Discover more from Act Two
23: The fact of an action vs its quality
I was excited when my friend showed me her recently acquired copy of this book.
She isn’t Gen Z, which is another way of saying she doesn’t record reaction videos. If she did, you would have seen me, open up her luggage, with her standing to the side, knowing what I was about to discover. You would see me find this book and would have watched me take the 2 seconds required for it to register in my mind what the book was.
Inside this book, published on the 22nd of April 2022, is my name and an essay I wrote.
Judith Okonkwo: Pioneering XR in Africa
Muhammed “Mo” Isu, University of Lagos, Nigeria.
A tangent to let you know it took some contemplation before settling to use my full name as well as insisting on my stylised ‘Mo’
My friend looked at me and remarked ‘and you gave 2022 a D.’
Just last month, we (myself and a few other people) were participating in an exercise I orchestrated.
It was almost 1 am as we stood on a rooftop bar nursing drinks - some people had cocktails. I, with the knowledge of a busy night ahead of me, was drinking a can of redbull. All the while, we were providing answers to a question I had thrown out into the congregation.
If 2022 was a student, and you were the teacher, what grade would you give it?
This question was from a little audio compilation series I have been running since 2017. You can listen to it here.
When came my turn to answer the question, I said I’d give 2022 a D. Then I spent 5 minutes trying to justify why I had given the year the lowest score of everyone present. Even though, in 2022, I had earned the most amount of money I ever had. Even though, in 2022, I had finally moved out of my parents house and into my own, even though I had travelled to one new country that year, even though it was the year I was published in not one but two books. Even though it was the year that I reported a story for a podcast based outside Nigeria, In 2022, I also contributed to a story that was published on BBC radio.
Am I ungrateful?
I hadn’t spoken about this book getting published with my name. Maybe I had made one passing comment in a tweet but not much more.
Since I was excited the night I saw the book, I took a picture and posted it on WhatsApp status. By the morning, I had received several messages congratulating me or expressing pride in me. Sentiments I found a little off-putting but expressed gratitude for.
I think I have always had this problem of people overrating the quality of an action I take.
It happened again recently.
Before we go on…
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 most things I know so far. You are reading issue 23 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
Have I ever created my best?
I performed live at an open mic last week. The venue was Ouida Lagos where they typically host people reading short stories/poems, or performing music/spoken word. What they don’t typically get is live podcast performances which is what I did.
The idea probably came to me sometime in January. I cant remember why, but I just felt like a live podcast performance was exactly the kind of uncomfortable situation I should next get myself into. Before knowing what story I was going to tell, I messaged the good folks at Ouida Lagos letting them know that I wanted to perform on their stage. My reasoning behind this was that if I committed to the action, I would have to force myself to follow through. Which is what happened. There were moments were I thought of calling the whole thing off because it was quite a bother if I am being honest. I literally was taking work calls right up to the moment when I shared a cab with my friend to go to the bookstore.
The long story short of this is that I performed my audio story, using interview clips, music, sound design and narration much in the same way as I would tell a story on a podcast. I think it went well, the crowd engaged as well as I’d hoped. I did not make any glaring mistakes and did not have any major technical failures. I don’t have any videos of the occasion but I did it and I moved on. Then I made a post on Instagram and received a lot of encouraging messages. A number of people were proud of me and you know the drill.
I said thank you even though I did not really relate to this feeling of pride or accomplishment that I was being met with.
And that’s what made me start to wonder about this question. What is more important, the fact of an action or its quality?
When I completed my first marathon, that was a pretty clear moment of accomplishment for me. It was and still is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Performing at an open mic? that does not at all feel like an accomplishment. And it doesn’t matter much that it was not a normal performance. It doesn’t matter that behind the 5 minutes it took me to tell the story in front of an audience was an hour of audio editing, a number of different drafts and three live testing of the story in front of my friends. Perhaps it should…
Ironically, this also goes for the books I contributed to last year. it is a fact that I am a published author but what is the quality of that fact?
This is why I think I rated my year so poorly. Many of the facts of my actions just did not match the quality I wanted to achieve.
Two weeks ago, this was exactly the theme of my journal entry. I was looking at the requirement for a talent visa and it really put into perspective just how underqualified for it I was but also how unqualified I was to myself. At the moment, I remembered all the things I wanted to have achieved by this point in my life.
I have always been rather critical of myself, my efforts and the quality of my output. I am grateful for the encouragement other people give me but I am critical of myself. Mind you, I am not unkind. And when there comes a situation for me to feel pride, I do feel pride but it’s often brief.
Is this a good or bad thing?
I cannot tell you whether it is. Some people that have had to have the weird conversation of trying to convince me that what I have done is a big deal when I believe it is not probably feel that is is a bad thing.
Two days ago, I was talking to my friend about how tired I was about this stage of my life. (I have been having a really difficult time trying to keep up with the operational parts of being an adult) Our conversation although it started out being about many things eventually revealed itself to being about one singular thing - worry and how it affects the quality of what we can dedicate ourselves to.
She asked rhetorically ‘can you create your best when you are constantly worrying’
I replied, knowing, I have been in a constant state of worry for the past 5 years that ‘I don’t think I have ever created my best.’
Maybe this is part of why the quality of actions are so important to me. I cannot possibly bask in the feeling of pride or accomplishment when I still feel so much worry.
This isn’t new. I did not celebrate getting into university or leaving it. I was too worried about what grades I’d get and if I’d be able to get a good job.
This essay is not going to end with me learning to smell the roses and enjoy my wins. I have no lesson to impact today. If as you have read this, you have found yourself disagreeing with my position, or wanting to convince me to hold a different position, perhaps you have come away with a lesson after all.
Thank you for reading to the end.
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This essay took a little over a week to write. I did not drink any coffees while writing it but only because I am currently fasting. You can help me write my next issue by buying me a cup of coffee