Like many of us, I commute to work by car. And, like for many of us, that commute is often a grind, especially when traffic is backed up or when the weather refuses to cooperate. Getting to the office in the morning normally takes me about an hour, and in the evening, it takes a bit longer to get home. So, what’s a guy supposed to do with his time?
My go-to obsession for years has been NPR news radio. I love(d) it so much that I even went on a tour of NPR’s headquarters during a trip to Washington DC. But the sparkle started to fade after the 2016 US presidential elections. During the long run-up to the elections, listening to NPR became a real drag, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that we’d get back to more balanced programming once the election ended. The election came and went, but the topics didn’t change — so for the first time in my life, I was left with a nagging sense of depression every time I listened to the political shenanigans. Honestly, there are so many other things to be concerned and informed about in this world. It was too much. Looking back on that period now, I can see that by early January, I had fallen into a deep rut of political overload and depression. Seriously.
But there’s a silver lining to this story! Those dark days acted as a catalyst. I realized that I needed something else to fill the void during my commute, so just around the time when I thought I’d take a look through my old CD collection for inspiration, one of my colleagues mentioned a podcast to me. I grew up when cassette mixtapes were cool, so this will be old news to most of you. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that until earlier this year I had NEVER listened to a single podcast in my entire life. I didn’t even know how to listen to one. Did I need to download these podcasts from a website? Did I need a special app? Did I have to pay for them? So many questions. So much more difficult than just turning on the radio.
As it turns out, subscribing to podcasts is a breeze. I started by listening to the one my colleague recommended, a comedy series based on true crimes. It’s called My Favorite Murder, and it’s brilliant. The language is bad and the stories are often gruesome, but it captivated me almost instantly. For someone like me who was hoping to pivot away from political commentary, you can’t do much better than real-life murder stories.
Needless to say, with that podcast under my belt, I was ready for more. Here are just a few of the ones I’ve been shuffling through lately. Hidden Brain (which is actually from NPR) is truly thought-provoking. CNET’s Apple Byte dives into all things Apple-related to nurture my geeky side. Radiolab offers an amazingly diverse list of topics. Planet Money (also from NPR!) and Freakonomics Radio are fascinating (and prompted me to save more for retirement!). There are others that I listen to just for fun, like The Nerdist and Adam Ruins Everything.
Podcasts are amazing. They’ve really made my commute more enjoyable, and I think I’m less irritable, too. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you haven’t listened to a podcast before, you’ll definitely find something you like. My next mission is to come up with an idea for my own podcast. Maybe it’ll be something about politics… but probably not.