I have spent entirely too much time mulling over how to go about this post. I’ve spent several weeks (months, at this point) thinking about how, why, what to say. Am I too close to the show itself to give an unbiased review? Yes. Am I too invested in the hosts’ personal lives? Yes. Am I too tired to write a cohesive post at the moment? You betcha. Can I get my head out of my own ass long enough to give you a well-written, deeply thought out review of this particular podcast? Nope, but I’m going to do what I do best: post an uncomfortably long personal tale of how two strangers effectively changed (saved?) my life while sprinkling in some details about how awesome the pod is.
I can remember the exact date and time that I began listening to Conspiring To Argue (July 16, 2017 at 10:36p.m. in case anybody is curious). I remember feeling, as soon as I hit play, that these two random dudes from one of the more relevant places in Iowa would become incredibly prominent in my life. Now, seeing that it’s been seven months of pure devotion on my part (amazing considering how short my attention span is), it’s as good a time as any to try to delve into why this podcast is so important to me.
I was not in a great place at the time. I was ten days shy of turning 21, which for most people is a great time. But, for me, I was just as miserable as I’d always been. I was listening to an episode of Hillbilly Horror Stories at the time, and they gave a shout out to this podcast. And I was like, “Okay, I’ve never actually listened to any podcast that anybody else has recommended…might as well try it out.” And so, I did. As fate would have it, they’d just posted an episode that day about a crazy ass house in Gary, Indiana. And I shit you not, I was in love. Here sat two guys arguing about whether things really are as simple as they appear, whether things really happen the way officials claim they did. Here sat two guys who reminded me of the me I used to be. The one who had an interest in digging deeper, in questioning the validity of things. The me who, at one point, could hold a similar conversation with a friend and find the humor in the drama, the light in the dark. It was not as simple as “Oh, these guys are fun and I like this podcast.” It was never just that simple. Like I said, this was a particularly dark time for me; I was battling disaster after disaster both internally and externally. I had effectively shut out all of the things that would require me to feel. Prior to this point, podcasts existed in my life in the same way music did – anything to fill the silence, give me some background noise, I would accept it. At this point in time, when Nic was still Nic and I didn’t know how poor JJ’s spelling could actually be, I was sleeping as little as possible and surviving on energy drinks & stale crackers. I was barely surviving. (It’s amazing how much can change in seven months, by the way).
God bless, am I just writing in circles here? I think I am. It’s fine. We all have a right to become overly emotional and nonsensical every now and then.
So, yes. I was immediately addicted to this podcast. Part of it is, like I said, how much it reminded me of me. But another part of it is just how unique it actually is. There are pods out there that will cover similar topics and have a similar premise, but CTA just has a different vibe. When you sit down and listen to it, you just know that Nic and JJ are having fun. You know that, regardless of the topic, they just genuinely enjoy each others’ company and genuinely enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing – both pretty important for a solid friendship, I’d say. You can listen to podcasts that are similar and maybe you’ll get that same vibe every now and then. But for Nic and JJ, it’s consistent. Every time you listen to a new episode, you can feel this sense of camaraderie that is really hard to gather from other similar shows.
Another thing that really had my attention was how interactive these guys were with their followers on Twitter. As most of you are well aware of now, I spend a vast majority of my time on Twitter (by vast majority, I mean 23/7 – the extra hour is for snacking). Facebook, IG, Snapchat, I’ll check those every now and then. But I am alwayyyys on Twitter. A lot of the podcasts I listened to at the time (and let’s be real, even now) are more likely to interact via Facebook. I simply do not like Facebook. So it was surprising to see these guys actually stay consistent and interact with followers on the social media platform I love most. It made things far more convenient for me, that’s for sure.
Once again, going back to how this time was a dark one for me – I knew that the things I happened to be feeling at the time were eating me alive. I knew that I couldn’t carry it all in my head. I’d became so invested in listening because it was a safe place for me. It wasn’t just background noise, not this time. Listening genuinely felt like being in the eye of a hurricane. You knew you weren’t out of the woods yet, but you had a few minutes to breathe and prepare yourself for the tail-end of the storm. When I was coming home from work, back into a place where I’d just be stuck in my own head with my own thoughts, it became a safe place to retreat to for a while – to get some rest before having to stand back up and face everything again.
I don’t really just open up to people and trust people, but that’s more or less exactly what I did when I really started talking to Nic and JJ. It was so easy to feel like I could tell them anything, because it really felt like I’d known them my whole life. (My mom jokingly refers to them now as the brothers I wish I had any time I talk about them. She’s not wrong). The more I listened, the more I opened up, the closer I felt. Nic and I have almost too much in common, and JJ is incredibly smart, even if he can’t spell. Sometimes talking to Nic is like talking to myself. Sometimes talking to JJ is so similar to conversations I had with my dad I have to pause for a moment. But I have never ever felt an ounce of shame or guilt from sharing with them the truth of how I feel or what I’m going through. That is unheard of in my life and I am truly grateful.
We are seven months down the road now, and I will stick to open honesty here: a lot of things have gone wrong in my personal life these past seven months. I’ve withheld a lot of secrets, lied about how I’ve been, pretended that I’ve just been dealing with everyday life when, in reality, I’ve been dealing with everyday life on top of some heavier, darker tasks and decisions that have really been draining. The past two months especially have been literal hell. I have said things I’ve regret, done things that I can’t undo, hidden things that just couldn’t stay in the dark forever. I thought I had to bust through some of these obstacles kicking and screaming. I thought I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders alone. Through all of this, Nic and JJ were there. Whether through listening to old episodes, silly hockey arguments, or the heavy stuff that I only ever seem to spill out when the sun goes down, they were here.
The main point of this post, other than to spill my guts & gratitude, is to remind each of you that what you do really matters. I go on these rants a lot on the promo Twitter account discussing why podcasts are so important – why you, as a host, are so important. It’s not just me kissing ass or whatever. It’s because for somebody out there, you are the eye of the storm, the light in the dark, the family they’ve searched their whole lives for. You are the best friend that somebody needs, the escape somebody reaches for, the peace in the warzone. As an adult, you know as well as I do that life is not kind. What you do matters to people like me. The next time you get discouraged when you see the stats, just remember that numbers are meaningless in comparison to changing someone’s life for the better.
Nic & JJ – I know I say it a lot, but thank you both for everything. Thank you both for helping me find my way back to me. Thank you both for sticking with me through all the dramatic bullshit. I know sometimes it seems like my life is more of a dramatic TV show than anything. Thank you both for helping me work through it. Thank you both for never doubting me, for always believing in me. Thank you for reminding me that love and friendship is something I deserve, too. Thank you for reminding me that there are things worth staying for. I could go on forever, but if you can imagine it, I’m thanking you for it. I love you both so dearly, and I will forever be grateful for your friendship.
For the rest of you – readers who are listeners and readers who are hosts – please do not ever forget that you matter. That what you do matters. Please do not ever forget that you are wanted and needed, that your kindness and friendliness is what can make all the difference in someone’s day or even life.
(Now that I am back from vacation, I have a new laptop, and my world is starting to level out a little, I’ll be far more active again. Soon, this post will be followed up with an actual real review of the show. But because I’ve seen so much unrest in the pod community lately, I felt now was a good time to share this. Thank you all for your interaction and support with us – we greatly appreciate it!)