March 28, 2021

Ready, Set... Jog

Ready, Set... Jog

When I began podcasting there was one mantra that always stuck tightly at the back of my mind. It was: "try not to overthink anything. Just do it." I stuck with the mantra for as long as I could. Doling out episodes Sunday after Sunday – the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes the very bad with terrible audio. Yes, it was fulfilling to be able to damn all the odds and just keep ‘creating’ (or at least that was what it felt like) and keep working on that fabled 10,000 hours until I become a master Podcaster. So, each week, I'd be hyped to be on the microphone and talk about something – anything. I'd say stuff that I believed deeply and other stuff that I was just starting to believe, or stuff I heard someone else who I admired say or believed deeply. I was basically an echo chamber for my own ideas, ideals, and for those of the people around me whom I respected.

And not to say doing that did not serve its purpose because that would be dishonest. Doing that got me to record over seventy (70) plus episodes by myself and many more with guests and friends. One could say I was burning with creativity. Bringing out what I believed were novel ideas that were going to push my podcast to the echelon of glory. Honestly, looking back, I don't think I can recall one episode I put out where I wasn't hyped about what people who would listen would think. I was on a crusade to get believers. I knew that my thinking process was unique and that I had a way of looking at things, that was somewhat weird but in a good way, and it was exciting to find out if there were others like me.

And there were.

Maybe not exactly like me, but there were those who appreciated the way I saw things or vocalized my ideas. Those ones who were wont of saying: "hmm...Mifa, I never thought to look at it this way until I listened to you". And it felt good getting that sort of validation. It made me seek more of it. Thus, unsatisfied with just the regular Sunday to Sunday timetable, I started cooking up mid-week episodes, which I tagged “bonus episodes” and then I started toying with the idea of creating another podcast entirely with a different persona. The mid-week episodes soon became something more when the Covid-19 pandemic got into full gear. I created the "These Corona Times" series which was basically a 7-day series of me talking to people on how they dealt with life in the isolation bubble that the coronavirus had forced all of humanity into. In these times, I also started the “Pod Doctor” satirical series, which was a different podcast on its own, and in those few months, I must say that I felt on top of the world. I was soaring. I was, as it were, “…not overthinking and just doing it." Sticking to my mantra. Yay me!

But then right towards the end of 2020, something started to happen. I began to feel tired. Everything suddenly began to feel like a chore. Looking back, I recognize the truth that I had most likely burnt myself out, but in those moments, I simply believed that I had lost my zest and inspiration. I felt stumped. In a world with so much going on and so many things to discuss, I was lost for words. I couldn't push myself to record every Sunday like I used to, neither could I push myself to even write. I couldn't even attempt any sort of mid-week bonus episode rollout.

In fact, prior to my burnout phase, I had been a huge supporter of the podcast space in Nigeria; tweeting, retweeting, listening, and sharing podcasts from my peers and those I came across by happenstance. For as much as my doing that was my way of building social currency, it was also my way of trying to push a niche that was really at its infancy stage. I remember I would listen to podcasts like my life depended on it and give feedback to the creators. Yes, I was sure that most times, I was going to get a response of equal measure with respect to my own podcast but at the time, it felt genuinely all about support. That was until the burnout came in full force. Suddenly, my supposedly genuine support for other Podcasters and creators felt like a chore. If I could not create, it felt painful and demoralizing having to listen and encourage other creators that seemed like they could somehow still do it. I became irritant, content-wise, and began to drift apart from some of the creators I had already begun to build a rapport with. It is sad looking back and recalling that I would sometimes listen to a podcast with a scowl on my face and be so quick to discard the opinions of the creators without a moment to think or deliberate on it. Everything felt like a chore and all these stemmed from my supposed inability to "create".

Again, I must say in those moments, I just thought all I lacked was some inspiration. But in retrospect, what I lacked was the truth. In my bid to outrun "overthinking", I have gassed myself out into a plateau. In my bid to outdo "just doing it", my creative faculties had seemingly atrophied. I was stumped not because I lacked inspiration, but because I had been foolish enough to make a blind dash for my goals and my perceived finish line instead of learning to build momentum slowly but surely towards the beautiful journey.

It's been a couple of months now since my new podcast season began and at the start of it, I had mentioned that I planned not to have a specific schedule for this season. Indeed, for someone who had always espoused consistency, in some part of my psyche, saying that or affirming it, felt like I was choosing laziness over hard work. Furthermore, I also had to deal with the fact that for the longest time, on my crazy sprint, I had kept looking at others who I assumed were on a race with me and comparing statistics. So, even when I was being supportive back then, I was still being competitive because I wanted to ensure I never lost sight of my fellow creators in the peripheral. But that was a big mistake. Not only did doing that cause more harm than good to my mental health, but it also ensured that I soon ran out of my own track lines and stumbled into territories that I wasn't prepared for.

That being said, I am currently in my third season of the podcast and on my twenty-fourth episode. In the days of my episodic sprinting, I probably would have wrapped up season three by now and would be well on the way for season four. But fortunately, with the new year and the realization that my mental health was in steady decline, a forced pause was able to provide the much-needed clarity for me to see the needfulness of being able to pace myself. True to my words when the season was about to kick-off, I haven't stuck to any specific schedule. No more Sunday-to-Sunday episode releases. As a listener or supporter, all of whom I am eternally grateful for, you get a dose of the U and I Podcast whenever a new episode is out. Yes, it would make sense to build a sort of followership schedule where people know when to expect to hear from me, and honestly, I know this may work for some. However, it has not worked for me. Instead, I found I had created that supposed followership schedule based on the delusion that there was any sort of followership, to begin with. There isn't.

The U and I Podcast does have listeners, but these listeners also have lives they need to get to and deal with just like I do. Their schedules were never meant to revolve in any simple way around mine or that of my podcast, which is why it feels so much more wholesome when an episode drops out of thin air and there are still like 15 people who'd be willing to make out time out of their lives and schedules to listen and support. I still don't take any of that for granted and I am glad that after they do listen, just as I do too, they can go back to their lives and live it until the next episode comes along.

These days, very little has changed for me. I still don't have a vibrant social life. I am still single and almost always heartbroken. I still have bouts of sadness and depression sweep through my senses and cripple or sometimes inspire me to create content. However, the little that has changed has been the previously unhealthy need for me to sprint towards my goals as opposed to slowly (and "thinkingly", if I may add) building momentum towards the journey that is life, just so, I could, on some days, set up my microphone and record an episode just to tell someone out there listening about that one time in my life when I wrongly believed that the mantra "try not to overthink anything. Just do it." meant creative freedom.

Well, it doesn’t.