At the risk of sounding very uncool – which I am – I don’t listen to podcasts. I want to, but at this point it just feels too late to get in on the game. Like buying an air fryer or watching Tiger King.
I like the idea of podcasts in theory, especially now with 2020 over. There’s more space in my brain and my heart – yeah I said it – to learn about important things like what’s in Worcestershire sauce (too many things), “knitting’s early history” (complicated) or meaning of ailurophile (lovers of cats). I want to collect all these facts and store them in my cheek and bring them up during dinner at Cheesecake Factory. I will wait for the right time and jump in with “I was listening to a great podcast…” and then regurgitate irrelevant information void of any thought or personal observation and present it as if I made a huge discovery that will change everyone’s lives for the better.
But in order to become my new pretentious self, I’d actually have to make an effort to listen to one.
And what I learned is that there is absolutely no good time to listen to a podcast. How are all of you doing this? When are you all doing this?
I just don’t understand the logistics of finding the time, space or continued attention span to not only listen to a podcast, but also to retain the information and/or apply lessons and ideas to your lives.
The consensus is on long commutes, but where are people going these days so often and for so long? And if they do, do they have kids in the backseat? What little driving I do is to Trader Joe’s accompanied by my very talkative six year old. “Mommy would you rather eat a scorpion or a cockroach I think a cockroach is better knock knock who’s there? Gorilla Gorilla who? Gorilla me a hot dog would you.” Listening to anything in the car besides my own cries is out of the question.
But I do have thirteen loads of laundry I need to fold (though by now I’ve gone through the basket in middle of my bedroom so often to find and wear pieces that there isn’t much left to fold). So I passed on all the more appealing Nicholas Cage films on Plex (how are there so many?) and went straight to the podcasts. There’s a lot of options, which I later learned on the Unf*ck Your Brain podcast with Kara Loewentheil causes “decision fatigue,” which I am very prone to anyway. Very similar to the anxiety of choosing pasta sauce or toothpaste at the store.
But the urgency of beginning somewhere was more important than the content. Much like when you’re 20 and the only virgin among your friends and you just want to lose it to anyone simply to get it over with. And you do, and I did – talking about the podcast, of course.
I started with the Office Ladies to fill the void in my life left by Netflix but turns out Pam is just as annoying in real life as she is as Pam and I am not into Angela’s sprightly off-screen personality.
I didn’t have much luck with others, though now I know the word “buffet” comes from the French furniture piece (Stuff You Should Know), and Winnie the Pooh possibly has ADHD (Every Little Thing).
Instead of folding laundry like I was supposed to, I doomscrolled on Twitter (what is stonks?), checked my email, and researched Bundt cake pans on Amazon, completely tuning out. It’s not that I’m not interested in the story of Necco wafers. In fact, I distinctly remember as child, a young immigrant, thinking if I ever understood Necco wafers I would understand white people. I never understood either, but I made a note to revisit that episode of Stuff You Should Know.
I tried again while I was cooking, but I couldn’t pay attention or even hear over the frying, the chopping, the setting my sleeve on fire or the “Mommy I need more water” followed by the “Mommy I spilled all my water.” Also I couldn’t find a “special meditation cushion” the host was requesting. Is that just a regular pillow?
All the while I kept thinking, like most neglected, mediocre middle children do, how does my sister do it? How did she overcome all her personal and professional obstacles to find happiness and success?
Moving to the States at 19 after enduring war in Iran, overcoming language barriers to put herself through medical school, get married, have kids, have a successful practice, get divorced, find love again, buy a beach house, drink wine and continue saving lives at the hospital.
Meanwhile I can’t find five minutes to listen to a podcast without my brain wondering what Coolio’s been up to since Gangsta’s Paradise.
Maybe I’m listening to the wrong podcasts. Maybe learning about bonsai trees is not the healing I need right now, during a pandemic where I’m feeling lonely and way behind in life.
Unf*ck Your Brain really spoke to me in a way I absolutely loved and hated because it was so accurate and deep. I DO need to exercise my prefrontal cortex and take control of my thought process so I can stop seeking my worth in other people. I was not emotionally prepared to come to terms with so many of my shortcomings. Also the host starts each episode with “Hello my chickens” which I neither get nor love. (Is that an American term of endearment? I’ll Google just as soon as I find out what Coolio is up to).
It was a lot, too much in fact, like having a conversation with my sister, who is always trying to motivate and uplift me but to no avail. A podcast version of her was better though, because unlike my sister, I was able to tune Kara out or just shut the computer screen or even online shop spring sales at Bloomingdales.
What I mean to say is, I understand the appeal of podcasts. Could be fun and better and maybe more convenient than therapy. But it’s not for everyone. At the end of the day, how I like to unwind is not listening to anyone, podcast or in person, and just lay on my “special meditation cushion” while getting lulled to sleep with a quiet book.
Podcasts on Plex: