Live Well: Podcasts Are My Life

IMG_7764Anyone who has spoken to me in the past year and a half has probably heard me start at least half a dozen sentences with "I was listening to this podcast the other day and..." followed by some interesting fact/crazy story/entertaining tidbit that I learned from the referenced podcast. When my friends, family, and husband get the impression that I have nothing but podcasts to talk about, it's because podcasts consume at least 10 hours of my life every week. And I love it.

 The podcasts below have turned my one-hour-each-way commute into time that I actually enjoy. Seriously. People shudder at the thought of spending that much time in their cars - I look forward to it. If you need some extra entertainment in your life and are interested in giving podcasts a try (or adding more to your queue!) I suggest starting with these:

SERIAL

If you've never heard of Serial before, then I hope you're enjoying your recent escape from that rock you were living under! And what did you discuss at parties during the fall of 2014? But serialously - you need to listen to it. Serial is the real-life, real-time story of its host, Sarah Koenig, investigating the 1999 murder of a high school teen. I've just attempted to write about six different sentences about how great it is, and failed at all of them because it is just THAT hard to put into words. This podcast has something for everyone, from true-crime lovers to NPR lovers to books on tape lovers to reality TV lovers. From what I've found, enjoyment is universal. Give it a shot.

Pro tip: you HAVE to start listening from episode 1. You will be majorly confused if you don't.

POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR

I wrote about this podcast two years ago (!) when I first started listening to it, and I love it as much today as I did then. This show is strictly for those of us who like to nerd out over television, movies, books, and other pop culture items. If that's not your jam, this podcast will seem pretentious and boring to you, and that's okay. If it is your jam, Pop Culture Happy Hour will give you a dose every Friday of a different timely topic analyzed in a very insightful way by people who are both thoughtful and funny. The show has three regular panelists (all of whom work at NPR) and a fourth panel slot that is filled by a rotating cast of other NPR characters. Each week they discuss one of-the-moment topic (like a movie that's coming out that weekend), one more general topic (like "Presidents in pop culture"), and close the show with things they are reading/watching/listening to that they are enjoying that week.

Pro tip: listen to these while they're fresh. They had a clear message when they put "pop culture" in the title - not all of the topics have a very long shelf life.

THIS AMERICAN LIFE

I really hope I don't have to explain what this one is. TAL has been on the radio for two decades, and distributes its shows in podcast form as well. As the host says every week, each week they choose a theme, and bring you a bunch of stories on that theme. No matter what that theme is, no matter if the story itself is happy or sad, each story is memorable and special and something you can only find on This American Life.

Pro tip: if you're trying to choose which episode to start with, I suggest Episode 510: Fiasco! and Episode 489: No Coincidence, No Story! (their episode titles don't usually have exclamation points in them. I guess I'm just really into enthusiasm).

STARTUP

Startup is the real-life story of a guy trying to start his own business. Although I generally do not find business-themed podcasts (or business-themed anything) all that interesting, this one is a major exception because it is hosted by an ex-This American Life producer, Alex Blumberg and told in a totally human, relatable, no-business-jargon way. Also, as someone who works at a startup company, I find his willingness to admit when he has absolutely no idea what he's doing a refreshing change from the Silicon Valley norm.

Pro tip: start from the beginning; partially because it makes more sense in order, and partially because you need to listen to the early episodes to hear him give the worst business pitch of all time (you need to hear it, trust me).

DEATH, SEX, & MONEY

On This American Life, I love the stories about relationships and families the most. Death, Sex, & Money focuses on those topics, and only those topics. If you find the "talk about your feelings" part of This American Life (or anything) to be uncomfortable/repulsive, this isn't for you. If that stuff is TOTALLY for you, every week the host, Anna Sale, interviews someone new about their life, focusing on the topics that are oh-so-helpfully provided in the title of her show.

REPLY-ALL

This is the very first show launched by the guy who does the StartUp podcast as a part of his podcasting company. It's a show about this internet (which, like business, is SO not my thing - how did I end up working in technology again?) but it, like StartUp, is done with such a wonderfully human touch that I've found every episode captivating.

HERE'S THE THING

I can't believe I'm saying this...but this podcast is hosted by Alec Baldwin, and I really like it. I, like every human being with a shred of a sense of humor, love love LOVE Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock. But, the few times I've heard him interviewed I was afraid my eyes would get stuck the wrong way in my head from all the eye-rolling I found myself doing (seriously: the man is pretentious). So when one of my co-workers said that I should really really REALLY give Here's The Thing a try, I resisted. However, I am doing my best to cultivate a "don't knock it until you try it" policy, so I listened to the episode where Alec Baldwin interviews Julianne Moore (because she's lovely all the time). And you know what? It was great. So then I listened to his interviews with Ira Glass, Jerry Seinfeld, Andrew Luck, David Brooks, Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham. And all of those were great too. Alec Baldwin certainly has a different style than your standard interviewer - he jumps in more, asks more questions, interjects personal stories more frequently - but his rapid-fire questions and natural tendency to get the ENTIRE timeline (with details!) of someone's life and career makes for very, very interesting interviews.

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And, if for some reason this is entirely new for you, you can listen to podcasts on the podcast app on your iPhone! Just subscribe to the ones you want to try and new episodes will show up as they're available. Each of the podcasts above also have their own websites, so they're all accessible online, too.

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Do you have any other podcast recommendations? The ones above aren't quite enough to get me through the entire 10 hours each week, so I'm always looking for suggestions!

Live Well: Ira Glass on Life

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Two weeks ago, my husband sent me this Lifehacker interview with Ira Glass to cheer me up on a Monday. It worked. Not only did it confirm what I've believed for over a decade now (that Ira Glass is awesome), it gave me a new mantra.

While I think there are several interesting points in the article, by far my favorite piece was the last question/answer:

"Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?

I'd just say to aspiring journalists or writers—who I meet a lot of—do it now. Don't wait for permission to make something that's interesting or amusing to you. Just do it now. Don't wait. Find a story idea, start making it, give yourself a deadline, show it to people who'll give you notes to make it better. Don't wait till you're older, or in some better job than you have now. Don't wait for anything. Don't wait till some magical story idea drops into your lap. That's not where ideas come from. Go looking for an idea and it'll show up. Begin now. Be a f**king soldier about it and be tough."

"Be a f**king soldier about it." Forget the fact that this advice is aimed at those pursuing journalism - that's the mantra we need for SO many things in life.

 I particularly loved that quote because it reflected my own attitude so perfectly in the early days of this blog. Back when I opened this little corner of the internet, I was dragging myself day in and day out to a job that I couldn't stand. And it's not just that it had some of the typical trappings of bad jobs - unpredictable hours, questionable management, and a WAY overinflated sense of importance - it was just boring. There were days where I would go hours without having anything to work on. I would say I exerted pretty minimal effort about 95% of the time.

While experiencing all this, I constantly felt like a complete waste of space. The type of stress I encountered was of the deep-seated, gnawing variety - I wondered incessantly where my life was going, if I was going to be stuck in this professional rut forever, if I was just a thoroughly average, boring person.

And then I decided to do something about it.

I committed to writing this blog five days a week, every week. For an entire year, I wrote on Christmas, on vacation, in the middle of the night when I came home from work (or parties) late. I realized that doing that kind of work is what made me feel worthwhile. It gave me a purpose, of sorts.

I didn't start this blog to become a famous blogger. Let's face it, that was never in the cards. But I started writing it to get me somewhere, and that somewhere arrived when I interviewed for and landed my job at shopkick, a job that I love and that teaches me something new every day.

You would think all of these things would make me sad and embarrassed about the current state of this blog. My posting frequency has tapered off to being inconsistent at best. Even when I do post, I frequently forget to share it on Facebook...so hardly anybody sees it.

But honestly, I don't feel bad.

This blog was, other than my marriage, my lifeblood for well over a year. So much work went into these pages. But I've realized that life isn't about being a soldier at one thing all the time. It's about being a soldier at AT LEAST one thing at all times. For awhile, that thing was this blog. These days, that thing is my job, going to the gym regularly, spending more time with friends, and, most importantly, taking time every night to relax and spend time with my husband. All of these things calm me down and make me happy. And I've reached the point where writing this blog can be the happy filler in between those happy activities.

Someday, writing posts every day may make an ascent back up my list of priorities. That's a definite possibility. But for now, if it's okay with you, I'm not going to let this blog be a source of guilt. I'm going to continue to write only when I have something to say. I know that's the best way to keep it as one of the most unexpected sources of joy in my life - the place where I've gotten so much closer to all of you who read what I write here. I cherish that more than anything.

Is there a part of your life that you currently find unsatisfying? If so, I suggest you take the Ira Glass approach - find what you love, and be a f**king soldier about it. You won't regret it.

Dress Well: Rain Delay

J. Crew shirt, Paige jeans (old), Converse sneakers, J. Crew necklace, TEXI leather bag

Yesterday morning was a total meltdown - not only was it raining (lightly) when we went outside to take photos, but we discovered once we went to take the first picture that our camera was dead. So, we had to resort to iPhone photos. I guess things could have been worse.

In my opinion, when you're dressed in something as comfortable as a baseball tee + Converse, there's virtually no chance of having a bad day. I just can't get over my love for this shirt - it's striped, has leather detailing, and goes great with big necklaces. It's pretty much the Platonic form of everything I like in clothing.

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While yesterday was undoubtedly a good day, I have to admit that I cried during my entire drive home from work. It had nothing to do with what happened to me yesterday, and everything to do with what I was listening to - David Sedaris on This American Life reading his essay about his sister's suicide. The essay is centered around the experience of growing up in a big family, an experience I relate to in almost every detail. More than anything, this passage made me sob and laugh and marvel how remarkably true it is all at the same time:

"This is how I thought of it, for though I’ve often lost faith in myself, I’ve never lost it in my family, in my certainty that we are fundamentally better than everyone else. It’s an archaic belief, one that I haven’t seriously reconsidered since my late teens, but still I hold it. Ours is the only club I’d ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn’t imagine quitting."

I miss you, family.

There's a cheery thought to send you off into your weekend...regardless, have a great one!

Live Well: Watching, Reading, Listening - Lonely Hearts Edition

For some reason, I've never really been into standard love stories. I like my love stories to be filled with heartbreak, misunderstanding, and, in the best ones, redemption. For this week's Watching, Reading, Listening, I'm highlighting some of my current favorite heartbreaking love stories that somehow make you laugh (and make you think) while your heart breaks and then heals again. For those of you who tend to shy away from anything that doesn't have a happy ending, I urge you to give these a try - sometimes non-glossy love can be the most beautiful love of all.

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Guys, I'm in major trouble. I'm only six days into my "no dessert" month and I just spent thirty minutes pinning various amazing-looking chocolate desserts on Pinterest. I have 25 days to go, and I'm just not sure I'm going to make it. I keep looking at my calendar, hoping that another day has magically gone by, bringing me this much closer to chocolatey goodness. I feel like every Girl Scout selling cookies on the street is taunting me. I'm about three doughnut sightings away from seeing dessert mirages as I walk around town. Has this been enough melodrama for your morning? Good. It's kind of like you're living in my head now.

Have a great Thursday!