Time was when I assumed a lifestyle of staying in one’s lane and doing one’s thing in their little corner of the world would exempt them from the lens of critics and haters. When anyone was enmeshed in controversy, I believed they must have courted it. I mean, mind your business, do the right things and be a good person, and conflict would steer clear of you, right?
When I realised how naive I was with that kind of thinking, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.
I have since learnt that choosing to be a good person who stays out of other people’s drama will only give you some respite for so long. As long as you exist and inhabit the same plane as other mortals, you’ll have to contend to with your little (or big) drama one day.
During the interregnum between high school and university, I attended a computer school to become computer literate as we referred to it back then. Before long, I became fast friends with another teenager who also stayed in the same neighbourhood and was awaiting admission into a higher institution like me. Even though we had a lot in common, we couldn’t be more different in appearance. She was fair skinned and slim; a contrast to my darker and plump frame.
One day, a rumour began to make the rounds. Two young ladies had been seen hanging out with men who were old enough to be their fathers in some less-than-dignifying place on Lagos Island. The girls were said to be fair and dark in complexion respectively and as the rumour gained traction, we heard people say the girls at the centre of the controversy were I and my friend.
At first, I was amused—the only times I had been to the Island— I had gone with my mum. Even when I wrote my first Graduate Certificate Exams, my mum took me there every day because I was clueless as to how to make my way there. Then, as the story persisted and people began to send unsettling glances our way, I became annoyed.
“How could anyone make up that sort of fib?” I wondered.
My friend was also perplexed as well; she couldn’t make any sense out of the piece of gossip. Like me, she was introverted and swore she couldn’t remember the last time she was on the Island.
The mystery was solved in the end.
The hitherto misidentified females were two other young ladies who were new at the computer school. They were streetwise and far more mature than my friend and I. Even though I had had no cause to feel guilty for the wrong impression, I was glad the truth came out. The similar looks we shared with the girls was responsible for the mix-up in the narrative of the talebearers.
That episode marked an epiphany for me—it debunked the fable surrounding rumours the—unflinching belief that there had to at least be a scintilla of truth in them.
There was no iota of truth in my case.
The experience of having to deal with a wrong perception of my personality by people who had no inkling about my values or background also brought me to the realisation that one did not have to do anything to find themselves in the middle of a storm. You could be the most taciturn, well-behaved individual, yet get dragged into some wrangling.
You may make a conscious effort to do right by others and possess a track record of being law-abiding, but it doesn’t stop people from labelling you pretentious and hypocritical. If you’re conscientious and by that, excel consistently, someone is going to attribute your string of successes to luck or clout.
The world won’t leave you alone. It’s a fruitless effort cum naive thinking to even consider this possibility. You do not have to court negative news for a hate campaign to seek you out. Oftentimes, what it takes is for you to be doing better than detractors imagine you should be doing or be associated with those who have an affinity for drama.
It’s one more reason to live how best you know. A life defined by fairness, happiness and respect for others such that even if you find yourself in the middle of a controversy, you are consoled by the truth that defines your path.
A popular saying suggests that the best way to circumvent the caustic tongue of critics is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.
Even if you took this piece of advice, you’d be criticised. You’d be lampooned and tagged a no do-gooder. You only have to hear people talk about the dead to jettison the thought. If those who have ceased to exist in this realm are not spared from the scrutiny of humanity, how much more you who must live and breathe and interact with others.
See why you can’t win with the world?
Be hale or infirm, the magnifying lens of mankind will find you. Be consistent or wavering in character. Wicked or kind. Rich or poor. Single or married. Male or female. Everybody will have an opinion about what you should be doing with yourself.
The world won’t leave you be; you must make of this reality what you will.