I wonder if NPR’s increasing fortunes are indelibly linked to the increasing duration of the average American commute? My drive from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol takes me about 12-16 minutes (compared to a 6-8 minute bike ride from Carrboro to Chapel Hill). Over the course of a week I usually listen to a single CD several times over—for the last few days it has been With the Tides, the latest album by the British band South.
This evening I was driving down to Petaluma (about 20 minutes away) and decided instead to turn on NPR, something I really haven’t been listening to since moving here. It may be that I OD’ed on This American Life during and just after the move, it may just be that I’m still rediscovering old enjoyments after the disruption of moving. I’m not sure which.
I do know that NPR has this uncanny ability to move me, especially when I happen to be listening to it on a whim. Tonight Terry Gross on Fresh Air was interviewing Kayla Williams, a military intelligence officer who served in Kuwait and Iraq for a year from 2003-2004. She has recently written book about the experience entitled, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army. After having heard Kayla talk, it may be the next book I pick up.
I haven’t yet listened to the full 38 minute interview (thankfully it’s all online, I love NPR), in fact during the drive I only managed to catch the last 10 minutes. But towards the end, Terry asked Kayla, “Why did you join the military?” and it turns out partly because Kayla had lost a job working for a company that provided services for PBS and NPR stations. And then she says this:
I had this feeling that I was on a path in my life where I’d not taken any risks. I had done what I knew I was good at: majored in lit which was something I was good at. I loved reading books. They gave me a degree for reading books–it almost felt like I was tricking them–to give me a college degree for doing something I loved so much. And then working for PBS, I was good at it, but it was easy for me. I hadn’t taken risks, I hadn’t taken chances and risked losing everything. And I really felt as if, if I stayed on the path I was on, I was going to wake up and be 40, with a minivan, a white picket fence, a husband, 2.5 children, a dog, no idea how I’d gotten there. I felt as if I had to break out of the rut I was digging for myself, and try something radically different.
I know this feeling.