The pros and cons of being a funemployee
By Cesilia Faustina
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
As many youths are graduating from college, many are looking to pursue a career that would suit them; one that would bring a sense of passion and happiness to their lives. Many of these youths, also so-called millennials and generation Z, are known to be passionate change-makers in society today, but many also judge them to be too passion-driven and not necessarily realistic.
The shift towards a career of passion though has been having a significant impact for one sector, in particular, the development sector, and one youth is looking to jump into that bandwagon.
“I’m funemployed, I love the term funemployed, it’s like unemployed but you put an f in the beginning. It’s being unemployed but fun. Hopefully, it’s fun, still.”
Rastra is a local of Indonesia, he lives in Depok and highly involved with activism and volunteering for NGOs, he also essentially “does not do anything.”
“I don’t do anything. It’s hard for me to define what I do,” he said.
“I’m funemployed, I love the term funemployed, it’s like unemployed but you put an F in the beginning. It’s being unemployed but fun. Hopefully, it’s fun, still.”
After graduating college, Rastra had a plan, like most people do when looking to enter the real world, he was going to continue his masters through a scholarship. Plans though, don’t always turn out the way we want to.
“The plan was after I graduated, I would get a scholarship to pursue my master’s degree and go for a higher education, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
“I got accepted, but I didn’t have funding or anything, so that’s the main goal, I tried to find a scholarship to pursue a higher institution in education, but on my way there I refused regular employment in a sense that I do not want to work yet because I feel that if I work already, I wouldn’t focus on my master’s degree and stuff, working in a corporation was not an option.”
Having been part of a student organization in university, working in sales, he realized that wearing suits and having meetings were just not his thing.
“…you deal with business development people and corporations; I don’t see myself in these circumstances. God, I don’t want to work, I just had that realization when I was in [the organization]. To wear a suit, go to the office, meeting here and there, I don’t care!” he stated.
Realizing this, he then got into the world of volunteering.
Becoming an activist
“In a general sense, that class taught me about oppression, and whatever the oppression was, I was going to fight for it.”
Rastra had his first prominent interaction with the development sector during his last year of university. In a class called Gender, Race and Social Relations, he was able to learn more about social issues occurring in society.
Subjects such as feminism and oppression were put into view, topics he, at the time only scratched the surface of.
“That class opened my mind. I knew about feminism before that, but I learned deeper in that class. In a general sense, that class taught me about oppression and whatever the oppression was, I was going to fight for it,” he said.
The same lecturers in that class offered Rastra a chance for volunteering, which he then took seeing how he was nearing graduation already. So, with nothing to do, volunteering was a great way to pass the time.
“In their heads, I was a free resource, so every time they needed somebody, they would contact me. When they have a meeting and interview, they always involved me, so I always go along with them. That’s my start in activism,” he said.
Diversity in activism
Indonesia is a country with a diverse population, therefore diverse issues. The country’s humanitarian sector is mostly focused on aid relief due to natural disaster, as Indonesia has suffered from multiple natural disasters in the past. That said, Indonesia’s humanitarian sector is not limited there, Indonesia still suffers from wealth gap with many citizens at risk of falling into poverty, and with more youths getting involved, we are starting to see more issues popping up here and there, such as women’s issues, LGBTQ+ rights, environment and indigenous rights.
Rastra is one of those fighting for these issues. He started volunteering for an organization that deals with sexual violence called Lentera Sintas Indonesia. From there, he was able to connect to other organizations that opened his doors to other various social issues.
“I became active to voice about sexual violence with Lentera, as Lentera is connected to several organizations…I got to know other activists that aren’t exactly working in women empowerment, for example, labour issues activists, activists working for indigenous people, activists who work on any issues like transitional justice, Peristiwa ‘65, Peristiwa ‘98, any kind of human rights violation that is happening in Indonesia. I met the activists who worked on [these issues] through these landscapes of activism in Jakarta,” he said.
“What I really like about the activism I’m doing right now, is it’s very intersectional. I work on women’s issues, I also connect with indigenous issues and labour issues, our activism is so diverse, in a sense that there is no homogenous voice in our activism.
“There will always be a critical voice within our activism so we can always grow, grow, grow, but in terms of the people joining our movement, we could work better.”
The passionate volunteer said one of the greatest challenges he saw with the development sector was the lack of diversity in terms of resources and people involved.
“When it comes to activism, it’s the resources…These people are already aware of the issues, we need to talk to people who are not aware, in a sense for us to widen our movement. That’s what’s happening in Jakarta or everywhere I guess, we’re stuck in our bubble, in our echo chamber,” he said.
“I guess if we could encourage democratization, we can allow a platform where someone extreme in one point and someone extreme at another can meet and can have a dialogue and they can listen to each other, but that’s not happening here in Indonesia.
“Extremist are becoming radical in every movement and it’s not good for the community, it’s not good for the movement itself because you are not listening to anyone else except your community, your views and stuff.”
Finding a path
Rastra spends most of his days volunteering with these various organizations and people; going to schools to teach and holding talks and discussions. On a daily, he has a pretty flexible schedule, only working maybe three times a month to make ends meet for the month.
He said he enjoyed the flexibility of his time, choosing his current lifestyle rather than working for a corporation with a stable income.
“I would love to have this spare time, where in one month I can just work three days interpreting and I can do anything else, including activism, just for fun, you know? Because I have the time and I can do it for the sake of it,” he said.
Though it sounds tempting, being on this flexible schedule does come with some setbacks. Is it really an ideal life to make a living?
“I would love it to still happen but these last two months I’ve been rejecting jobs, so I have no income, but I’m still surviving, but I’m starting to have a panic attack, which is why I am considering different opportunities,” he said.
He also admitted that he felt these last three years had not been ideal for him, as he saw that he was not progressing or experiencing personal growth.
“My goal in life is to have a goal in life, 2019 is supposed to be the year I have answers for these questions, what I want to do, who I want to be, but I don’t have answers to these questions,” he said.
“So, I had a discussion with my friend, she said it’s a good thing because everybody was lost, they didn’t know where they’re going, but in my case, I meet people and I have friends and they always talk about the progress of their lives, even though they are lost, they are moving from one point to another, I am stuck at one point.”
Despite the feeling of insecurities though, and we all know that this is a pretty common feeling, the young activist definitely seemed happy and seemed to be on the right track for his future – even though he didn’t feel like what he was doing was much of a career.
“I couldn’t imagine my life without getting a degree in human rights, I just don’t know why. I don’t know, I’m becoming relaxed now, before I was like ‘I have to do a master’s degree for two years,’ at least after I graduate, at least before I turn 27, but right now, I guess I couldn’t live a life where I don’t do a master’s degree in human rights,” he said.
“My master’s degree is still in my plan, I just don’t care when, I care more about it’s happening rather than when it’s going to happen.
“Picturing myself in the future, I still see myself in activism, speaking out for human rights, whatever it is, because I feel that I am so versatile and I can move around to one topic to another topic.”
Handling uncertainty with a sense of chill
Luckily for Rastra, this fluid lifestyle seems to be the ideal compromise for him. When asked why he thought many youths refused to work in corporations these days, he simply saw the unhealthy traits of a corporate career.
“They are just realizing that work is not healthy for them. For me, I have the privilege of not working for so much money,” he said.
“So, my monthly expense is $300, only. So, as long as at one point I have work that could fulfil this number, I’m ok, then I’m good, I’m better off not working, but of course, there are people who are better off working and save money, but I have the privilege of not worrying about savings and not worrying so much.”
It is nice to see somebody embrace their lifestyle without the worries of savings or having as much money as you can get; Rastra seemed to be on this playing field. He said he was also privileged with the fact that he didn’t need to provide for his parents.
Apparently, like most parents, they did not quite agree with his lifestyle, but they were not necessarily against it either.
“I just told them I don’t want to work yet. I don’t tell them that I want to be an activist and I don’t want to work in a corporation, they agree and disagree,” he mentioned.
“We have no debates, but they say something, and I say something and we’re just like ‘ok.’ Everybody has their own opinions.”
Though going through life may not be easy, and this one funemployee sure could vouch for it, he still had some words of encouragement to leave behind – well, sort of.
“Honey, I’m at that point where I need a message for myself too, so I’m waiting for the messages that will come too that will encourage me to keep living. So, I’d like to hear some words of encouragement from people, but if I do have one message, I would say surround yourself with people you feel positive about that keeps you alive,” he stated.
Rastra felt that challenges would always be there but we needed to keep living our lives, and perhaps if you have the time to take a step back and focus on your interests, then it’s definitely worth a shot.
Turns out, being a funemployee isn’t so bad after all.
“Just waiting for whatever the universe gives me, I think that works best for me,” Rastra stated.
Rastra is a funemployee and activist/volunteer. He works for multiple organizations that deal with humanitarian and social issues in Indonesia. From women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights to democratization and indigenous rights, he does it all; just some of the perks of being a funemployee.
Also please do show some support for the organizations Rastra is involved with, as they deal with many important issues within the Indonesian community, such as Lentera Sintas Indonesia by checking out their Twitter here.
This interview was conducted in PurpleCode Collective Space, a community safe space for activists and people in general from all different backgrounds to share their ideas and network with one another. Show your support by following their Instagram.