Connect with us


It is Okay if You Don’t Have a Grass-to-Grace Story



Suffering Olympics, it is called; the times when people exchange poverty or struggle stories, debating who amongst them suffered the most. “Ah, bros, you no suffer reach me. Shebi you still dey enter bus, one time I trek from Lagos to Benin as I no get transport moni. The Dunlop slippers wey I wear tear for road and na leg I take waka the rest. Omo, thank God for life o.”

It is common to share experiences to see how far we have come, not only because we are surrounded, to a large extent, by poverty and economic hardship, but because we also take pride in the culture of hustling. It’s beautiful to be able to reminisce over days when your neck was longer than a giraffe’s, when you sold akara by the roadside, jumped on tata buses, or squatted with your friend and his 6 roommates. But now, here you are, in your own ride or house, going on vacation with your family and building a comfortable life for yourself. It’s a thing of pride. It is also a source of encouragement for people who are currently dealing with economic hardship, a “don’t worry, you go soon smile” lesson for them.

But not everyone has this story. Once, I spoke with someone who said “Nigerians love a grass-to-grace story, but I can’t relate; I was born into wealth and have always been rich.” It’s a flex to recognise and own this privilege, particularly because we seem to have built a culture of diminishing the hard work of people born into wealthy homes. We believe they do not know what it means to truly hustle, fight their way through certain economic and societal disadvantages the less privileged have been subjected to, and find their path in this world of hurdles. And that is true. Still, to succeed, you do not have to suffer (economically) first.


In a conversation I had a long time ago, a lady shared that she feels she is living under the shadow of her older siblings. It seemed they crawled so she could work. They settled most of her expenses and she got to work in certain organisations because her siblings had referred her to the management. And every time she thought about it, she felt guilty and insufficient. “I feel I cannot do anything by myself,” she said.

She was good at her job, she simply didn’t like the fact that she got it through her siblings – and the last, and even the one before that. She felt the mark of true independence is getting things done all by yourself – “you know, hustle and make it. That way, you feel a sense of fulfilment.”

I think about that assertion and wonder if how hard we hustle is what defines what our success means to us. What really is the big deal about where we get resources from as long as we harness them well? If the world was equal and things were normal (i.e., there was economic equality and no poverty), aren’t we all meant to have a platform or access to resources through which we can build?

It’s not a bad thing to have people or resources at your disposal, I told her, what matters is how you make the most of it. And when you use these resources and become successful, the success is yours. I know we take pride in finding our path and building whatever we have now from scratch, but I also know that within us, we wish we had it easier. That we had a dad or mum that could say, ‘How much will your project cost? Take xxx million Naira to fund it.’


I am tempted to think that the popularity of the grass-to-grass story is because humans are competitive by nature. You don’t want it to look like you did not make so much effort to attain this level of success. You don’t want to speak at events and have people say, “Abegi, are you not the one your aunty gave 100 million Naira to start your business? What do you know about working hard, mtcheew.” Isn’t that why we even have these cute, insult-like phrases like nepo-baby? Isn’t that why every musician sings about their struggling/hood/trenches days, including those who were born into wealth, haha. Perhaps, they don’t want to come across as nepo-babies.

But I believe it’s high time we stopped holding tight to the grass-to-grace story and gave room for the grace-to-grace story. The latter is something to celebrate too. That wealth can be passed on from generation to generation, spreading to other people or families, and influencing others to do and be more. That you are a recipient of this wealth but still working hard to be of value to the world.  See, if you come from a wealthy home or you have a family who is your spine, embrace it with your full chest; some people are praying for your luck. Don’t claim hustle or trenches when you cannot relate to one-third of the struggles there; it is, indeed, a mockery to those who are truly there. You have your struggles but you are not from the grass, and that is alright.

Editor at BellaNaija Features. And writing beautiful stories of places, things, and people like you. Reach out to me, I don't bite: [email protected] | Instagram @oluwadunsin___ | Twitter @duunsin.

Star Features