Discover more from Aamer's Letters
Older Friends, Petty Squabbles & A Weird Way To Succeed
Small potions of jealousy can actually be a good thing. Here's a story to prove the theory.
Welcome back to another Monday! If you’re feeling invincible today, we couldn’t be happier for you. But, if you’re down in the dumps…
A Story For You
One of the perks of growing up in a small community, especially one populated with defense households, is that age doesn’t play a role in who you choose to be friends with. It opens up the opportunity to mingle with people elder to you and learn from their experience. I definitely had the option to dominate the younglings but I would’ve learnt nothing there. Instead, I befriended two seniors. That way, I would always be ahead of the curve. A mastermind indeed.
They were thick as thieves before I met them but they never treated me like an intruder even though I was late to the party. It was an interesting dynamic at the beginning—they did the talking and I, the listening. I enjoyed their daily squabbles and their constant need to challenge each other. It always made my day when they chose mundane tasks that everyone was too lazy to complete, and turned completing them into a crazy competition.
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Even though they had taken me in as a relatively immature, impressionable kid, an onlooker would beg to differ. Their quarrels made me look like the babysitter. Their intrinsic need to make everything a competition might have been perceived as childish by the outside world, but it actually benefited them immensely. I saw that when examinations were around the corner, right around the end of the second semester, in 2015.
At the time, everyone was given 2 weeks to prepare for the final examinations of the 10th grade and it was during this period that both my senior counterparts used their innate competitiveness to prepare. I was elated just to be a bystander. They’d start with discussions and end with arguments, every single time. They’d then settle their arguments by challenging each other to find the correct answer to the question at hand.
There were times when the situation got heated and I would tell them to cool or walk it off but they’d discard my suggestions and continue with their confrontations. They were so obsessed with proving each other’s point that they would go to great lengths to do so, irrespective of how it would make the other feel. It wasn’t normal, it was toxic behaviour and the saint in me accepted them for who they were, not that they ever asked.
Come to think of it, they were like pieces of the same puzzle. One could grasp things faster whereas the other could recall long answers quite easily. Their unique styles of preparation complemented each other. That’s why, no matter how bad things got, they always studied together.
Examinations ended and results were out. To everyone’s surprise, they both got the exact same score—the percentage equivalent being 98%. It was momentary disbelief before everything returned to normal for me, so I didn’t really bother asking them how. They eventually left for high school soon after and we didn’t speak again till the pandemic.
The three of us hopped on a video call during the peak of COVID-19 and walked down memory lane for a while. More than anything, it was nostalgia that made me ask them about the scores they got and how they did it. It wasn’t lingering on my mind but I loved learning from them—old habits die hard.
“Guys, how’d you guys score so well?” I asked.
“You really want to know?” They grinned.
After a few seconds of smiles, silence and subsequent snickering, they said, “Well, we were just jealous of each other so we used that to our advantage to get better.”
They knew each other’s configurations so well that it was impossible for them to keep something a secret. They had listed down all their insecurities when they were younger and realized that they were jealous of each other. When I heard it at the time, I was overwhelmed with their sadistic behaviour but again, time makes you understand things you probably wouldn’t in that moment. Instead of making things messy and weird, they used this to their advantage.
The petty challenges they gave each other was to accelerate the rate at which work was getting done. They always feared the other completing it faster or better. Competition got things done and that’s exactly what they were looking for - a game.
It is stupid if you think about it now but give it time. It actually makes a world of sense. Jealousy almost always has a negative connotation to it because of the stories in the news or otherwise.
For Professor Sarah Hill (Texas Christian University,) feelings of jealousy and envy are bittersweet. They’re negative in that they tell us where we’re failing. But they also serve a purpose. They help us envision a better version of ourselves; an indicator of what could be if we put our minds to it.
Hill completed a study to measure its effects. Across several studies, she found that:
“Each experience of envy [and jealousy] actually increases our attention to and our memory for information about our competitors or our close social others.”
In short, it makes us realize how well other people around us are performing. And that helps us to acknowledge our own potential. After all, if they can do it, why can’t we? For example, in one study, participants performed better on a memory test when it included details about their rivals.
(Credits: Jon Hawkins on Medium)
Jealousy is like a dark force that can be wielded and used as an ally but if you have more than you control, it engulfs you. You’re consumed by it and that’s not necessarily a place you want to be in. So tread lightly.
That’s exactly why I leaned to thought of having older friends. One’s an officer in the armed forces and the other’s working in Tesla in the states. They both still challenge each other, at least twice a week.
A Story From You
Childhood stories have always labeled jealousy as a negative emotion and although we can, in part, raise a toast in agreement, we can’t help but think about the benefits of the emotion.
It might be negative, but it’s an emotion that gets work done. A breakup is a good case in point.
Do you think we should cut jealousy some slack?