ISSUE Magazine

An Old Friend by Ai Ming

E-N-V-Y. A four letter word I never paid any attention to before. Hence, being given this assignment — to produce a written piece on it — has forced me to give this particular word extra thought and time to digest it.

I was put into a situation to evaluate and consider my personal stance and understanding towards this familiar yet foreign concept. It had encouraged me to reflect on past instances where I had actually felt jealous. I had thought long and hard about it, but the exercise only made me realise how much I do not know about Envy, not as well as I used to anymore.

Well, of course I know Envy. I believe the education system I went through was basically a breeding ground of jealousy. I was raised in its kingdom. I know that Envy was worshipped because it was perceived to be the motivating force for us to do more and do better in our academic pursuits.

See what excellent results your friends achieved? Doesn’t that make you jealous? What do you mean “No”?! You SHOULD BE jealous! So you should beat that score next time! Now go finish 10 more exercise worksheets!

These words and statements were played out in my head, again and again, regardless of whether I liked it or not.

As I reminisced about Envy, it reminded me of the phrase, “fish in the water”. Envy was the water and I was the fish. It was so important and close to me that I did not think twice about it at all. I accepted its place in my life.

But seven years after I had left high school, that’s when I was taken out of my “water”. The Envy I was introduced to gradually lost its power and influence over me. The space it used to take up in my life became smaller and smaller. Eventually, it had made room for other things such as love, happiness, gratitude and kindness. Looking back, I am glad to say that it has almost been taken out of the picture, insignificant,  until I had to revisit it for the purpose of writing about it.

Honestly, I absolutely hated the memories and ideas my mind had churned out the minute I shined the giant spotlight on Envy. When I deliberately put it in the center of the stage, I realised it too symbolises poison and death.

Seeing it for the first time after so many years, I ended up rediscovering old wounds from deep, agonizing cuts which I did not have the courage to expose at the time it happened. In many instances, the other party had no clue that he or she had harmed me unintentionally. I stumbled across fractures in some of my most cherished relationships, ones that I often glossed over with gracious smiles or even lavish gifts. I was shocked by a trend that, the stronger the feeling of envy, the grander my congratulatory gestures towards my friends and families whom I was jealous of. It is baffling. I guess I was hoping that the expensive gifts would compensate for my guilt of feeling jealous in the first place.

Recollecting the times when I was possessed by the infamous green-eyed monster only left me feeling helpless, angry, and disappointed.

“Cut! Cut! Cut! I have seen enough!”

I started to question why would they even invent a word such as “envy”, which only brings up suffering and torture. Why would our English classes teach us how to spell this word and how to incorporate it into sentences, yet not teach us how to use it, fit it or feel it in our daily lives?

I hate that word.

However, recasting Envy in the narrative of my life turned out to be necessary after all. Because of this assignment, I have given Envy a second chance to shine. Instead of chasing it out of the door before getting to know how it could fit into my story, I gave it time and compassion to show me what it could do and what it does best.

They always say every captivating story needs an antagonist to bring out the heroic and noble antagonist. With that in mind, I have made the decision to cast Envy as the villain, instead of the sole saviour. I voiced out my needs that it would have to get accustomed to working in sync with other characters.

Besides, I would like to believe that I have a bigger stage now. I have better knowledge of how things work. I have a more accepting attitude towards things that don’t work. The audience is also more enthusiastic and open to complex and diverse characters and storylines. So Envy deserves a spot because undeniably, it is charismatic and alluring.

If I were to anthropomorphisise Envy further, I would want Envy to know: I forgive you. In fact, I need you to bring my performance to another level of awesomeness.

Image is ‘Razor Apple‘ by Voluntary Amputation on Flickr.


Ai Ming has always been passionate about popular culture. Ironically, it is from this love for the culture industry that she hopes to bring people’s attention to the deceptions implicit in mass-mediated contents.

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This entry was written by Ai Ming and published on 14/12/2012 at 16:00. It’s filed under Ai Ming, Essays, ISSUE7, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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