My Life-Changing Secret For A Better Commute

Photographed by Angela Pham.
I’ve only been a New York City resident for about ten months. I moved six weeks after graduating from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts — a liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere  — thrilled at the newness of not knowing anyone, finding and subleasing my first apartment, and catching the subway to work for almost an hour every day. Until, of course, that thrill wore off, and I found myself squished between strangers on a hot C train, working full-time, paying off student loans, and feeling terribly homesick for the easy conversations with friends in the library. It wasn’t until I listened to Serial that I realized I had found a solution to my discontent: podcasts.

I know it sounds bananas when I say they changed my life. But, they did. By pressing a simple "download" button before leaving my apartment, I am guaranteed entertainment for a hefty chunk of time. When you're laughing or listening to something interesting you don't even mind if you happen to skip that morning latte. There's no feet being dragged to the subway station. In fact, I actually look forward to hopping on the train and standing for 45 minutes in heels.

Not only has listening to podcasts made me a more patient, accommodating subway rider ("Here you go, adorable couple you two should be able to sit together!), it’s made me smarter, teaching me things that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at graduate school. While I’m not interested in taking the GRE anytime soon, I’ll be damned if I don’t contemplate the cultural significance of Singin in the Rain, or discover declassified information on Project Fugo while listening to any number of broadcasts on my phone every day.

This morning, I was listening to research about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and learned that losing one night of sleep can reduce your immune system’s capabilities by 25%. Now, I have an excuse to go to bed early. On an episode of This American Life I recently tuned into, I learned that asking people to choose between being a “cat person” versus a "dog person" caused a spike in coffee shop tips that was previously unparalleled. I laughed my way through Vulture’s TV podcast listening to Aziz Ansari ad-lib most of his food language on Parks & Rec, and I got an inspiring first look at Sufjan Stevens’ latest single on All Songs Considered (before it was released in real life). 

Podcasts have also made me more interesting. A few weeks ago, when my boyfriend’s brilliant, medically-trained parents started a conversation about transgender issues in the medical community, I was able to reference this fantastic episode of Radiolab. Similarly, when The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came up mid-dinner at an intimidating networking event, I was able to articulate what made the show so fucking brilliant thanks to Pop Culture Happy Hour. Throw in an auto-tuned theme song recreation, and boom: New friends.

The longer I listen, the more I notice how different episodes inspire different projects, approaches, and considerations in both my professional and personal life — making me an overall happier, more-inspired, and more-engaged New Yorker. No longer am I limited to Serial and pondering the Nisha call; this girl’s got worlds of new addictive stories to explore. And, if nothing else, now I kick serious ass at trivia. 

Do you have any podcasts that are changing your life, one day at a time? Leave us a comment below.      

More from New York