Podcast “This is Love” puts a curious and modern spin on true love, heartbreak, and everything in between

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“How to be alone, how to live forever, how to wait, how to worry, and yes, how to love.” 

In its very own words, this is Criminal’s podcast “This is Love.” Hosted and co-created by Phoebe Judge, the show delves into, basically, the parts of life that everyone thinks about, but no one wants to talk about. 

Possibly the best part about the show, though, is the way in which they talk about, demonstrate, and teach lessons of love. Their episodes push against the walls of normalism, of conformity. Stories like “How to be Alone” explore the beauty and strength needed to make a life, a wonderful life, literally all by yourself. Explorations of foreign places in “The Ugly Club,” tells about a town where the traditional values of what it means to be beautiful are replaced with an appreciation for uniqueness.

Here, love isn’t just talked about like something flawless, or perfect, or clean—because that’s not how real, raw love is. “Real-life” love is complicated. It is stretched too thin or not stretched thin enough. It is a too-long swim in the ocean to save a baby whale (“Something large and wild”). It is not liking cats but living with them anyway (“Sylvia and the cats”). It is music centered around silence in a town that is filled with noise (“The town that stayed quiet”). It is not always clean or without struggle. It is sometimes tested by the walls of racism and sexism (“Always tomorrow”). It is not a straight line, and nor should it be (“The run”). 

By traveling to various parts of the world—New York, Laos, Colorado, and Italy (three times)—and interviewing all kinds of people, Phoebe and “This is Love” aim to paint a larger, more holistic picture of the world and all of the life that resides within it. In a culture that loves to glaze over the less glamorous parts of life, these stories are a window to our souls. So often, we only hear, or tell, the end result. A husband and wife speak of their marriage, but they fail to mention the tireless years of hard work that was needed to get them there. A college graduate displays their diploma and tells of their four years of growth yet skips over the months when all they did was study—before they had a solid group of friends or a concrete idea of what they wanted to pursue. By portraying not only the happy endings, but the not-so-happy ones too, “This is Life” has the power to be relatable, yet encouraging at the same time. 

The act of listening to their stories about struggle that ended in greatness has the ability to inspire, lift, and encourage. But also, hearing stories about struggle that, in the end, did not have a traditionally “desirable” outcome is encouraging as well because they show that even when things don’t turn out all right, the people who experienced them do. 

With three seasons already released and a fourth one to come this spring, “This is Love” is a podcast for everyone. In their commitment to “investigating life’s most persistent mystery,” the show sheds light on the things that we don’t normally think of as love. They manage to find it in the most unexpected places and show how, even when we are unaware of it, our very existence feeds on the love that seeps into daily life in all sorts of ways.