I want my podcast to sound good. I bought a TASCAM DR-40 to record interviews as I was reading the manual and playing around with it, I noticed a disquieting hiss on the internal mics. I worried the Amazon-purchased recorder was maybe broken? I went out and purchased an external cheapo karaoke mic. The hiss was still there. I recorded my first 10 interviews this way because I figured this was just the deal. Fix it in Adobe Audition.

But as I was editing one interview done in a profession radio studio – the workplace of my interviewee – and realized how much better it sounded and how much easier the editing process was, I realized I had to fix whatever was wrong with my recorder.

I Googled “tascam dr 40 hiss.” I read one blog post on Transom.org about how the DR-40 will have hiss if using a cheapo, non-condensor mics. Of course! I thought. It doesn’t matter how expensive your recorder is. If your mic’s crappy your sound’s crappy!

I kept scrolling the article and saw a comment saying one dude noticed the his from his internal mics when he was listening directly off the recorder, but in editing, it was a clean sound. I tested it out and found my recorded audio from just the internal mics sounded fine when listening on the computer even if during it sounded quiet hissy.

Immediately I wanted to kick myself in the face. If I’d have read that article sooner, I would’ve had cleaner sound on those first interviews. I felt very very dumb.

And then I remembered Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters. His friend said it wasn’t very good. Van Gogh replied with a letter, in which he said many things, including: “I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it.”

I do not know how to record the best sound, conduct the best interviews, edit/mix the best tracks for an engaging podcast. But I’ll never know how if I don’t record sound now (no matter how shitty), conduct interviews now (no matter how incoherent), and edit/mix tracks now (no matter how awkward or unsatisfying the final cut). There are things I want to know how to do and the only way I can learn is by trying, failing, and doing.

I applied to an internship in San Francisco that would’ve taught me some of these skills. I got rejected. Disappointed at first, I realized I could spend more time editing the podcast and catching up with my family if I weren’t relocating to an SF internship. Also, there are more opportunities I can apply to. Because that’s what really bites about rejection like this. It feels like a missed opportunity. A door closes.

But as I think about it more, the disappearance of opportunities isn’t such a bad thing.

In December, I was approached about teaching in the prestigious Taipei American School. I applied. At this point, I was having doubts about teaching and wasn’t sure about staying in Taiwan. When I was rejected in January, I didn’t think twice about it. The door to teaching in private international schools remained closed, but it was a door I didn’t actually want to go through. Had it been opened, it probably would’ve heightened my anxiety. Teaching and continuing to live in Taiwan are not things I want right now. But given the opportunity, it would’ve been hard to say no to the prestige and pay raise.

When everything is available to you, it’s hard to realize what you really want. When doors are closing, you realize what you’re willing to stick your foot into and force your way through.

I know this podcast is something I want to do because through rejection and failure, I’m still pushing ahead. I’m trying to figure out how to be better. I’m doing what I can’t yet do in order to learn how to do it.

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