“Don’t you have to go to work today?” My grandmother’s security guard asked me in the most uncritical way possible – he was actually being polite, I have to say. I sat down on the benches in my grandmother’s basement, waiting for her car to come around. I felt something ticking in me, as though signs of trouble were imminent. I gestured a quick, indifferent no, hoping he won’t discuss the matter further. “Are you on holidays or are you just not working anymore? Why is that?” Somewhere in his kind and polite gesture, I grew a little anxious and uneasy with him questioning my so-called work life that is, of course, barely existing now. I remembered trying hard to subdue my instinct for self-defense cause that would not matter anyways. Surprisingly so, he and among a handful out there have questioned my non-existing work life and my so-called meaningful existence and presence in Jakarta – an unfortunate occurrence I have gotten used to and finally, something that I realize is running true in my present ambiguous state.
I didn’t understand it then - what it’s like to have people bombard and inundate you with the same, old questions. They smear you with the thoughts of having to immediately find work and work just to make you feel that you’re actually moving towards the right direction, well, just like where everyone is going towards to. They have unwritten expectations, it’s just within the laws of nature that exiting from your university life means entering the workforce – and that’s just how people see it. Still! And those questions now run true to me. I am among the few out of my graduated Communications Major bunch who’s just, as I call it, floating and riding the days away. Maybe I’m just not called to do corporate just yet, maybe I just want to do some things on my own before I commit to the office life for two, three years of my long life. Those are some of the reasons, I think and I assume, deemed unacceptable and just, plain odd – just some of those unsavory truths that people are not and will never be ready to hear. Well, you know you are expected to put your degree to good use and therefore, you find work immediately. I get that vibe of a mindset from everyone who asks, “udah coba ngelamar ke kantor belum? Mending cepetan sebelum nunggu nanti, sayang waktumu.” You tell me, I’m 21, just got out of university, and the two months I’m funemployed, you assume that I‘ve been wasting my days away for not putting my precious time to good, maybe, better use?
Truth be told, sometimes my presence and priorities seems futile (intentional hyperbole screams necessity), poked on the arm, budged and twisted in the gut, maybe cornered as though I cannot and is not expected to really, just for a moment, taste what that gap between university and work life is like. I want to explore and experiment on the little things but the days I feel it moving pass through me, I find myself slapped with the reality of the question marks and other people’s judgment of my life choices trailing behind me. There will always come a day where people would ask, no matter what.
I don’t want to sound like a wiseacre or plain snobby because maybe, well most of the time, I may not see eye-to-eye to the people who feel that time wasted is when corporate life has yet to be fulfilled. Well these types of subtle differences; the mindset embedded in the people accustomed to work after university, even the culture I was brought up to, should be subjected to tolerance and understanding. There are times where coming from an Eastern background means people care about you, maybe a little too much, but still, people would care and notice your life in general - and they would question whenever expectations are not achieved and executed as intended. And in this moment, I feel people have not tolerated much of the decisions I take – going freelancing, traveling the months away, and earning money within uncertainty.
The feeling and response involved will always be ambivalent and I feel that it will always remain this way regardless. Maybe for now, I don’t need to prove to the world that a title in an office or an agency is what I have; maybe I don't need the assurance from those around me - I don't need a badge from them saying that I've made it through just like everyone else. Maybe with all the freelancing, gigs and projects that I have been blessed to be a part of should be my sole focus in the next few months. As many temptations there are to give up, I've finally learned to shake them off and try to find confidence in the little things I do. Priorities are different – maybe my priority right now is not to go into corporate.
Maybe believing that the gap I’ve made, and I know a lot out there have made, is a great option of channeling my creative juices and talents to its potential and this is how I learn from both my strengths and weaknesses at the moment. Then maybe as I finally look back to all that I’ve gone through, I can chuckle, hopefully not scoff, to this meaningful and adventurous gap that I made only because I believed in myself.