WHAT IF? Podcast


I’ve always had a voice.

I just never thought anyone would want to listen. That’s why I became a good listener. I developed a curiosity about others. I wanted to know everything about them — what made them tick, why they did the things they did, where they aspire to be... I became good at pulling blood from stone. Some would refer to it as the ‘Kalinowski Inquisition.’ Others ‘nosiness.’ But somewhere along the way I just lost the need to know. I used to have to know. I was a pro social media stalker. I felt like knowing everything about everyone made me interesting. I had stories to tell. I could gossip and pass judgement or ‘fix someone.’ But it was all to avoid expressing myself. If I didn’t take an interest in others and have their stories to tell, who would I be?

Let’s rewind to the part where I said ‘story.’

Our entire life is based on a belief system. A story we tell ourselves. Who are we if we can’t fit the mould of our own story?

Life had a way of shoving me out of my story.

I had to begin asking myself WHAT IF? Moving into the unknown was scary. I had to keep asking myself why I kept basing my future off of the past when I didn’t want to keep repeating the past. Shouldn’t I be basing my future off of where it is I want to be? And why was it so hard to believe in the impossible or the unknown? They say the key is to believe it before you see it. Life kept demanding me to believe in something I couldn’t see.

I remember my Opa (grandpa) would sit my Dad down every night before dinner and tell him the same story — for 20 years. My Dad, who had learned German to speak with his in-laws, didn’t so much mind the repetition as it was good practice. It was a good story — on two occasions he had near-death experiences during the war. Once he was shot just above his heart, the bullet so fast it went straight through his body outside of his back. The other time, his head was burned from an explosion. He was on ‘St. Peter’s (heaven’s) doorstep’ when he heard someone say, ‘We’re not ready for you yet', twice.

Great stories. Except for the fact that my Opa had a full head of thick beautiful hair til the day he died. There was also no scar on his chest or back.

War is awful. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear and trauma it brings upon each person. But my Opa was not on the front. He was part of the German airforce based in Finland. He was not in the thick of Stalingrad or elsewhere. And for a boy whose mother would drag him to school in a sleigh during the cold winter months so that he wouldn’t get cold feet from the shoes he’d outgrown because they couldn’t afford new ones — war no matter what the circumstance, must have been horrific. But there was no evidence to corroborate the story he so expertly told. And he so expertly told it because it became his reality. There is no doubt in my mind that for twenty years he told a story he believed to be true.

Imagine coming home from the war unscathed only to hear everyone else tell horrific stories of being a prisoner of war and having to twist your own toes off to avoid gangrene. And you have nothing. So you begin to imagine things. You tell one person a little snippet of what you’ve made up and they react in a way that makes you want to tell more. And by the time you’ve embellished and perfected the story on hundreds of occasions and feel the rush and empowerment from the way people see you, you start to confuse what’s real and what isn’t.

So I began to think: If someone could completely retell their past and believe it to be true (even though reality was staring them in the face), why can’t we believe in the impossible?

What If?

What if we retold our life story too? What if the people who hurt us were helping us? What if me not getting into the college I wanted was the best thing for me? What if I could find the blessing in my pain? What if I could forgive? What if I saw everyone as good and doing the best they could?

This podcast is about exploring those stories, those moments that define us, and deciding whether or not these are the stories we want to stick to. Or, if we should begin to redesign our future. What if we stepped out of the box we are putting ourselves in? What if I had something to say?

The cover for the podcast came to me by accident. I had had a design in mind. I would hire someone to take photos of me and show my bare back as a symbol of asking for support since I was asking show guests to be vulnerable. Other shots would be of me make-up free and raw against a black backdrop to symbolise how I’m coming out of my own shadow.

But then, my flatmate changed my computer screen to a naked rugby player leaping in the air as a joke.

And I thought, why am I spending money on a photoshoot for my own vanity project when she has the skills to photoshop me taking a leap of faith into the unknown? What if is about action. It’s a movement. So I jumped around in our garden while she snapped photos of me on her iPhone.

And she summed up my journey in one photo. I’ve left the old me and I’m not yet where I’m meant to be. But if I fall, there’s water (representing the subconscious) to catch me. The ripped jeans, they show my struggle. The Frida headband is a symbol of individuality and expression. My closed fist shows I’m done with my past, I’ve let it teach me, but my open hand welcomes the new. My body — I have so much love for the body that has had the strength to handle everything. Thank you Sophie for bringing this to life.