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On the Road Again

Commuting demands a lot of time, and it places limitations on your schedule that aren’t always the most fun to have to accommodate. Driving from Richmond to Williamsburg and back five days a week has given a different shape to my days than how things were prior to my student-life. I’ve often wished I had an hourlong train ride instead of car trip in the mornings—on a train or a subway you can at least read a book or a magazine, or open up your laptop and get some work done. The commute felt like lost time to me. Then, I began listening to podcasts, and everything changed.

Podcasts provide me with a commute that feels like active engagement and, often, a learning experience.  I’ve been consistently surprised by how often what I happen to listen to in the morning or afternoon somehow relates, by coincidence, to the concepts we cover in class—I’m starting to fear my classmates will come to call me “that podcast girl,” since I bring up the things I’ve heard so often. It helps that counseling is the sort of openended field that it is—since at its core it’s about the range of human existence, a lot of topics are applicable to what counselors do. 

What follows is a list of the podcasts I’m most excited to listen to every week:

Dear Sugar – This podcast originated with a now-defunct pseudonymous advice column of the same name that appeared on the literary arts and culture website The Rumpus. Written first by Steve Almond, the column really took on a lot of momentum and became popular when Cheryl Strayed took over as Sugar. The column dealt with letters readers wrote in—it took on big, existential, complicated problems, the sorts of things that resist clear and easy advice. Sugar would respond with an extended personal essay, grappling with the letter writer’s question by exploring her own experiences. In the podcast version of things, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed address listener questions, often bringing in guest advisers whose expertise or experiences relate in some way to the letter writer’s quandary. It’s interesting, heartfelt, and thought-provoking—definitely worth a listen.

On Being with Krista Tippet – In many ways, this is a podcast about what it means to be a person. Krista Tippet interviews experts in a wide variety of fields—scientists and theologians, artists and teachers—to talk about the big questions of existence. I appreciate how wide-ranging the interviews are, and how much food for thought they contain. This is one I find myself bringing up in class a lot, because she does seem to have psychologists, therapists, and researchers in cognitive science on fairly often, as well as spiritual leaders/theorists, all of which is relevant to the counseling profession.

Book Fight – I love reading. I love it a lot. I also love this podcast, which is basically just two guys talking about books. It’s not stuffy or academic, and is frequently pretty funny. I appreciate their willingness to admit their own ignorance and make fun of themselves, as well as the fact they aren’t afraid to say when they didn’t enjoy a book. It’s one that gets better the more you listen to it—as you get to know the personalities of the hosts, listening to it starts to feel like visiting with friends.

Modern Love – This is a podcast adaptation of the popular New York Times column comprised of narrative accounts of people’s experiences with all different kinds and aspects of love. Past Modern Love columns are read by professional voice actors—they’re dynamic and moving stories, particularly engaging because they’re well-performed. I’m not ashamed to admit that more than once an episode of Modern Love has made me cry while driving down the highway—it’s a good kind of catharsis. Performances of the column are followed up with short interviews with the writer of the column, so you get to hear about where the writer’s life has gone after the story ended, and with the editor of Modern Love, who speaks to what he found engaging about the story and what the publication process was like.

These are just a few of the podcasts that I love—keep an eye out next month for more of my commute listening suggestions!