in much paper pushing, endless meetings that often do not make sense for our wellbeing, predictable agendas that do not necessarily resonate with our inner compass, and/or bureaucratic regimes that thoroughly serve to police the daily mediocrity of mindless hoop-jumping at the expense of all our ideals.
It is with such a frame of mind that I entered this career break of sorts. I did so, not so much to negate all the interesting things I’ve done over many years of a dynamic, fortuitous and international work life, but rather to see what more I am capable of; particularly, when the career destination (and mode of arrival) falls in the realm of the unknown.
Am I capable of conjuring something out of nothing? Can I make a different reality of my own, based on the unseen?
And just how was I going to do so in a geographic context that I did not practicably know?
I negotiated the first few months of the rupture from my normative work habit (of 30+ years) within a heavy mist of much existential rumination, grave doubt, and a questioning of my very sanity.
I even began to think that I was perhaps exhibiting the raw beginnings of a proverbial midlife crisis.
Truth be told, I was baffled by my insistence on wholeheartedly wanting to engage in things that I’d always considered to be mere hobbies, because that was a fundamental belief in the common-sense career pathways I’d followed—even if with insufficient enthusiasm.
In the midst of plentiful confusion, I came across the idea of funemployment.
According to Evelyn From The Internets –
“Funemployed simply means being unemployed on purpose.”
This sounded all too familiar to me. And it is that sense of deriving one’s purpose through a kind of joblessness, that perhaps also afforded an artist friend of mine the ability to Facebook post “I am ‘funemployed’ and craving popcorn @ 12AM”; thus, rendering me at once in love with the idea of such freedom from the artifice of a 9-5 work schedule.
Since then, as I am prone to hyper-analysis of everything and anything, I’ve thought long and hard about how I would define funemployment.
And even more importantly, how it might be of some use to me in my ongoing process of decolonizing my mind, time, being and practice of being gainfully employed.
This is some of what I now think.
For me, funemployment is about the making of what bell hooks describes as “work that makes life sweet”. It is about an intentional focus (for our work and lives) on activities that inspire, move and excite us.
It is also about our involvement in doings that greatly challenge and transform us.
It is about engaging in conscious, artistic-scientific and practical work that puts us into many flow states, when we use our talents, gifts, passions, and loves to fulfill our potential—while also hopefully contributing to much more than career building and/or money-making.
Funemployment speaks to the idea of enJOYment as a daily practice. It is about one’s work-life as play.
And this does not mean degeneration into decadence. Oh, No! Because there is much work to be done to truly engage with the effort required for improvisation in scriptless play.
There is also much failure to be experienced, through the processes of trial and error that come with experimenting in the landscape of an unknown vocation.
But most essentially, there is too the beauty in becoming the very art of that playing. In doing so, we become open to an adventurous (and dangerous) ride of more chance than prescription. We become the willing instigators of all sorts of creative experiments that make us, as much as we are making them.
And note that this is not just some off-the-cuff fantastical statement that I make here.
For when you think of the scientific evidence garnered within epigenetics, we now know of the significant changes that can be made to our bodies—at a cellular level—when we engage with our physical and social environments—especially in new ways.
This is all the more reason for my interest in something as uncharted as funemployment.
But practicing funemployment, however, requires a lot of discipline—whether one has loads of money or not.
Mostly because, funemployment goes against the grain of the proverbial rat-race, in which we are inclined to buy into the neoliberal competition of working in order to keep up with the Kardashians, as well as the never-ending growth narratives on development, civilization and modernity.
It is why I see funemployment as the freedom to thrive in one’s purpose on purpose, or else (at the very least) to become a materially poor but fun-loving expression of it.
After all, funemployment is a lifechanging project that puts the “fun” onto employment, thus subverting the mainstream narrative of the latter.
At the same time for those who choose to remain within (the rather precarious) safety net of full-time employment, funemployment would be less of a flexible mode of being and more of a fluid mind state, which enables one to approach the vagaries of 9-5 in a more playful manner—in the same way as another might approach making work beyond that limited scope.
Now, the funemployment road is a difficult one. And it must be made by regularly walking the walk, versus talking the talk, without any sense of where exactly you might end up. So, coddiwompling is a matter of course. Basically, learning to travel purposefully toward an as-yet unknown destination.
For funemployment will have you saying things like “I know what I am supposed to do, I just don’t know how to do it.” But that’s okay. It’s all part of the process of unlearning to live the tried and true, thus, relearning how to trust in yourself and a beneficial universe, more than you ever did before.
In this regard, funemployment is the equivalent of living a meditative or prayerful life. Since it’s about a daily practice of keeping the faith; so much so that even our inability to do what’s required, also reminds us of the need for constant repeated attempts to regain our devotional focus in becoming other than what we know.
So let my Funemployment Play continue, even if it’s a bit of a Hunger Game too!