A few years ago, I was interviewed for a podcast by a presenter who clearly wasn’t much of a listener himself. “How can you listen to so many podcasts?” he asked at the beginning of the interview and I explained I listened to them while doing work around the house, while walking around town and really, at just about every moment I didn’t need my brain for something else.
Podcasts are great. I have always liked radio and podcasts are essentially radio on demand. There are so many good quality ones on so many interesting topics and when I have run out of podcasts to listen to, there are always audiobooks to complement them.
Dimitra’s death last year significantly reduced the amount of social interaction in my life so I ended up listening to even more podcasts. I had a bluetooth earpiece in my ear for most of the day so that I could press play whenever I went to the bathroom, checked the laundry or got myself some fresh coffee from the kitchen.
Listening to podcasts had the added benefit that most mundane tasks became fun and interesting. It was great.
Except that with all this listening, I didn’t give my brain much time to actually think. About work. About life. About trivial things. About big things.
It would be too far-fetched to say that podcasts were an escape mechanism ─ after all, I had been listening to them a lot before Dimitra’s death ─ but all this listening didn’t give me the time and space to digest the increasingly complex feelings I had. And I had been evading those feelings.
Last month, as I was travelling, I took a break from listening to podcasts. I walked through foreign places absorbing the sounds of the city and found myself catching bits of other people’s conversations on public transport. It was great.
I also found myself listening to my own thoughts. I had forgotten that much as I like to digest information, I also like to think. I found myself thinking a lot more. And I had missed that.
I now listen to podcasts occasionally, when there is something I really want to listen to. They’re still great and my preferred podcast app ─ ironically named Podcast Addict ─ is still there within hand reach. But being on my own, with just me and my brain, is great too. And even more important.