2020 in Review: Podcasts

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when the word podcast entered my vernacular. It’s been around in my brain for a while and in my first year I helped to edit one for a while, because I knew how to edit audio. I didn’t listen to too many before 2020. I got into them in January, and kept finding podcasts I liked, following along to a few during my first three months because I was on a real running spree, and because of things in my personal life, boy oh boy did I miss conversation. I love conversation, and I love stories – and I found that podcasts felt like both.

I know that podcasts became a trend this year. Everyone at home began to start one, and almost everybody I know has started listening to podcasts this year. I’m very wary of trends usually, because I dislike being peer pressured into anything; I like to think that most things I’m suggested by my friends, I do out of a personal desire to do or abstain from the thing. So I monitored, and this podcast thing just kept growing. Through the entire year, as webinars grew in number, the number of new podcasts I saw on Spotify, and recommended to me by friends or social media kept increasing. I was blown away.

Personally, for me, three things have happened with podcasts this year.

First, in a time where human contact was limited, and at home, I got to hear other humans very less, I was given company by podcasts. I’m aware about how lonely this makes me sound, but, it’s true. I’m not going to deny that my circumstances made me feel alone on some days. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly explains that we need belonging and love. Virtually, I felt both so much. My parents showered so much love on me, my friends caught up with me and my family gave me company and support. I never felt lonely as a result, but the house felt alone on some days. What I learned early on, when the pandemic started, was that I was at ease when I heard noise. I was very comfortable working with music or shows playing in the background. These mediums don’t really speak to you though. What podcasts do is that they make you feel like you’re actually having a conversation with someone, or that you’re witnessing a conversation, in the same room as another set of human beings. It’s that physical proximity I definitely missed this year, and podcasts felt like a wonderful way to experience that – and more often than not, learn new stuff. The same was true of audiobooks, and very soon I found myself listening to these more than music (how?)

Second, podcasts made me appreciate human stories more. I’ve always been grateful for people and for this planet. Although we have science and the vocabulary to explain things, when I step back and thing about how much must take place for a human to experience life on this planet, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe. Which is part of the reason I blog. This is my life’s story. My life’s experiences on the internet. The pandemic has taken away so much. There were so many stories untold. Humans of New York introduced us to the range of human stories we ignore in our day to day lives; and the other Humans of… projects that spun off from it introduced us to more of the same. I became intrigued most by conversational podcasts, which introduced me to people and stories I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to ever experience, or hear about. If I was someone obsessed with chronicling my life’s stories, I wonder why I didn’t stop and hear what other’s life stories were. I mean, I’m being harsh on myself, I definitely do listen to what people say and what they’re communicating, but I think about it now and I don’t think I really listened to learn. I’d always listen to respond or to react. Never just to hear about someone else’s life. As a result I think I missed out. I’m not going to get that back, but I know that podcasts have made me value human stories more, and listen more closely to the human stories in my everyday conversations and life. I’ll be searching for them. All these podcasts that came up this year made it clear to me that people had stories they wanted to share. All they needed was a platform. Blogs and podcasts, as media, are super democratic (as of now). I’m glad people feel courageous enough to share their stories. I’m grateful to be able to listen to them.

Third, I started a podcast. I jumped into the trend. My mother and I started a podcast called Tuesdays with Mummy. Out every Tuesday, the podcast is just conversation I have with her on the different subjects we’re traversing in our lives. I’m influenced by Mitch Albom and Tuesdays with Morrie. I love my parents and I’m extremely grateful for them. I also think they’re oceans of stories because they’ve lived so much longer than I have, and I want to hold on to them forever. I’m an auditory person, and I’ve heard my parents’ voices for the longest time in my life, since I’ve been born – from the lullabies they sang to me as I slept, to their rage when they yelled at me for something stupid I did, to their words of encouragement as I picked myself back up when I fell. I love their voices, and I never want to forget it. Recording auditory memories I can listen to felt like the perfect cure. The only reason I run it with my mum is because she’s free-er at the moment, but we feature my dad so much, I’m very pleased. There’s so much stuff I speak to my parents about, but there’s also so much we don’t speak about, and I’m so eager to pick their brains each week on the podcast, because I know my mum speaks to my dad about stuff too, to get ready for the podcast. I love that. People listen – which I find strange, but it’s just a reflection of how curious people are about human stories. The feedback we’ve received has been positive, but also very constructive. I’m grateful to have such an open relationship with my parents, which allows me to record this podcast and share her stories, and portions of my own in a new way.

So where’s the recalibration? It’s implicit in everything I’ve said above. Prior to 2020, I think I was willing to claim that I was okay without human contact or friendships, that I’d survive just fine, because of the hobbies my parents have made sure I’ve developed and my general interests in figuring out where I am, or living peacefully. I don’t think that’s true anymore. At minimum, I need podcasts and human stories. I wouldn’t want to live alone on a desert island forever; or anything of that sort. I genuinely love human beings and their potential and their stories. That’s what I’ve recalibrated to.

In a way, podcasts and podcasters are my friends now. They’re with me from when I wake up to when I sleep. When I walk, when I run. When I’m not meeting people, I’m usually listening to a podcast, an audiobook, or music, depending on my mood. Good headphones are a clear priority (if you’re gifting me hehe!). I’m very grateful for the company, and I’m in awe of human stories. There’s an adventure I’m going to embark on in 2021, to continue to stay curious about human beings I meet and learn from them. 2020’s set me on the way.

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