Saturday, October 27, 2012

Looking Back

Yesterday I was on the radio. This in itself is not a big deal — for seven or eight years (the mythology in my mind mixes with the reality, I can't be sure of facts anymore) I hosted a radio show on our city's local campus and community radio station. Every Friday afternoon, for two hours I would play my favourite music, talk about bands, and talk about whatever. I was young, the show was kind of silly, but the entire experience was more life-changing than I could ever communicate.

When I was a teenager, I didn't fit in at my small-town high school.  I didn't even live in the small town -- I lived in between the town and the city, I was in between being cool and being a nerd, there was no place for me. When I was about 16 I discovered the radio station and it's accompanying magazine, VOX, and felt like I had found my people. All of the kids (and back then the hosts were mostly actually university students or people in their very early 20s) seemed so fun, and smart, and just like the kind of people I wanted to hang out with. I would later discover that they were all of those things so much more.

My first year of university I couldn't join the radio station. I was too shy. My years of being an outsider coupled with my natural personality crippled me from going into the dingy little station and signing up as a volunteer. My friend Dave, who I had gone to high school with, was brave enough though, and after meeting a few radio station types at a party I went to with him, I mustered up the gumption to go volunteer. I also had wanted to be a music journalist since I was in elementary school (this is true -- in grade three I listed "writing for Rolling Stone" as what I wanted to be when I grew up). Things went slow at first -- I spend most of my time keeping to myself and transferring CDs from their jewel cases into plastic sleeves.

And then something happened. The training director, a girl a couple years older that was friendly but just as awkward as me, told me that she was going to train me to be on the radio. I told her I wasn't interested in being on-air, I just wanted to help out. She gently told me that was unacceptable and set me up with a DJ to mentor me. Through a weird series of events, within a couple months I had my own show during one of the most prime slots that the station had to offer. I was nervous, I knew a lot of people thought I didn't deserve the spot, but I persevered and created a music show that was popular and generally well-received. Eight years later (or so?) at the annual on-air funding drive I broke the station's record and made $10,000 in two hours.

So, what's the point? My experiences at CJSW and VOX changed me from a painfully shy girl who loved music into a still shy, but able to get over it woman who was able to pursue the kind of work I wanted, talk to the people I wanted to talk to, and pretty much stop being afraid of what people thought about me. I made friends there that are still some of the dearest people in my life. So yesterday, when my friend Derek (who joined the station at the same time as me) asked me to help him with his funding drive show, I said yes.

And here's the really important part: I brought my seven-year-old daughter. And I told her that one of my fellow DJs from back in the day has a teenage daughter who now has a show of her own. And I told her that she could have a show of her own one day. Derek asked her if she wanted to be on air, but she said no, because she was too shy. Give her time.

She wants to write for Vogue when she grows up, by the way.