There is a Ted talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with a similar title. Buy my story is about something different. Yes, this is about one-sided stories too. But I am talking about the one-sided realities we experience. When we tell ourselves one side of the story, we find ourselves living in a one-sided reality.
Over a decade ago, my mother invited a friend of mine to give a talk at an adult camp. For anonymity, let us call him Jay Jay.
Jay Jay was an upcoming motivational speaker at that time. Thus speaking at an adult camp was an opportunity for his career as a motivational speaker.
I remember the place was close to Ogba Zoo here in Benin City, and the camp lasted a few days. I did not attend the camp with the others, but I came on the day that Jay Jay was to speak.
And so we arrived at the venue in the late morning that day. Most of the adults there were older than Jay Jay, who was also older than me.
As Jay Jay started to speak in what I remember was a classroom, I sat in the front row next to the teacher’s desk. My mother who orchestrated the camp, sat at the teacher’s desk, close to me.
We listened as Jay Jay talked and addressed the people. I still cannot recall what exactly he spoke about, but I thought he made some good sense that day.
About twenty or more minutes into his teaching, my mother passed an envelope to me. It was some money for my friend. A “thanks” for coming all the way down to speak with people at the camp.
Then about thirty or so minutes into his teaching, he stopped for some questions and answers. After answering questions, we continued into what seemed like another round of teaching.
And then towards the end of his second round, my mother handed me some money wrapped in a piece of paper! I did not know what to make of this gesture, but I kept them both for my friend. She was must have been very impressed with his performance, I thought to myself.
As I remember though, there was no agreement on a set fee for his service. But my mother is a believer in people. She wanted to “support his ministry”, as Nigerians like to say. So the honorarium was a token of gratitude, in other words. A way of saying “thank you for your time”.
At the end of his session, I walked him off to the main road to take a bus. And as we walked back to the main road, he told me, with excitement, how well he thought he had performed. I agreed because indeed, he did do well.
He was also excited that (to paraphrase him), he did so well that my mother was so impressed that she had to pay him twice! If getting paid twice for a single job does not say “I am utterly impressed!”, then I do not know what else does.
Well done man, I said in congratulations. As Nigerians would say, he had the anointing for the motivational speaking ministry. We were both excited on his behalf. It was a good day!
Now, that was one side of this story.
Jay Jay left the camp feel fulfilled and satisfied with himself. For someone who speaks about boosting self-esteem, double payment certainly boosted his self-esteem!
This was Jay Jay’s one-sided reality. This was my friend’s reality. And this was how the story ended for him.
But would it matter if that was not the truth? Or the whole truth?
Now here is the other side of this story, another one-sided reality…
After seeing Jay Jay off, I walked back to join my mother and the rest of the campers. Out of curiosity, I asked my mother what that stunt was all about.
“Well”, she said, “I was not at all impressed with his performance!” she added. “So I divided the money into two, and gave you one half the first time”. This is a shocker, I thought to myself. “But when he continued after the questions and answers session, I changed my mind” she said. “I felt he had tried just enough, and that was when I handed you the balance of this money”.
Same story, but two different realities!
Jay Jay left there thinking that he surpassed my mother’s expectations so well that he got paid twice. But my mother had her expectations cut short, that she decided to half his honorarium. Eventually, she thought “what the hell; the man has tried. He can as well have the other half!”.
Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves might not be the whole story. But in the end, does it really matter what we choose to believe? When we have two one-sided realties to choose between, does it matter which of them is the actual or ultimate reality? And while we may never know the other one-sided reality, should it really matter?
Doe this mean that reality can subjective, relative, from one individual to another? Perhaps.
What do you think about this story? What lessons can you pick out from this story? Let us hear it in the comments below.