Discover more from Act Two
15: Regret, Conviction and the future
The 1000th subscriber issue
This issue comes to you in the same number of parts as a trilogy - 3.
Part 1: Regrets, Conviction and the future
In how I met your mother (my all-time favourite sitcom) Barney Stinson gets married in season 9.
On his wedding day, he calls his best man Ted and asks:
“What do you think of this tie”
Then he picks up another tie and says
“Is this one better?”
Ted tries to assure him by saying the tie is fine and it’s normal to have wedding day jitters. To panic.
“I am not having jitters. It just occurs to me that once I put this tie on, I can never take it off. I have to wear it forever and ever…
His composure falls apart as he progresses through this monologue.
“Did I make a mistake? would I have been happier with that other tie?”
Minutes after making a down payment on an apartment. I started to notice things I had not previously noticed when I visited and loved the place. I noticed the noise that was coming from an adjoining street. It sounded like a really loud church but the facility manager assured me it was just some boys playing football. Needless to say that I did not find that reassuring at all.
I noticed that the finishing I had initially thought was impeccable (and if I am honest, still is) had little blemishes. The wall wasn’t so straight. The kitchen door opened right into the wall behind it.
“Surely that will eventually lead to scuffing”
I noticed suddenly that the sitting room was too small.
Where would I put my fridge? Where would I put an inverter? Where would I put a tiny dining table to have small conversations with visiting friends?
I could forget about a washing machine. There was no space for that.
Finally, right outside my window would be two generators. One for me and one for a neighbour of mine. I hate the noise of generators. I hate noise in general but generator noise gets to me on a level you would find weird for someone who grew up in Lagos. It actually gives me anxiety. I have had panic attacks triggered by generators. Some of my generator-related anxiety is related to trauma from a fire incident but a lot of it is just that noise makes me uneasy. Just thinking about it now is increasing my heart rate.
As I waited for my cab, I sat down on the floor and just slowly sank into a slight feeling of regret. I had spent the leading hours talking to my friends about the two options I had. Telling them how hard it was to choose. Telling them that I was scared of making the wrong choice. In reality, the other option was just an excuse for me to doubt this one. I had seen that apartment the day before and if I loved it as much as I loved this one, I would probably have paid, but I didn’t. By the next day, I spoke to the facility manager and let him know I had changed my mind and he refunded me. If the other option ever stood a real chance, I would have paid for it then. But I didn’t.
This place wasn’t so much a terrible option. The things that I saw and nitpicked weren’t as much a bother as the real problem. I was terrified of committing. I have always known I had a problem with commitment. This was the newest manifestation of it.
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 15 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
Thanks for reading Act Two! I write personal essays about anxiety and work. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
I always order the mixed shawarma (beef and chicken with two hot dogs) for the same reason I always have my hotdog with both ketchup and mustard. It’s the same reason I typically buy both fried rice and jollof rice.
I hate opportunity costs.
I don’t like that I can’t have it all. Worse still, I am really scared of making the wrong choice.
I have spent the last couple of weeks looking at apartments in Lagos. It has made me terribly unproductive and I have fallen behind on many projects. On top of that, it is a terribly expensive endeavour because for every property agent I meet, I pay an inspection fee and I pay for transportation for both myself and the agent. To complicate that, each agent will often take me to another agent and then another agent and 30 minutes later, I find myself standing in an ugly apartment with three unknown men, all of whom expect something for their time.
As you can tell, I have not enjoyed myself.
I expected the stress and cost of this exercise. What I did not expect, was to find within it, yet another metaphor for my life.
It was rather easy for me to draw a line from my anxiety about getting a place to the anxiety that has in the past stopped me from doing work.
I am trying to avoid regret.
The motivation to avoid regret is stronger than my conviction to… it’s stronger than my conviction about anything.
Since sitting down in what was almost my apartment and having a mild panic, I have been thinking about those two concepts. About regret and the fear of it and about conviction- the want of something.
It brought to my attention a letter I wrote to myself two years ago.
You are one of the lucky people that can actually do the things you want to do.
Do you want to travel? You can.
Do you want to move? You can.
Do you want to work in a tech company? You can.
Do you want to change the world? You can.
You honestly can do anything you could ever want to do. And I think one of the problems when you feel this way is that you completely lose the ability to see what you want. I think you dont have that generally but I think we should always try that. I think we should try to center ourself to want things and to know the things we want.
After that, put focus into the things. Make plans, identify your biggest distractions. Write them on a piece of paper and make plans to eliminate them.
And because of how bad you are at sustaining your drive, do a daily habit to keep you centered for a long time.
You have the ability to be really good at whatever you do, you just lack the conviction and the determination to try to be.
I wrote that letter two years ago. It sits permanently in my notion workspace.
I lack the conviction and determination to try to be.
I am sitting here and I honestly don’t know what to say. I don’t. It can be kind of sad to see how long your truths have existed. I talk about focusing and struggling all the time. I talk about wanting things, talk about trying to figure out things. Nothing screams you already know how to do it like seeing an old journal entry saying exactly the same thing for years. So I am sitting here and I honestly don’t know what to say.
Part 2: Looking back
In the spirit of looking back at things I already know.
I have been thinking about some of the gratitude I have for this newsletter. The leading one of them is this connection I have to you, the reader. I cannot overstate it. I cannot overstate how much it means that you have subscribed to read my essays. I cannot overstate how much it means to me that you open each email - that you open this one.
The second gratitude I have is gratitude for journaling. I think there is an incredible amount of clarity that has come with this attempt at documentation. I think there are lessons I have been able to articulate along the way that I would not be able to articulate otherwise. Although I wish these essays spent more time reporting actions and less time reporting thoughts, I am still very much grateful for it.
For this second part of today’s issue, I want to do what I did with that letter from two years ago. I want to take a look back at the newsletter so far and reiterate some of the things I think I have learnt along the way.
Issue 1 was in the format that I thought this newsletter would go in. I told the story of where I was in life and how I got there. How I quit my job. How I struggled to freelance for a year, some of the people I had met along the way, and where I thought I was going next. I talked about the company I was starting with and I talked about the fear of starting something new that had no story yet. Looking back at this first issue, it says everything I’d expect. It says I had no idea where things would go when I first started. If there is any universal truth, it’s the truth of not knowing how ignorant we are at the beginning.
Much like the first issue, this issue more than anything else described a story. The period this issue was written was when I did my first production cycle with it Voix. It was also when I reported my first international story. That is still my biggest brag of the year and a useful reminder that I can be very good at this work.
And so it begins, the evolution from a newsletter about my journey to a newsletter about my anxiety. In this newsletter, I doubted myself and my ability to do work even though just a month ago, I had done good work and been paid for it. The thing that lacked here was my ability to feel like what I claimed to be. If I was a journalist, where then were my bylines? If I was a writer, where had I have been published? I ended it with a plan. 4 steps to get my first byline
Read stories/ learn from them
Make a list of publications
Make a list of ideas
Write and send a pitch
I completed all 4 steps months later but have since learnt that the fifth step is to write the article. The step outside of this is that this shall be repeated week after week after week without end.
In this essay, I felt feelings of stagnation. At the time, I had two dreams, one to travel (to visit another country) and one to move into my own apartment. I was divided about which would be possible for me this year. That essay is also when I made the commitment to write more regularly and have since done at least one issue every two weeks. This essay kicked off my pitching journey.
It turned out I was scared of failure, who would have known?
I am just reminded that I would like to be impressive. This was an essay about my lifelong ambition to be impressive at whatever it is I do. The thing I seem to lack to conviction and determination to be.
“Every time I miss a deadline, every time I get a scolding, every time I disappoint someone, it goes right to the struggle. It emphasizes the struggle. It tugs at the place where the struggle is. And for a moment there, I fear that the struggle will never end. I fear that I will never find confidence again.”
Even as I write this to you, I am weeks behind on a deadline but my confidence is not lost. I know I will do it. I will suffer but I will do it.
“I am just tired.”
Last week, I wrote a poem on medium about my exhaustion. so far, It has received support from about 20 people which I think is the most attention my medium post has gotten in a really long time. The issue was the first time I spoke about this fatigue I have been feeling in life. A fatigue I still feel. It was also the first issue I acknowledge that maybe things in my life were starting to feel slightly less scary. I still feel this way too.
“Right now, I am afraid I will be exposed to this editor as someone who is not a journalist. I am afraid that I can’t make any of the things I like listening to. I am afraid.
Alright, I am going to write a reply to the Editor now.”
I am becoming more comfortable with this knowledge. The fear isn’t going anywhere. I will be afraid but I will still do the thing.
These two issues feel like two parts of a single story as they feed into each other. In issue 10, I was thinking about the quality of my writing and the new attention my newsletter was getting. In issue 11, I had a panic attack about a pitch that had been accepted.
It is not lost on me that there is a trend of me panicking about things that excite other people. There are more examples of this than have been featured in this newsletter. My takeaway from these two issues would be my laundry list of what I need to do to feel qualified.
Consume good work and learn from it
Develop Systems, Models and templates
Document everything - everything
Take courses, get certification
Do bad work
Get comfortable with no
“I no longer want my narrative about work to be led by my struggle with anxiety.
You have to be competent first before you can be vulnerable. Otherwise, your vulnerability sounds like an excuse”
“But I don’t need to believe in myself to know I want to do something and to try my damn best to do it. So no effort into self-belief today, all effort into doing what I want to have done.”
It’s been a long couple of months but I am grateful to be able to look back at these letters and see my story evolve and see myself improve.
Part 3: 1000 subscribers
This is the largest number of eyes I have ever had on anything I have ever done.
I produced a podcast for two years and the most popular episode was listened to by only 300 people I have had a medium account for more than 5 years and it only just crossed 300 followers. My Twitter and Instagram both have less than 1000 people following me.
This is the last place I expected to reach 1000 people. I am shocked but more than anything else, I am honoured.
I keep replaying the thing my friend told me when you first reached out to me about this newsletter and my originally small audience.
“You can’t hide good work forever”
I don’t now sit in a place where I think my work is even remotely worthy of this much attention but there must be something you see in me. I hope I can live up to it.
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