In one of the many iterations of my professional life I was a yoga instructor in L.A. I used to bike all over Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills teaching public and private yoga classes.
I had the opportunity to work with everyone from Hollywood A-listers to people like my very first private yoga client. She was an exuberant 74-year-old Jewish English woman named Marcia that decided she wanted to learn to breathe better. We worked on that breath for an hour every single Tuesday for $8 per hour with the bonus of tea and toast right after each class.
Although I haven’t taught public yoga professionally in over 5 years, I’m reminiscing because I found out that one of my former private clients passed away from colon cancer. She was diagnosed and 6 weeks later she was gone.
That brought impermanence front and center.
Not only was I heartbroken over the rapid loss of someone that I had intimately worked with, but it also made me confront my own existence and legacy.
Although I had worked one-on-one with her for over a year, seeing her at her home and meeting most of her family and pets, one way that I continued to connect with her over the years was via her personal blog.
She blogged purely as a way to express herself. It was a lighthearted narrative of her life. At times it was one paragraph, other times it was jam packed with hilariously conveyed mundane details of daily activities. Other times it was a random recipe she had found.
Each post was peppered with random, less-than-perfect Instagram caliber pictures so much so that oftentimes she had in-depth descriptions of them — because upon looking at them, one couldn’t tell exactly what they were.
During the last days of her life, her daughters took over her blog and continued to write.
How incredible it was that they had all those words. They had years of content to read back over their mother’s thoughts and feelings. How powerful it was that they had been able to continue to use that same medium as a way to connect and share in their mother’s chosen vehicle of self expression.
What exactly does this have to do with podcasting?
Exactly 13 years ago, at the end of July 2006, I launched my very first podcast, Elsie’s Yoga Class. Since then, I have created hundreds of audio available via podcasts that I have produced as well as hundreds of audio of podcasts that I’ve been on as a guest.
As I sat with my own mortality I listened to a few episodes that I published and guested on in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I was blown away by getting to know this woman again.
She was so light, hopeful and energetic. I felt like I didn’t quite know her.
So much can happen in a decade, especially after you create two human beings and move from a place of individuality and freedom to attachment and responsibility.
I am so glad that these beings that I created have a choice in getting to know her.
The one that they know as “Mama” is not quite as light, joyful and energetic. Dare I say that at times she might be the complete opposite of that? Blame it on sleep deprivation.
But they get the gift of getting to know her if they choose to. They can hear the words that she used, the delight in her laugh, the passion for yogic philosophy and her effervescent nature as she discovered what would be her work, this podcasting thing.
I’m speaking about this woman in third person because as much as she is me and the core of who I am was present back then as well, she truly is of another life. I would have never been able to describe her to my children as well as she can, in her own voice.
They have the option to experience their mother, before she was a Mom from the nuance and complexity present in her physical voice, her inflections and her laugh. These are things that can be described and written about, but can never truly be explained in the way hearing them can. So much is conveyed through our physical voices as monologue and dialogue, particularly through the mostly unscripted, spontaneous world of podcasting.
I had the opportunity to have many mentors early on as I began to delve into creating audio and felt an insane amount of support and freedom to press record and publish. When I started, it was the world of just do it! There were very few ‘musts’ and ‘have to’s.
In this process of creation, of capturing my own voice, I slowly began to not only refine and transform myself but evolve into the woman that I am now. Podcasting became the tool I needed to draw out more from myself, and in doing so, facilitated a profession in podcasting as well as a personal mode of succession that my girls will be able to immerse themselves into — and get to know their mother in her own voice, in conversation.
Throughout these past 13 years creating podcasts, none of my shows come close to being massive hits like the now infamous Serial, Dirty John or Dr. Death. Their appeal is to a choice few, and their production value compared to the bourgeoning corporate podcasting companies is, well, lacking.
I started recording my shows using an iRiver IFP–799 and a Sony Lavalier microphone that was the size of a large beetle. I couldn’t figure out how to level my audio until I was up to about episode 50 of my first podcast, not because I didn’t know that there was something slightly off, but because I had no idea what terms to even search for. Even if I would have known, I didn’t have the basic know-how implementing the solution.
Regardless of my lack of prowess in recording, editing and post production I got myself a priceless archive of audio records that my daughters and their descendants can refer back to and get a sense of the woman that I was in my 30s in transition into my 40s.
As they listen, they get to zero in on those things that most resonate, delight and inspire them as there is no full threaded story, or hours of edited audio that has been sifted down to the perfect sound bite or clean script. The audio is their mother, teaching, laughing, learning and living in conversation.
Podcasting has been around for a little over a decade now, and my hope is that as it becomes a more mainstream media platform it continues to become an outlet for the everyday human that chooses to get behind the mic, with no more than a desire to express themselves regardless of professional success, for in the act of podcasting we can capture our legacies. May we recognize that gift and responsibility.
Podcasting mentor and advocate Elsie Escobar specializes in podcast strategy and development. She works at Libsyn, co-hosting The Feed, the official Libsyn podcast. Elsie is a co-founder of She Podcasts, created to “support and nurture as many female-lead podcasts as possible.” Her instructional yoga podcast, Elsie’s Yoga Class, has been downloaded over 4 million times! She writes about the impact of podcasting on society, culture, and everyday life through a global lens.