I’ve wanted to be a storyteller and an educator since childhood. When I was a little kid, I got my sister to gather all of our various stuffed animals together so they could act out The Hobbit according to my carefully done little kid script. As a teenager, you could find me in my Slayer t-shirt and riot gear boots helping my friends during lunch with their history studying, or talking about the deeper relevance of books until 2 in the morning.
I thought for the longest time that my calling was the highest level of academics—to hold down a professorial position at a good university. I worked hard to get a transfer to a “dream” college for the humanities as an undergraduate, and earned my BA in history at just such a place: the beautiful campus of Cornell University. Following that, I was driven enough to land a spot with a truly excellent advisor at the University of Texas at Austin for a Masters program after I graduated. What I came to realize more and more with each passing year, however, was that academia was not for me. In my naivete, I had ignored its laser-like focus on specialization and publishing. By my second year, the most rewarding part of my graduate school experience was easily my forays into history and literature classes with which I was unfamiliar– and my teaching assistantship. I ran discussion sections and graded essays for a large survey lecture course and I LOVED it. The other aspects of grad school (which were gradually supposed to assume more and more of my time) did not give me anywhere near the same level of fulfillment. I departed UT after finishing my Masters, intent on a career in teaching and free time to pursue whatever history and literature I chose.
I’m in my tenth year teaching public school and it has been the perfect job—every bit as fulfilling as I thought it would be. I’ve had some moments in that time that will be etched in my memory forever, in part I think because I have brought the same level of passion to telling the stories of our past and present as I have to reading them. Long ago, my best friend suggested a podcast to me with a historical theme, but I don’t think I really imagined anyone would be interested—not enough for me to grab the idea with both hands, so to speak. As a person with a lot of different interests and hobbies (and not yet a real appreciator of podcasting in general), it was easy to keep from investing a serious amount of thought in the idea.
As years went by, however, I heard it more often from people I liked and respected. “Dude, you should think about doing a podcast.” Then my wife got in on the act—she has always been the biggest believer in things about me that I don’t have the imagination or confidence to embrace. I had an easy objection: we can’t afford the equipment. I really try not to do anything if I can’t do it well/formulate a clear path to ‘victory,’ and I didn’t want to be that guy with the obviously rinky-dink podcast and terrible sound quality. I’ve heard some of those guys and even when their subject is interesting to me, bad sound quality can be tough to sit through. My wife suggested a Kickstarter campaign to raise the proper funds. I thought she was crazy. I didn’t even think I’d have many people even interested in a podcast of mine; I certainly didn’t imagine a world in which someone would pay to buy me recording equipment.
Boy, was I wrong.
Thanks to a wide and varied list of friends, loved ones, colleagues, and total strangers, we easily surpassed our funding goal and now I get to share my stories not just with students and small groups of friends, but with anyone in the world. It’s been wild already and I thank you for being a part of it, even if only for coming here and reading this far. I hope this podcast is something people can enjoy for a long time.