I discovered the magic of podcasts while living in New Zealand. And while I’ve since listened to hundreds of episodes from dozens of shows – whose themes blended together with time – my inaugural listen of This American Life stands out with such sharp clarity.
It was a Christmas episode and David Sedaris (shocker) was talking about his time as an elf in a department store. I was on the ferry heading across the Cook Strait, head leaning against the window, barely registering the land disappearing behind us as I stifled laugh after laugh.
And that was that. Stories hooked me.
Back in Auckland I downloaded dozens of episodes, thinking they would entertain me during my commute. I couldn’t wait to get out the door every morning. I had My Stories. I found myself moved, every time, by the complexity of human life.
That was years ago and the only thing that’s changed is my repertoire. I drive to work now, and in those 45 minutes I listen to The Moth, Risk!, Savage Lovecast, Serial and StartUp.
I’ve downloaded RadioLab and TED Talks, but I always find myself zoning out. There’s something about real human experiences, told by the people who’ve lived them, that anchors me to the world. In San Francisco it’s easy to forget that not everyone is either a tech worker or a meth addict. These podcasts remind me what diversity is.
There’s a 90-something female helicopter pilot from WWII, a doctor who diagnosed his mom with a collapsed lung, the young gay man still in the closet, a funeral director from Harlem. Every morning I can’t bring myself to leave the car and head into my real life.
Which is why February is my month of storytelling.
Kevin Allison, the host and founder of Risk! happens to lead an online storytelling class. Once I decided to focus this year on creativity and learning, I knew becoming a better storyteller would be at the top of my list. Whether it’s through the blog or at work, I love to connect with people. The few times I have gotten in up in front of a crowd, I felt heard.
I think that by focusing on becoming a better speaker and storyteller, I can be a better writer. But deep down, my Big Scary Goal is to actually perform on one of these podcasts.
Two weeks after starting the course I found out that Risk! is hosting a show in Portland next month. The theme? Crisis. The story I want to share? That time I was detained in a London refugee center.
My pitch is due by next week so stay tuned. In the meantime, send me good vibes and luck.