A week ago a friend and fellow journalist posted a question on her Facebook page which intrigued me. When I first read her question I immediately wanted to write about it. But I thought it wise to wait and clean out the cobwebs in the attic of my mind and heart before writing a conclusive argument on an issue I have been wrestling with for many years. You must wonder then what the question was. Here it is:
‘So if you had a love interest that you know is not too good at his job, would you still be interested?”
My default or rather instinctual response to her question was to pose another: Are you interested in the job or in the man? By the time 30 people posted their comments on her stream, many of them responding with an emphatic no for an answer; I realized that I had not given this subject the due consideration it deserves.
The Play ground
So I decided to go back to my childhood playground and revisit the way in which we played as children or the ways in which children play in order to better understand how we “play” as adults today. The playground like the office or any other corporate environment is not for the faint hearted. Children as with colleagues and bosses can be very callous with their words and actions. The main difference however is that children tend to be more honest and speak truth much more than adults do. So you always know where you stand in the playground. It’s obvious. Children are also less likely to be conniving, malicious or do anything they don’t feel like doing despite fervent admonitions, unless of course there’s an adult at hand who might be more persuasive. Let me use myself as an example.
I am one of five children and grew up within a large extended family.This meant that my playground was effectively at home as my friends were my siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles. I hardly played with other children at school, often preferring to keep my own company. It is safe to say that I never learnt quite how to “make” friends because I never felt that I needed friends to begin with and If I did I already had “friends” at home. It was on very rare occasions ( and often under chaperon) that I played with other children ( children I was not related to) in the neighbourhood. As a result while I did not actively pursue friendships with others, I was always curious about the “other”. In other words I was always drawn to or curious about people who were not already part of my own family.
At home we played together almost all the time except when we were at school or when one of us was ill. We used school as an opportunity to explore new things, find new information, which we would later re-enact/ share/teach /exchange with each other back home. Even though at various points in our childhood all of us went to the same school, we never “hung- out” together – preferring other people or “friends” to each others company. Of course we would share everything about the “other” once at home. Some in the family were more successful at making friends ( bringing new people home) than others. I was generally not good at making friends. At school I was a loner, awkward, shy, reserved, timid and mostly an outsider looking in, who was a source of jokes or an easy target for bullies. So as a result I kept to myself and never tried to infiltrate the sacred world of school “playground” relationships. Whether by default or as a result of my own anti-social conditioning – at school I always assumed the role of the observer. I spent most of my time in and outside of class either watching people, reading or day-dreaming.
On Home Ground.
At home I was a completely different person to the timid, reserved girl, who seemed lonely and alone. At home it was lights, camera, action! At home I was free to live out my wildest dreams, with my siblings or by myself on the mirror. At home I could sing, dance, walk around naked, tease my brother until he cried. At home I was an outgoing, confident, strong girl, who was also talkative, full of drama and loved to perform. I think a part of me emulated many of the characters I saw at school. I beguiled my mother and siblings with stories of my classmates and teachers while doing impersonations of them. Going to school for me was like a game. Because at home I learnt the serious art of studying my “friends” based on their parents relationship with my parents. I keenly watched how the elder’s behaved and used that knowledge to interpret, correctly or erroneously, the behavior of my siblings and or cousins, uncles and aunts. Even though I knew we all “loved” each other – I knew that their (as with my) loyalty lay with those who fed them, sent them to school and loved them when no one else was around to witness such love. Ultimately no matter how much we as children “loved” being together it was never up to us to decide the fate of our relationship. It was the parents who did. So regardless of what was said, actions always spoke louder than words. I also knew that you can never really know a person until you have at least met their family, you can never understand another, until you know his or her parents. So in life I learnt, that unless I met your mom or dad or your family, I was not your friend. And our friendship would not last long if your parents and or most of your family did not like our friendship and visa versa. As a child I intrinsically understood the nuance and dynamic nature of familial relationships and the influence they have in our lives, whether we care to admit it or not. I learnt that with people nothing was ever cast in stone, and that relationships could sour quickly and end without much notice, provocation or any particular reason. I learnt that it was best to accept those relationships as they were rather than “fight against” the storm. Even in my childhood play(home)ground there were hierarchies, formed along the same lines we use to form relationships in our adult lives or in the “business world”. Even within my own family, friendships were formed according to age group, language, familiarity, common interests, good looks, special skills/ability, access (money/influence) and geography ( how often they see each other). And you would be favoured/despised at different times, days, years depending on which of the above mentioned skills you had acquired or lost not to mention the state of parental relationships. So one holiday you may be the butt of all jokes, the next holiday you might be the popular one whom everyone is focused on and wants to be with, favour was seasonal and fleeting. It was always a mystery to me how this worked. But I learnt that I could never base “love” on any of those “things” which were wonderful to have, but never seemed to last. Love was a deep connection shared between two people which could never be quantified.
Love Has Everything To Do with IT
Going back and re-examining my childhood and the behavior we displayed as children in our different “home” playgrounds re-enforced my instinctual question – Do you love the person or the Job? Why? Because even in childhood finding a good mate to play and just “be” with – even within such a conducive home environment – was not always easy. Sometimes your siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, had other interests which were very different from yours. This differing interests would necessitate a compromise either from one person or group – in order for a the ‘game’ to continue. If there was no agreement, there would be no game. Sometimes you had to be content in your own company even if you were in a room full of people, because none of them shared similar interests to you or wanted to participate in the particular activity you were interested in at the time. For example I enjoyed classical music but my older sister loved popular music and R&B, because she was older and had a more dominant (parental like) role in our relationship she more than often got her way. So I had to either choose to also enjoy her brand of music or go somewhere else and do something else. Often there was nowhere else to go. So I learnt how to be present or absent from a place without ever leaving the room. Even though this may seem like torture it helped me to understand my siblings better, to know what they liked and didn’t like, what they enjoyed, what they were like in the morning, how they slept in bed, what they were like when they were happy, sad, hungry, irritated, scared, angry. And knowing all this made our bond stronger and closer and the love we had for each other had nothing at all to do with our marks at school. Our love didn’t depend on the our performance at school or at home. Whether I passed or failed didn’t change how much I loved my siblings. Of course we would celebrate if one of us did well, and empathize with each other if the other did not do so well. But the love didn’t come from what they did or didn’t do, it was about sharing all the good and bad things in life together. My siblings were always there, annoying and angelic sometimes, I know where I stand with them. I learnt that love is a choice. A decision you make everyday. And it a choice or decision you can extend to everyone.
I chose to love a long time ago!
So while finding a mate who is brilliant or great at their job is wonderful and would be much preferred. I think it is a weak trait to base your decision on. Do you love the man. The person, the human being. His personality. His character. Do you share his values. His principles. His aspirations. Do you enjoy being with this person. Are you free with them. Can you share yourself with them? Can you imagine yourself changing the world with this person ? Do you love them? I think those can be more enlightening questions to ask. In fact it might even be more beneficial to meet the person’s family and relatives first before making a decision. Considering how hard it is to find someone who can love you (more) like family does, someone who loves you for who you are, not what you can or cannot do. I would shy away from someone who loves me because of my job or status in life. Because that has nothing to do with love, that’s just about appearances and material things. Love shows up when times are hard and sticks around to celebrate with you when you triumph. Yes relationships are costly, and it is only when you truly love someone that it wouldn’t even occur to you to count the cost. Because ultimately – money, career, status, influence – can never buy you love. While some things are possible to achieve and maintain without love – with love – everything is possible. Only love can change people for the better. But you can never make or force anyone to love you no matter how good you are at your job!
That’s my opinion.