Podcast Pressures: Being One Step Behind And When ‘Woke’ Was Just A Past Tense

There’s no point in denying it, I am extremely slow on the uptake. I have this strange denial that kicks in when something new and revolutionary appears and although it’s often in my best interest to learn about it, chances are unless it’s forced upon me I will ignore it until the bitter end. Take IOS updates for example- I will literally wait until all my apps stop working and the death threats are coming in thick and fast before I finally give in. I had a portable CD player until I was seventeen. That was only four years ago. Carting it around in my coat pocket and pursing my lips in stubborn refusal whenever someone suggested buying an Ipod. The same goes with popular culture, social media, fashion and pretty much anything relevant. I have always very much been my own person; wearing whatever I feel most comfortable in, listening to the music my Dad introduced me to, not following the status quo in pretty much every aspect of my life… I am unintentionally the most nonconformist person I know.

Something I recently learned about, and by recently I literally mean within the last few months, was podcasts. I know how stereotypically ‘Dad’ that sounds and I actually cringe at my naivety a good chunk of the time. I am often embarrassed to raise the topic and ask questions for fear that I will be banished from social groups or heckled in the streets by fat ladies in aprons throwing rotten vegetables. But I confide in you when I say that I don’t know a good 85% of what people talk about these days. I asked my friend what a Cardi B was the other day, thinking it was some kind of trendy millennial’s’ poncho that I should expect to see draped over the shoulders of Britain’s teens this winter, only to find out she was a pop star. I’m even sure the term ‘pop star’ been used since the days of Shane Ward and fragranced gel pens. I am by no means sheltered, living under a rock being the complete opposite to my style of living and upbringing- however it does sometimes occur to me just how shut off I am from the real world, how much I shut myself off with and without realising it.

I don’t and never have watched or read the news. The other day I went on to BBC News for the first time in my life to read an article recommended to me about Chinese ‘Re-education’ Camps. It was really interesting and when I was finished I had a browse around the website to see what else they had on offer and of course the main headlines were morbid and boring and political and completely uninteresting to me, simply highlighting the reason why I take zero interest in tabloids. My Grandad will fiercely argue that the news is a necessary tool in staying aware of the surrounding world and its entire goings on etc. That there are things that do or will affect me. Now I’m not disagreeing with this, however I must admit that in all my life I have never felt that I have missed out on something important by not being aware of what’s in the news. If it’s big enough, my parents will tell me or I’ll hear it at work or in the street or whatever. Anything else is just extra stress on my already weighty plate of global discomfort. And call me ignorant, but I would actually rather turn a blind eye to most of the shite that’s happening in the world for the simple reason that I can’t do anything about it. I can’t do anything about that fact that the bodies of five children were found in a car park except lie awake in bed all night fretting about the horror of the situation and imagining the heartbreak their families must be feeling. What good does this do me?

Also unpopular opinion- but I don’t care one single shred about politics. I know I should and it’s the very done thing for young adults such as myself to involve themselves in the goings on of parliament and such and such- but I’m sorry I just can’t force myself to be interested. I can’t bring myself to follow the indecisiveness of the public’s opinion on this person or that person’s actions and I am far too uninformed to make a valid statement so I may as well steer clear of it. I also just think it’s all a bit of a fix anyway, these big names we hear and see every day splattered across the papers are all just puppets for the real big guns to hide behind, but then again I am unashamedly a bit of a conspiracist.

However- I digress. I am very pleased to welcome podcasts into my life, especially because I am currently at sea with no access to spotify or youtube and there is only so much Arctic Monkeys you can listen to before you start speaking with a slight northern accent. And naturally, my girlfriends recommend me two podcasts that they thought I might enjoy that are currently very popular among young females. Adulting, by Oenone Forbat and The Hi Low by Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. I have taken a particular liking to the latter and although I am starting from the beginning so the topics are no longer relevant- it has become somewhat of an escape for me while I am ironing an endless supply of linen or re-making cabins. I enjoy the girls. In all honesty, I got a little tired of Adulting after a while because I found Oenone to be a little too ‘Made In Chelsea’ for my liking and I needed more goofiness in my life. The High Low girls fill this void, satisfying my need for fellow down to earth women who can laugh at themselves and who aren’t too fixated on feminism or aesthetics or what you can and can’t say and who clearly just enjoy what they’re doing and want to have a giggle.

I do have a negative however and this is totally my problem and only my problem. But does anyone else ever feel that when they listen to something they really enjoy or listen someone give a speech or write a book that they really admire, that they are not doing enough in life. As I said this is completely my own insecurity, but when I listen to The High Low for example, I get quite overwhelmed with how aware and up to date they are with everything. That they have already read all the best books in under a week and watched all the highest rated TV shows and documentaries, that they are aware of everything that’s happening in the news, who has been interviewed, who has done this or done that. That they found time to work, go to the gym six times, watch a whole Netflix series, read the entirety of Goodreads autumn must haves on one tube journey, learn a language, host a dinner party, shave their legs, maintain a decent level of communication with all friends and family members AND go on a weekend mini break with their boyfriend? Just, how?

I am so interested in every topic they discuss and it makes me anxious that I don’t have the time or knowledge to access all the information they put forth on their podcast. It’s a bit like when I walk into a bookshop, I adore books and I always have, but when I walk into a bookshop apart from the fluttery feeling of excitement and sheer delight at the sight of so many novels I also feel a heavy sense of failure. I feel a completely overwhelming pressure to really try to force a book out, this book that has been sat inside me waiting to be written for so long. And just seeing all the thick, delicious spines of all these successful authors who have accomplished the one thing I so desperately want to achieve but have no control over getting at this current time in my life makes me want to run out of the shop as quickly as I can. It’s like thousands of Olympian athletes rubbing their gold medals in your face when you’re still trying to figure out how to walk, it’s too big, it’s too bright, it’s too much.

I listen to the High Low girls and I am incredibly jealous that they are so informed about the current happenings of society, now I know they are/were both journalists so involvement in the news is a given, but I just feel like I am completely missing out on things that I would either very much enjoy or find highly educational or perspective altering. God knows how they manage to read so many books and as an aspiring novelist I feel a bit shit that I can, even at my fastest, only get through say three or four books a month at a push. I am and always have been a slow reader and I always feel like I read the wrong sorts of books, I feel there is a whole genre out there that I am completely overlooking that will bring me a missing slither of joy that has been hidden away from me all these years. I try my best to go off recommendations nowadays, but it’s been a long time since I have felt as passionately about a book as THL girls do about every single book they read seemingly, or maybe I am just irritatingly hard to please. Either way I’m not happy about it. I did however recently read Dolly Alderton’s everything I know about love and I very much enjoyed it, as did all my lady friends so chin-chin to the comforting upbringing of the under thirty something British girl that we all know and love so well.

Anyway I recently listened to the THL episode where they interviewed novelist Olivia Sudjic, whose debut ‘Sympathy’, a psychological thriller about a British graduate who moves to Manhattan and becomes obsessed with a writer ten years her senior, was named the ‘First Great Instagram Novel’. I haven’t personally read this book, but I can tell from the response from both Dolly and Pandora and reviews I have read online that it’s a very raw, honest, slow burning satire focused on the struggles of anxiety, the grip of obsession and the dangers of living our lives online. The conversation quickly moves to anxiety, the main focus of the podcast and as this is something that haunts my past it was something that struck a chord with me. I was interested to listen to a chat about anxiety where the intent wasn’t to trigger or ‘bog-down’ but was to simply discuss and share. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation talk turned to the stresses and pressures of writing both for a career and with ill mental health. Now this I found interesting.

One of my biggest struggles when it comes to the act of beginning a ‘novel’ is that I have such a sporadic mind that the consistency of my thought process is second to none. That means that first thing in the morning I could have this great idea about a brilliantly executed psychological thriller that will shock the nation, and then by the afternoon I’m feeling a WW2 romance with Cillian Murphy and Saorise Ronan frolicking around with forlorn expressions quoting my words. Another major factor of not having yet produced anything but a feeble blog every so often is that I have a huge fear of failure. As soon as I have an idea it becomes SO big that it’s terrifying and I smother it was quickly as possible. I picture the entire world reading the first sentence and rolling their eyes, bored and uninterested as they discard the book to one side without a second thought.

An interesting point was made during this section of THL and although I can’t remember the specific quote it was something along the lines of ‘the final product will never be exactly what you imagined. It will never come close to the idea you originally had and will always be somewhat disappointing.’ I feel this HEAVILY. I have this feeling inside me that’s been there for so long it feels as though it’s calcified into a smooth round ball. I have absolutely no idea how to translate this feeling into a book. I don’t know how to merge it into a readable theme, I have no idea whether I’m a good enough writer to even be able to describe the entirety of the sensation let alone format it in a way that it can be understood and enjoyed by others. I can completely relate to the worries expressed by Sudjic in the interview however there is one, big, obvious, ugly difference between the two of us, and that is that for all the anxiety and fear of failure she suffered through, she still managed to write something and become a successful author regardless.

I listen to her talk about writers’ block, the infuriating, unstoppable, gigantic rock that wedges itself in the space between your creativity and the rest of your mind. She talks about being lots of different types of people, something I have discussed in a fair few of my blogs, and it being okay to be all of them or none of them simultaneously. She opens up about the unspoken hardships of being a writer, people assuming it’s an easy, talent based career choice that consists of typing away romantically at a cosy desk overlooking a peaceful garden in some expensive English cottage in a town whose name ends in Shire. But all this sort of rubs the salt in the wound for me because I feel all of these things, I struggle with all of these things, but she perceives it from the other end of the tunnel now. What about the rest of us? What about the aspiring writers who suffer with all of these plaguing issues but who never make it out? It’s all good and well to give these long and intimate interviews where you pour your heart out about the toughness of your situation but at the end of the day you did actually make it, you have actually written and published a book, yet you’re speaking as though you are still wading through the thickness of failure.

These women on these podcasts, like Adulting for example, talking about not really know what they’re doing and worrying that they aren’t going to be successful or worthy in society. They already ARE successful. Having an audience listen to you while you speak about being unsuccessful is successful in itself, having your voice heard is already more than most of us have. And I can’t help but feel slightly insulted that if these women feel they are unsuccessful or not doing enough with their lives then what hope is there for the rest of us who don’t have a podcast, who don’t read 1000 books a week and who aren’t up to date on anything and everything that’s going on around the world? It’s like me moaning about only having a two bedroom house in front of a homeless person. Listening to published authors complain about not being able to get a second book out in time and feeling like the biggest flop on the planet and me sat there with a cloth in one hand and a toilet brush in the other silently screaming that it would be nice if it wasn’t just my mum who read my blogs.

So my love-hate relationship with podcasts is at a 80-20 to love, but I do find their substance a little hard to bear at times when I already feel like a bit of a loser. Having these upbeat gals talk about all the things I absolutely should be doing feels a little overwhelming, I feel like I’m a wee fish who’s staring up at a giant piece of bait- all these things that would enrich my life but I don’t have the time or the means to harness them all. I can’t be everything at once. I’m not an oracle, I can’t obtain ALL the knowledge offered to me. I can’t read all the books or watch all the films and be politically ‘woke’ and correct in my terminology. I can’t be beautiful and body positive and a feminist and believe in equal rights and a vegan but not a pushy one AND know where all the best brunch spots in London are. I can’t be completely environmentally cautious at all times and read Sapiens in one sitting and NOT eat a whole pack of salted peanuts in one sitting. I wonder, is it ever enough to just sometimes, be?

C.J.R xox

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