When you come from a culture that thrives on the climate of extreme competitiveness — you tend to develop an unhealthy habit of avoiding people who display superior skills in areas that affect you.
My theory is that Nigerians inherited the art of being snobbish from British colonizers — and literally perfected it. Growing up in a middle-upper class household meant that I couldn’t pick my own friends. It was imperative for my parents to have the final say on who I would hang out with and where.
The requirements for friendship was always based on the socio-economic position of the family and whether or not my bond with their kids would reflect poorly on my reputation. And so I was stuck being shuttled to homes that were glitzier than mine as I hung out in oversized spaces with the kids that made the cut.
Whenever I attempted a sliver of rebelliousness — my mother would chuck it up to the influence of the “wild girls” in our housing estate — after it was revealed that I was spending a considerable amount of time with them.
As I got older — things evolved into the realm of constant comparisons between me and the classmates who were apparently thriving in ways that could potentially expose the deep, dark secret of my tendency to be human — with all the vulnerabilities that this condition presents.
When the results of the common entrance exam that placed you in boarding school was finally released for public viewing — there was no way to hide the truth of where I had been assigned. I didn’t gain admission into the elite — Queen’s College because my scores sent me to a government college — located in a town with a name that equaled “failure.”
They never showed it — but I assumed my parents were embarrassed beyond words — as they had to accommodate the excitement of their friends who were spared the awkwardness of having to explain why there was a snag in their best laid plans.
I ended up leaving the school located in the god-forsaken town after the first term ended in a riot that forced me to board a cargo train for a one-way trip back home. That fiasco propelled my mother’s ambitious efforts — and I eventually scored the long overdue invite to Queen’s College — and tried to pretend that none of the prior events had ever transpired.
The habitual exercise of mental incarceration remained a constant companion — but thankfully adulthood armed me with enough ammunition to deflect the blows. However — it took an incredibly long time to get to that place — where I wasn’t disturbingly threatened by someone else’s good fortune.
The deal breaker happened back in 2012 — in the midst of the chaos of Hurricane Sandy. My cousin had escaped her waterlogged apartment in Jersey City to bunk with me — in my tiny studio in Manhattan— and during her stay — the results of her bar exam was released.
She passed with flying colors and the excitement was heightened by the fact that she excelled in both the New Jersey and New York markets. Her undiluted joy was infectious and it was impossible not to get caught up in it — and feel genuine pride at her epic accomplishment. But — I also found myself harboring a mini-panic attack — as I considered her exceedingly bright future.
My insecurities overtook me and the rush of envy flooded in as I imagined her life at my age — and how she would most likely evolve into a successful lawyer — compared to my modest existence as a struggling writer with a corporate job that required me to design travel schedules for associates that were young enough to make me feel like shit.
My pangs of jealousy also triggered the fear of my parents finding out about my cousin’s good news — and possibly using it to assault my longstanding deficiency of fooling myself into believing that I could make it as a full time writer — even though the evidence against me was substantial.
It was at that moment that I decided to give myself a break. I acknowledged where my self-destructive tendencies stemmed from and I made the decision to work hard as fuck to rid myself of the symptoms.
I’ve done pretty well since then — although I do have episodes of weakness — but this time I’m fully in control and I actually enjoy the sessions of the indulgent “hate-fest” — because it’s surefire a way of purging backed up emotions — that have to be evacuated — to make room for a healthier perspective.
I’m convinced that it’s okay to be an envious bitch.
Instagram is my torturer of choice as I avidly scan the pages in the dark — when insomnia pays an unwanted visit — and the only thing to do is to check out the activities of former friends and current foe who are “living their best lives.”
Decked out in hashtag-worthy garments and surrounded by the glamor you once reserved for your reality — their esteemed existence forces you to recognize your shortcomings.
So — you let the game play out — and console yourself with the fact that your torturers just happen to be luckier than you. Luck — is the main ingredient and it’s the one thing that can’t be bought or stolen. You always had the capacity to be draped in a litany of brands — while absorbed in the limelight of notable functions — that automatically propel your timeline to the frontier of adulation — as your followers emphatically endorse each post.
But — you’re buried in the dark with your gadget — and the light that glares into the smiling faces tries to hypnotize you with the practiced rhetoric of why you’re not there.
You quickly take a detour by hitting “pause” and thankfully save yourself before you fall off that cliff. It’s time to come back to the reality of who you are and why that’s not so bad.
The inclusive luncheons and festive climate in cities that used to host your dreams are wonderful — but when it all ends — you still have to cater to the spirit that is fiery enough to make you shine — above the superficiality of what it means to be socially valid.
After all it’s about balance — and besides — a little envy goes a long way. If you know how to have fun with it.