Privilege Is Not Comparative

Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many. — Mark Twain.

Late 2003 to mid-2004, was a time in my life characterized by job searches. When people ask me then, “where do you work?”. I always replied that my work was to look for work. Yeah, it was a full-time job. I was on it; day and night. Though it sounded cheeky and witty, however, that was my reality. It was tough, arduous and it seemed at that point; never-ending. I never gave up. Not because I was resilient but because I had only one option — get a job or get a job. No resilience was involved. Resilience was innocent. Leave “him” out of the matter. This was all on me.

After my mandatory national service year, I took two months off the grid to stay with my parents. I knew it was going to be the last time I was going to stay with them as their son. I knew my rhythm of “go to school for some months” and resurface for a few weeks in the name of the holiday was going to end. When I stayed with my parents, I did nothing during that period except help out with home chores, visit friends and fellowship with the brethren in my local church.

By September 2003, I left for an interview in Lagos and I knew I was not coming back home. I got a job in May 2004 and carried on with my life. That sounded smooth but it was far from smooth. Let me backtrack a little. During those few months in Lagos, I stayed with 4 senior friends, who were kind and magnanimous enough to accommodate me. They fed me. They mentored me. They took on my baggage of deeds, character and plenty of ignorant thoughts. I learned a lot during that season of my life. And I did mess up a lot in that period but I had brothers who corrected me in love.

I went to Lagos based on the invitation of a senior friend. That sounds cool, except for the fact that he casually told me that when I am done with school I can come over to his place in Lagos. That was two years before I actually finished school. And so, one day, I just appeared on his doorsteps. He could not believe that I left Calabar and came to Lagos, without even hinting at him. Well, as the good and kind brother in the faith that he is, he took me in. However, his space was far from the business hub of Lagos where most of the interviews took place. He always dropped me off or provided transport fare. I was the proverbial poor boy, who was always empty as a pocket.

One day I ran into another senior friend, whose place was not too far off compared to the first senior friend. He said… “man, come over”. I took his invitation. Some months into our stay, he got married and his sister and wife needed to move in. The house was not too large and I voluntarily discharged myself because I had another offer from another friend. Again, all went well until the friend got a job in Abuja and needed to move. He left me with the house and luckily, another senior friend needed help with someone to man his house while he travelled.

Somehow, I always had a place to stay in Lagos. That was a big big deal because Lagos was a place where you could easily not have a place to stay. It was comparably easy to get a job in Lagos than to get a place to stay. I must admit, I did not take it for granted that I could always get a place to stay. This changed when I attended a test session for a job (I was forever in test sessions — the one I was invited for and the ones I gate crashed) and ran into an old schoolmate.

After the test, we talked at length, but he told me he was in a hurry and I wondered why the hurry. After all, we were having a good time, catching up and sharing our plans for the future. He told me he needed to catch the night bus back to Aba, Abia State. Again, I asked why. He told me that is where he stays as he came in from Aba the previous day to take the test. I gave him a very smart suggestion that was inexecutable. I told him he should find someone to stay with in Lagos and save himself the hassles of the long-haul travel. He took my advice but only on one condition. His condition was simple — you, Gabriel, provide the person with whom I will stay with and I will take the deal. He was willing to stay with anyone who could house him. That is when it dawned on me, that I was not as smart as I thought. I was privileged to have people who could house me on a two-second notice.

It also dawned on me that I was talking from a place of privilege. A privilege that was in my rear-view. A privilege that I had taken as a given. Yeah, it dawned on me that not everyone had someone who could willingly take him in, in Lagos. Not everyone had friends and relatives in Lagos that has a place to take them in. I got to know, that not everyone knows someone in Lagos. Even if they did, there might be inability factor — the person they know might as well be having accommodation issues.

I am sure you get my drift.

I was blinded by the chase of a job that I forgot that I had something. I had life. I had good friends. Friends who provided shelter, food and clothes. I had sibling and parents to think about. I had a memory; a quick and sound mind. I was not ill. I was strong enough to jump into Lagos buses. The list goes on and on.

It is easy to remember what you do not have and put into oblivion the things you have and how life is working in your favour. It is easy to think about classmates that are ten notches ahead of you and forget those who are dead, lost their minds, ran into unfortunate life situations etc.

“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” — Hellen Keller

Do me a favour. Take a pen or type on your phone the privileges you are blind to. Do it now!

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Do not wait for a friend in a tight corner to remind you of your privilege, like the day my old schoolmate did in late 2003.

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Gabriel OMIN

Family Conscious. Eclectic Mind. Faith Inspired. Personal Finance. Biz Consulting. Entrepreneurship