Still the same Old ‘G’: About jealousy and rivalry and who will be remembered in a 1,000 years

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By Rohey Samba On 21 December 2017, Zaria Gorvett ran an issue on BBC Future entitled, ‘Who will be remembered in 1,000 years?’ In it, she described how hopeful contenders for everlasting fame must run the gauntlet of numerous challenges, including the jealousy of rivals and possible extinction of their own civilization and language. Jealousy and rivalry are two issues that I grapple to deal with as I grow older and become more successful at what I do. I am sure most of you do too. I bookmarked the issue then and just recently opened it again to read with fresh eyes… When I started work as a trainee sea pilot at the Ports at 19 years of age, I had a number of people express propinquity for my projected grandeur. Suddenly, someone who never dissembled to notice me was throwing her arms all around me in welcome embrace. Honestly, a blithe nonchalance rose in my gut for a time. I knew, I, the most green young woman ever, was a cynosure only because of a conflate of destiny. But worse than that, it was a Pyrrhic victory with heavy losses, for all I ever wanted to be in the whole wide world was a writer. I felt out of place and you know, I had that detached feeling of finding something nice while still looking out for something else. Pilotage was my boyfriend, my over-solicitous boyfriend who attended to my every need, but I did not need a boy. I wanted a man to marry me who would give me the greatest comfort. This man, was a job where I would write and live large. You must realise that passion and work are two unlike experiences that cannot be compared. Just like a husband cannot be compared to a boyfriend. Abomination! Many people make the mistake of letting work consume all the passion in them without reserving the distinctive pleasure of answering to their true calling, their safest place, their mission, which they are born knowing. Now it’s the safest place because when everything else becomes a struggle that, which is your passion, is an easy ride. When people ask me, how do you come up with topics for SisterSpeak every week, it baffles me that they find it challenging. I want to say; I have topics to write on every single day. And this is not unique to me, most writers do. When writing is your passion, you don’t need to get inspired to write. You become your own inspiration. It is your calling that you are born knowing. Unfortunately, writing would not put bread on the table for me or any other writer for that matter, in little Gambia. I have been told so for as far back as I could remember. Ultimately, we have at one point in time to come to ‘brass tacks’ in the handling of our own affairs, as well as in dealing with more material things… So I pursued the material, just like all Gambian writers. Without doubt, writers are naturally clever people, even if I say so myself. It takes cleverness not chicanery to write well and grasp an audience. There are no shortcuts about it. It therefore became an epiphany to an ingénue such as myself when envy so scrumptious becomes part of every day work life for me, in fact it was a caveat that gave the strange wistfulness of haunting past lies, past failures, unconscious living, you name it… Let’s face it. When everyone sitting beside you is ridiculed or torn to pieces for one reason or the other, and you sitting right there with them, is unaffected, it does things to insecure people. This insecurity through no fault of yours becomes your tragedy, without your parrot knowledge of the cause for their belligerence, meanness or just plain old-fashioned rudeness towards you. In trying to make amends, for want of something better to say, to gain a belligerent person’s favour, you can do nothing right for no ordinary consideration for the other person can meet their favour. Your smallest action is blown out of proportion, drawing cruel comments that would not stop at the issue in hand but drag on to enumerate all your other wrongs, whether perceived or actual. In building up around us our own atmosphere of peace and satisfaction, the average person finds that they find the least support from their ‘friends’. We begin to search for our true selves and we may recover some time when we recognise and put effort to not how other people viewed us but how happy and contented we feel about being our authentic selves when we lay our heads on our pillows to sleep. This reminds me of Starks, a guy who was employed in my office as head of a services unit without much as a paper from high school to demonstrate his suitability for the post. He claimed during the interview that he lost his papers in a fire outbreak. Of course, Starks is not his real name but all my colleagues reading this column right now are well informed about the details of this encounter. So I was part of the interview panel, which was supposed to recruit a new member of staff to head this services unit. Unknown to me, the position was already offered to Starks who was a close relative of our then Chief Executive Officer. Known for empathy and fairness in matters of staff welfare, I was left in the dark about Starks and allowed to go through the motions to validate an unfair process. This was not bound to end well. I made my reservations about his recruitment in clear terms giving reasons and all that, but with the pervading dog-eat-dog culture we have in our offices, Starks when he started work at the office was informed about my reservations and told to be on the lookout for me because I did not like him. Of course I did not know about it. So we were cool at the office and all that until one-day things changed. He wrote a severe letter of reprimand to a colleague who worked under his unit and naturally as a vocal advocate of staff members, the targeted guy came running to me for succor to assist his case so that it did not reach management level. He was wrong as sin, no doubt about that, having left his duty post unmanned due ‘to heavy rains and lack of proper gears.’ according to him. I told him as much and still went on to beg Starks to recall his letter by citing how often other so-called senior personnel fault and/or fall short in their official duties without bearing any consequences for their actions. Buoyed by my eloquence and the seeming attentiveness of Starks to my arguments, I was literally shocked when he looked me in the eye and unwaveringly told me how I never wanted him to work for the Institution and how I would have preferred another member of staff, who was supposedly my friend, to be in his shoes and all that. Hearing his bitterness and anger directed at me, sucked the winds out of my sails. Even though he was far older than me and head of his unit, I was senior to him by far, in spite of my designated title. This fact prompted my confidence and the fact that I never allow misunderstandings to rest and grow wings. Whenever I do that, I never recover from the embers of incertitude, anger and bitterness such wings tend to fan in me. Instead of engaging Starks in his vindictive pursuits, I looked him up and said sadly, for I was very sad by the turn of events, “If you seek to find your enemy, go search within your own family for they know you. I don’t deign to know you, where you come from or what you represent. I only ask that you act with maturity and consideration in this matter for you can ruin a life or you can help save one altogether. If this report reaches up, I can do nothing about this matter. If you withdraw your letter and write a milder, more respectful piece, then you are within the remit of your post.’ I walked away before he could form the words to prolong the argument. And guess what, he drafted a nicer letter and not just that, he came over to my office and we talked. He pointed out who told him what and how she told him, which did not really matter to me anyways. We became tight friends thereafter and Starks unerringly repeats this encounter every time, which is why I am emboldened to write about it here. Over many years of analysing and mulling over this unfortunate state of affairs, i.e. the ways of the world that is, I have come to the understanding that the secret to anyone’s happiness is the freedom to just be-be oneself, do things in one’s own way and deal with consequences in one’s own terms. Curiously enough, one’s actions open a big hole in one’s heart if they are not well considered, thought-through or consciously done with care. We must realise sooner rather than later that our lives’ work is not to seek other people’s favor, spare their ever negative attitudes towards us and/or bolster them up at all occasions, so that they may perhaps have a prick of their consciences and resolve to be happy for our happiness, or that they appreciate and value our achievements at the very least. Tragically, many people are wounded. By wounded, I don’t mean the physical wounds we see on the surface of their skins but rather the mental and psychological ones we can not perceive in a million years. Pain if kept within and is not dealt with appropriately, will follow one up to the grave. Some people hide their pain by drinking too much alcohol, doing drugs, tearing other people down, lying, deceiving, having too much sex, you name it, to make themselves feel better. This does little to lessen one’s pain or bring relief to one’s psychological wounds. A well scripted quote I read recently went, ‘People are not against you, they are for themselves.’ All our local languages have a translation of this quote in one form or the other. In Wolof, excuse my poor Wolof writing skills though, it goes, “Suma borpah malah gaynal du banj naa lah”. I feel instant pity when I remember all the RnB songs I used to listen to growing up, about being the same ‘Old G’, “even though I might be on TV… I’m still the same Old G.” Fact of the matter is, you will never be the same Old G once you begin to excel your colleagues, friends, family and so forth. Jealousy and envy become a staple in your life’s dish and you must learn to deal with it, passively or aggressively, it’s up to you to decide which. Moreover, whilst money, fame and recognition are important, the values of respect, personal integrity and honesty in all matters are most important. Every day, wealthy, famous and well decorated people die and end up as eulogies in newspapers, which end up as bread wrappers or waste paper flying around the streets. Honest, respectable and hardworking people with integrity may die physically but never die in the hearts of people. My encounter with Starks and many others, I will recount subsequently are live examples… Now, if you ask me who will be remembered in a 1,000 years, I tell you good people are, people who are not conflicted, envious, jealous of others or vindictive. Their good deeds, recognised on earth, speak to the heavens and keep gaining returns on investment generation after generation…]]>