During the lockdown, I undertook a small personal project: reading through the Divine Comedy one chapter a day, and voicing my thoughts on a podcast, Alessia’s Divine Comedy. It has been a veritable labour of love, with migraines and whatnot, but it has reminded me just how much I love to go down a research rabbit hole and learn new things. I also felt like I made a friend across time, since I never realised how much I would sympathise with Dante when I first studied the poem at school.
Like the best of fiction, the poem has been a window into my soul, and it has helped me to see things about myself and my faith that were not as apparent without it. The project of podcasting itself also provided some insights into my personality and how I work. Here’s my end of 3-months reflection.
I am bad at letting go of expectations
The first, most obvious, thing about me is that I am really bad at letting go of expectations. This affects not only my professional life, but also my faith: surrendering is not paying lip service to the idea that I’m ok with someone else (God) taking the wheel. I also have to surrender my expectations of what that looks like. One of the challenging things about the poem was to go along with things that don’t seem fair to me (in some cases, the Church was on my side, but not always). Recording the podcast itself also challenged me on this level, and the many times I had to break the intended schedule because I was ill have carried as much guilt as if it was a job and I was accountable to a superior. I suspect my guilt around real jobs is not much about breaking the expectations of others and disappointing them, but having to admit to myself that I am not the same person I used to be, my migraines are worse and more debilitating and I shouldn’t demand the same level of productivity I would demand of myself if healthy. Instead, I put pressure on myself to keep up and then disappoint myself when reality hits me in the face like a train at high speed.
My procrastination looks very productive
I have never really noticed this, but I am a productive procrastinator. I have my times when my procrastination is the standard 2 hours scrolling down Instagram, but I’m usually ill or about to be ill and unmotivated. The real problem is when I am motivated and I get down to doing things, but somewhat manage to be distracted by every shiny thing I can find, and it takes me hours to get something done that shouldn’t take that long…like a 10 minutes long podcast. I didn’t end up using all of the material I have read for each canto, but I just enjoyed the process of learning. It’s too bad that there aren’t really that many jobs where learning is the job, and even if I had one then I’d have to deal with deadlines and keeping my research to the subject at hand.
I have some deep-seated insecurities
I grew up among people who have the mentality that an argument on authority is not a logical fallacy. Despite a post-graduate degree that involved countless papers in which I had to critically examine the work of people who came on the scene before me because that’s just how scholarship works, I still have a lot of anxiety around voicing dissenting opinions against people with the title that I don’t have. This is only one of a number of things that have become apparent in the process of hosting this podcast. I also had to be really intentional with not looking at metrics and obsessing over how many listeners I had, and stuff like that. To this day, the only metric I check for this blog is domain authority. I love to write and I loved to read that poem and talk about it, so I don’t want to be sucked into a downward spiral of doing things for the approval of others. In fact, I have just downloaded an ebook on this very subject.
I’m far less shy than I give myself credit for
Writing can be a lonely job, and even if it was my own voice, it was nice to hear something in the flat other than worship music and ClassicFM. Even if nobody was there to respond to me immediately, talking out loud gave me the impression that I was talking to someone, and made lockdown slightly less lonely. Conversely, I realised that I am not as shy as people have made me feel for years. In fact, I don’t think I ever was. At some point in time, I turned from a bubbly personality who’d ask any kid at the playground if they wanted to play to someone inward-looking and bookish, and, in hindsight, it was the pain of rejection that made me preemptively rule myself out of situations, but I am not nervous around people. I am somewhat nervous initiating conversations, especially if I’m barging into an existing group, but hiding behind a microphone did not feel that much different from standing up in front of a few dozen students at a Catholic Society to run a workshop.
I’m, however, really introverted (in the psychological sense of the term)
If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs, you probably know of the meaning of introverted that is not shy or reticent. Introversion is about spending time in our world of ideas and thoughts, or according to Jung’s school of thoughts how we spend our energy. This makes being alone a way to recharge our social batteries while an extrovert would be energised by the interactions instead. Hosting a podcast was, surprisingly, more social than I anticipated. Yes, I didn’t have people around, and the research that went in it meant I spent a good chunk of my time lost in ideas, but it still took the toll on me because I was thinking of the people who’d listen and being mindful of not putting too much in it that only makes sense if you are me. At the same time, it made me crave deeper connections with people than the kind of conversations I was having at the time, which is another trait of my personality type (as it happens).
I can’t do routines to save my life
I thought everything would be fine because it was not a job, it was a hobby and I was winging it and the authenticity of the amateur was part of the appeal, but boy, was I wrong. Something as intensive as 100-days of podcasting requires the level of attention and preparation of a job. It was never as simple as 1h a day and a positive routine, but also the few time batch-recording were exhausting so I wouldn’t recommend that either. I really would have benefitted from not getting lost reading too much and keeping it as a daily thing, but I also admire anyone who can do something regularly without fail because it just doesn’t work for me (and 14h in bed in the dark with a cold compress is not the only reason why, I just thrive on taking every day as a blank canvas). Sometimes I wake up with a stuffy nose feeling exhausted and I just want to binge-watch Fruits Basket all over again, wishing I had a Tohru in my life to take care of me.