It’s less than ten minutes long, and works on two levels for me: in it, Tan (above, photo from millennialpodcast.org) is talking about the sense of paralysis she experienced after graduating from college, but by doing so she is also simultaneously taking steps to move away from that feeling. The episode represents her first attempt to escape the quintessential millennial condition of career ennui. Just by talking into the microphone, she is doing something.
I was a big fan of Millennial, which ran from 2015 to 2017 (Tan eventually brought the podcast to a close in August of last year because she felt that its focus on her personal story became untenable). She developed her command of audio craft substantially through the series, so this first episode is far from her most sophisticated work. Yet I like it best, and return to it time and time again.
Its lack of polish is beguiling, because it is full of potential as yet only partly realised. There’s something hesitant in the way she switches out from first person narration into little bits of other recordings: from her own graduation, from news programmes, from interviews. She’s still learning the grammar of this format even as she’s using it.
Apart from Tan’s, the voice that stays with me from this episode is that of her boyfriend’s father Chuck. About half way through, she plays the tape of how he responds when she explains her idea for the podcast. “Great idea,” he says. “So has one of these been on yet? What the hell’s the hold up?” She sounds embarrassed, and moves on quickly, but for me that’s the defining question of the episode, and even the series. She has an idea, what’s the hold up?
Whenever I feel a bit stuck with something I’m writing or making, I come back to this question. What’s the hold up? Almost always, it’s me; something in my own head that’s stopping me forging ahead and just doing the thing. But once I’ve relistened to this episode and heard Chuck ask the question in his gruff dad voice, the obstacles I’ve invented begin to melt away. Megan Tan built her own career out of this podcast — she’s now working for some of the biggest names in audio — and it all started with the release of this ten-minute episode. It’s a good reminder that sometimes, you just have to get on with it.