Photo by Spencer Whitfield
Between ages 29 and 30 were a turning point for producer and host Sarah Kyo. Find out why in the pilot episode of Initiate, where you’ll meet the host and learn more about this brand-new podcast.
Sarah Kyo: It's Friday night. The end of a busy work week. The start of a weekend full of possibilities.
As the sun meets the horizon, I leave my San Francisco Bay Area office. It’s about a 20-minute shuttle ride to the closest Caltrain station.
Before the next train arrives, I have plenty of time to kill. So, I go to a nearby store, where I buy some groceries. And candy. And a bottle of wine.
Like I said — it's been a really busy week.
My train arrives and then drops me off at my destination. I make the brief trek back to my place in the dark, with my backpack, purse, and reusable grocery bag.
There are so many different ways I could spend a Friday night, like go out for drinks, hang out with friends, or watch a movie. Instead, I'm in my room, sitting on my bed, eating leftover pasta with a glass of wine. And I call up my friend, Stepfanie, who’s also in her room, sitting on her bed, watching anime.
Stepfanie Aguilar: Yes, you may start recording now or before this. Yeah, so, we were talking about earlier a little bit about what’s been — what’s happened — like what led you to this podcast?
Sarah: This podcast is Initiate, and I'm your host, Sarah Kyo.
Initiate’s origin story dates back about a year ago when I took a five-week podcasting class in San Francisco. On our first day, we each took turns introducing ourselves. I made a mental checklist to answer each question to a T.
What do I do for a living? I’m a writer for an employee communications company.
What’s my original idea for a podcast? A non-fiction narrative about ... food. Yes, food. A totally different topic than the one I have now. But we can talk about that later.
How did I get interested in podcasting? It was all thanks to my first serious relationship. Let’s call him “Elliott.”
We were celebrating my 24th birthday. His red sedan took us north across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bay breeze blew through my long, black hair, as we traveled to the rolling hills of Marin County for an afternoon of exploring, taking photos, and kite-flying. And then to Sausalito for some dinner — Indian food, one of our favorites. To kill time during this drive, instead of music, “Elliott” played the podcast, This American Life. The theme of that week’s episode? Frenemies.
As a journalism student, I had learned a little bit about podcasting in a class. For an assignment, I even created some content and submitted an RSS feed to iTunes. But, I wasn’t really interested in podcasting until I heard this one.
It was my gateway drug. The key that unlocked this whole other world. I became a podcast convert, thanks to “Elliott.” And we’d listen to podcasts together the same way some people watch TV, waiting for the next episode the following week. Just one of our many hobbies.
“Elliott” and I had met in college at age 22. We were both shy, awkward introverts who developed a connection. Little did we know that we would spend the rest of our 20s together. And little did I know that I would spend so much time with both him and his family: coming over to their place (and often neglecting my own), game nights, movies, camping, and celebrations. So many inside jokes, photos, and shared memories amongst us all. Our lives were intertwined, and I always thought that they’d stay that way.
For some couples who meet in college, or even high school, they live happily ever after and grow old together. But for other couples, they gradually grow further and further apart. We just happened to be the latter.
I should have seen it coming, but for me, it was sudden and unexpected. One day, we were celebrating our anniversary — 7 times around the sun. And then the next week, I was suddenly alone. My first love was now my first heartbreak.
I cried countless amounts of times. Songs by Adele never made so much sense to me until that moment. And eating my feelings away with pints of Humphry Slocombe ice cream couldn’t fill the enormous hole that was left behind. Not only had I lost my partner — my best friend — but I had also lost my second family. I had spent so much time with them over the years, but it was over.
So, it was time for me to work on me: develop my own connections, maintain my own inner circle, pursue my own passions. I needed to create a stronger relationship with myself.
OK, so back to day 1 of my San Francisco podcasting class last year. So, how did I get interested in podcasting? My ex-boyfriend introduced me to it. It was one thing from the relationship that stuck.
I didn’t mention all of the other details to the class, but for whatever reason, I felt comfortable enough to share. Perhaps it was first-day jitters, or perhaps I felt like I was in a safe-enough space.
And during that class, I developed a podcast about empowering women at all stages of life. Initiate. That’s “initiate” like the noun, not the more common verb. Because I felt like a new member of a club: I’m no longer in my 20s, but I can use some guidance to navigate the next stage of life.
So in this first season, I’m connecting with women who have years of experience under their belts. Women who have had their own major life transitions that caused them to personally develop.
But in the long run, who knows? I’d like to imagine learning from all sorts of women, creating my own web of connections. And down the road, perhaps the tables will turn.
I’ve learned so much from different women around me, like the Facebook group that I joined last spring, WOC Podcasters. Women from that group inspired me to finally make Initiate a reality. Women like my friend and fellow group member Stepfanie, who lives all the way in Southern California and could have spent her Friday night doing a million other things. Instead, she took time to talk to me about my podcast.
Stepfanie: I think the most I felt connected was when you just said you felt alone and were just trying to rebuild that community because you had that community, and then it just kinda — it’s just gone. That was like one of the things that set you — that you thought you knew was, like, good on your path.
Sarah: At 29, I thought my path was all laid out in front of me. After all, I was the type of person who planned out my high school and college schedules. And today, I’m the type of person who likes to look up restaurant menus online before I visit the place. There’s comfort in knowing what to expect.
But sometimes, the unexpected just happens, catching you off-guard. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Except find a new way to a new beginning.
Initiate is produced and edited by me, your host, Sarah Kyo. Editorial and production assistance provided by Spencer Whitfield.
Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions.
Special thanks to Stepfanie Aguilar. She's a producer for Sabor y Salud, a podcast about intersectional health for and by women of color. Stepfanie is currently developing a brand-new podcast called Notes from a Sister, an audio zine with a medley of stories by womxn of color. If you want to find out more about Stepfanie’s podcasts, we have links in the show notes.
Speaking of links, you can learn more about Initiate and check out a full-episode transcript by visiting our website, www.initiatepodcast.com. Or, find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, @initiatepodcast. And, be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, The IN Crowd. Get initiated.
Coming up on next month’s episode, I fly to Michigan to meet my first guest, Gloria, for a walk to remember.