Five Things

What happens when a hard-nosed journalist gets a chance to step back and listen to the world? When she starts to encourage others to put down their phone sometimes, to embrace boredom and get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable?

Manoush Zomorodi is the host of Note to Self, a podcast from WNYC Studios, and the author of “Bored and Brilliant,” a book about the good things that can happen when you allow yourself to be bored — a state of mind that most of us can easily avoid these days, with the tiny computer in our pocket. I’m a regular listener to her podcast, because I’m interested in how technology enables us to do innovative work (hello, this very program), and at the same time I wonder about what we’re giving up with all this connectivity.

I got to connect with Manoush when she was in town a few weeks ago to speak at the Leadership Louisville Summit, and we talked about some of the things that really make her who she is, including the analog watch that she wears every day.

On navigating American life with parents who were not born in the U.S.:
“I’m sure anybody who’s the child of immigrants can relate: your parents are kind of like, ‘Well, I don’t know how things work here, so you figure it out.’ I remember the first day of first grade, when you had to bring your lunch to school for the first time, and my mom had to ask the neighbor what American kids bring to lunch. My parents packed, like, 20 Ziploc bags full of snacks and you could barely close the lunchbox.”

On why she still wears a watch, even though she can get the time on her phone:
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone, and I love that it can do so many things. But I think that’s part of the problem, in that I’m a glutton — if I’m going to look at my phone, I don’t want to just know the time, I want to know the weather, and the headlines, and if someone emailed me, and if I got any mentions on Twitter, how many steps did I walk today. I want all the information, and so for someone like me, a thing that only has one purpose is really great.”

On her difficult transition to motherhood:
“I’m pretty tough on the effects of social media and technology on our lives, but honestly in 2007 — and I like to say that my son and the iPhone were born three weeks apart — but I think social media would have been really great for me. I felt super alone and I didn’t know that other people had babies that were this tough, and I didn’t realize that the fatigue that I felt and the sheer exhaustion, that anybody else was going through it. Most of the other moms were like, ‘Isn’t it amazing?'”

Tara Anderson is the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the objects that tell our stories.