Today’s episode is an introduction to this audio project (not yet a podcast). Hosts Karen Hawkins and Katie Morell discuss their mission to uncover real conversations about how people are faring during this pandemic and their big plans to bring Michelle Obama into the project.
Find the episode on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Stream the entire episode here or read the transcript.
Katie: Of course I’m Not OK. This is an audio project, not a podcast.
Karen: We’re not calling it a podcast.
Katie: No, we’re . . . yet, maybe someday, but at this moment it’s an audio project.
Karen: It’s an audio project and we live in different places. So we should start. All right, I’ll let you start again with the, with the introduction. Who are we? Who are you listening to?
Katie: Who are we? My name is Katie Morell and I am a writer journalist and just all around creative person. I live in Sausalito, California. And, let’s see, I’ve lived here for a very, very long time, but I used to live in Chicago, which is how we got to know each other originally. Um, and then we started working together. So that’s me. I worked for myself as a freelancer and I have a dog named Lucy and a husband named Tyler. And that’s my little spiel.
So my name is Katie.
Karen: That’s great. Thank you. And I’m Karen Hawkins. I am cofounder, not, OMG. I don’t even know what, I don’t even know who I am today. OK.
Katie: That is OK. Because of course I’m not OK.
Karen: Of course I’m not OK . . .
Katie: Because that’s the truth. Let’s be honest.
Karen: What a brain scramble. Wow. I can’t even introduce myself today. Hello, I’m Karen Hawkins. I am the founder and rebelle in chief of Rebellious Magazine for Women, which is a feminist magazine based here in Chicago. And I am co editor in chief of the Chicago Reader, which is an alt- now biweekly. And I am juggling both of these jobs, which is why my brain doesn’t always work. And you and I met because you wrote a column for Rebellious called Body Love.
Katie: Yes. And also I want to validate your experience about having a jumbled brain, the fact that we are all living in, I would like to say that we are recording this podcast, not a podcast, audio project in month four of quarantine.
So for those listening, for context, we are, the jumbled brain is just kind of more normal than ever, I think. So yes, but to your point, Karen, about how we met, and we worked together, it was a few years ago and yes, I was writing a column called Body Love for Rebellious Magazine. And that column went on for maybe a year, year and a half. And it was all about body acceptance. And I just fell in love with working with you. And then we ended up becoming actual friends, which was a beautiful by-product.
Karen: You know, I loved that and we worked together really closely on the column. And then we did the event, Body Love Live, which I can’t believe was almost three years ago. And I feel like in the process of planning that event long distance, we had these monthly phone calls with each other, and of course we ended up talking both about the event and about like everything that was going on in our lives.
And I just really came to count on that talk with you about like, I’m just going to unload. I have a weekly therapist, but I’m also going to like, have this therapy session with you where we talk about all of these random things and we’ve kept it going. I feel like we’ve done pretty well. Actually. I have to say over this wacky, this insane three-year period of staying in touch, like almost every month, I feel like,.
Katie: I mean, it’s, it’s something that I cherish, honestly, like it’s, it’s something that, I mean, I have other editors that, you know, I I’ve, I’m, I’m kind of acquaintances with, but no one that I’ve ever like crossed over to being actual, just personal friends where I’m like, Oh, that’s right. We work together. It’s like, that’s not even paramount anymore. Like it’s just the friendship, which is something that, like you say, I rely on too. I have therapy and I love therapy and I will be in therapy forever. But that is like our, our sessions, our sessions. That’s funny, our conversation. Wwell that was a flub. That was actually real. And so, yeah, but anyway, I just love them and I love you. And I’m just so glad we’re doing this.[musical break]
Katie: So let’s talk about why we’re here. So this, Of Course I’m Not OK: An Audio Project really started because of our, you know, monthly check-ins and we realized that, you know, in this time we’re just, we’re really not OK. And the people around us are not OK. And I think for me, the thing that’s been really interesting is yes, you and I have a close friendship and, you know, I think it’s kind of at this point, understood that like we’ll actually tell each other how we really are. But it’s more interesting to me also that I’m on these Zoom calls with people that I don’t actually know very well, and there are people that, you know, those rote conversations of, “How are you doing? I’m fine. How are you doing?” are totally changing, it seems. And I’m actually hearing people’s vulnerable realities and some days they’re actually, they actually are OK, and I, I love hearing that too, but I think that good or bad, positive or negative, I’m actually hearing the truth and I’m not hearing a lot of the truth in media. And so that’s kind of why I feel like we both were kind of excited about this project.
Karen: Yes, exactly. And I feel like I also am finding people being more honest about how they’re doing and just this coming from this baseline of like, OK, of course I’m not OK. But other than that, like, how am I? And yeah. And I feel like you, and I both share a passion for talking about, that sounds weird, a passion for talking about mental health, but it’s true, and about creating spaces for people to be able to talk about it. However they want to talk about it. However, they feel comfortable talking about it, meeting them where they are.
‘Cause I feel like you and I, of course are both willing to just like dive into the deep end of things. But you know, I get not everybody wants to do that all the time. So creating space for people to talk about their feelings, however, they feel comfortable talking about their feelings.
Katie: Exactly. And I think it’s also interesting. I feel like with this project, something that you and I both agree on is we really want to know more about what other writers are experiencing because that’s who we are. You know, we identify as writers and creatives and I’m, you know, I’m not hearing as much from people who are in similar positions as we are. And I think that’s what I’m really excited about with this podcast or this audio project.
Katie: And just really thinking about, you know, like what are they actually dealing with right now and how are they getting through this time? And having real authentic conversations. Like I think, you know, I’m not, I don’t, I don’t think either of us want to go down deep, dark depression, holes in these conversations, but I think, and there’s levity and there’s humor too, because my God, you have to laugh sometimes. But at the same time, I just want to have real conversations with these people. And I love the idea that you had early in this process talking about this, of these focus groups. Can you talk about that a little? Cause I feel like that’s so exciting.
Karen: Yes, so thank you for the prompt for that, one of the reasons this is not a podcast is that we don’t really know what this is going to be yet. Right? Like it’s you and I, yes, of course talking about these issues and talking to other creatives about these issues, but what does that look like? And so the idea was that, OK, well we’ll do focus groups with our target audience kind of other creatives and see what they want the podcast to be. And that’s what the podcast will be. And in the meantime, we’ll record the conversations, and that’s the audio project. It’s very meta. We’re writers, it’s what we do.
Katie: Yes. Yes. Oh, I love it so, so, so much. Like, and it also, it hits on exactly what people actually want to talk about versus us prescribing like, Hey, this is, this is the topic of the day. And I think it’s also important to note that these conversations won’t be two or three hours long. Like these are going to be 20 to 30 minutes, nice and tight. And so like, we’re going to dive straight in and that’s, I mean, there are a few podcasts that I’ll listen to for that long, but I mean really like, I just, I don’t think a lot of people have the patience at the moment to talk about a certain topic for too long.
So I feel like 20, 30 minutes, it’s a digestible little bite of reality.
Karen: Precisely. And you can jump in and out of it and not feel like, Oh no, I have go back 15 minutes because what are they even talking about now? Yeah. I feel like it’s perfect and I’m excited. And I feel like we made this list of who we wanted to talk to. How we landed on writers and creatives. It’s not only that’s because who we are, but when we made the list of people we wanted to talk to, they were all writers and creatives. Um, including, I think Michelle Obama is on your list.
Katie: So, uh, yeah, she was his number one. So, um, I mean really, like I loved your comment when I mentioned her that you were just so nonchalant and just saying like, well, I mean, it’s good idea to just have the lowest hanging fruit. And since then, since I have Michelle’s cell phone number, I don’t have Michelle’s cell phone number. Um, but you know, you can dream.
Karen: Yeah. It’s just somebody you could just text real quick, like Oh, great. Yeah. Let me just like, get her on here. Let me just have her join this Zoom call.
Katie: You never know. We’ll see. I mean, there, there are other people also who are just as important who we are very excited to talk to.
Karen: I know, right? Everybody was on after this is like, Oh, I guess you I’m on. Cause you couldn’t get Michelle Obama.
Katie: Exactly, exactly. Which is kinda true.
But yes, I feel like our goal in this entire project is just to make it OK to talk about not being OK. And if people are OK, that’s great too. And let’s talk about that, but I think it’s, I think what we’re really excited about is just this idea of exposing emotions and feelings and experiences that people just aren’t talking about that much. And I think we’re all just so isolated, physically, mentally, emotionally, and that’s the idea is to kind of open that up and let’s just be real and have fun. I mean, that’s really the idea.
Karen: Exactly. And I will add to that to have fun, to find out how other people are coping, and to also not judge people who are like, I’m a creative, but I haven’t created anything.
Karen: I feel like initially there was this weird thing that Americans do like, oh fantastic, we have to quarantine, we have to be home alone, we can be so productive. Like, who are you people? This notion that like, if you’re a creative quarantining during a global pandemic, somehow you’re going to have like all of this time to create all of these wonderful things. When I think really we’re just all trying to get through every day.[musical break]
Katie: Yes. I feel like just being honest about that is really important. And I think it’s also, I’m also excited to talk about, to talk to people and get a takeaway in terms of, you know, sharing their best moment of the week or what they’re grateful for and really kind of ending on a high note so that all the listeners can kind of feel a little bit lighter after they hear this feel like they’re not as alone in their own feelings.
Karen: Absolutely. And that has always been one of the goals of Rebellious is to, if one person can read or digest something from Rebellious and feel less alone, even if it’s just for a few minutes, that has always been something I’ve strived for.
Katie: Let’s finish up by just talking about our best moment of this week or what we’re grateful for. Do you want to go first?
Karen: Ooh no.
Katie: OK, I’ll go first.
Karen: OK, great.
Katie: OK. So I have a tendency to just need to be silly and cheer myself up. And it’s often is doesn’t work, but,this morning I went for a run and I came home and one of the songs that I heard on my run was Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte. So if you’re not familiar, it is basically the theme song of Beetlejuice. If we want to date ourselves back to like the ’80s.
Katie: The ’80s. Anyhow. So I decided to I’m super sweaty and gross get into my favorite costume. I love costumes and I, my favorite costume is a blowup Tyrannosaurus Rex and, and my dog is never impressed when I’m in this costume. I don’t know why I own this costume. It’s just for fun. Anyway, I danced for a minute and I posted that video on my Instagram. You can find it and just look at my name, but, it’s, if you’re really interested, anyway, that was the best moment of my week because I was laughing inside of that costume and it lasted for one minute and that’s OK. And this also is really fun actually, I have to say, yes.
Karen: I agree. Also, this is also a highlight of my week. Thank you. And I, you know, I turned a different age. I had another, I marked another spin around the sun this week on Sunday. It was my birthday and I’m not going to say the number, but I love birthdays. I’m kind of a diva about them. And I got to spend it with my partner Samantha and with really good friends of ours. And I had birthday breakfast cheesecake, which I highly recommend to everyone.
Katie: Oh gosh. Yes.
Karen: And yeah, and I mean, it’s just this, especially now as we’re all quarantined, being able to get messages from so many different people from so many different parts of my life, was great. So I’m older. Not wiser, but older.
Katie: That’s so beautiful. I also love that you love birthdays. I feel like a lot of people get really down, which is understandable and that’s valid too, but I love that you’re just like, hell yes. Bring this on.
Katie: Also birthday cheesecake. I do need the recipe for that, because that sounds amazing.
Karen: It was so good.
Katie: Wow. That’s incredible. All right. Well, so here we are. Of Course I’m Not OK, colon, An Audio Project. This is kicking it off. I am so excited. Stay tuned.
Karen: Stay tuned. Thanks.
Katie: Yes. Thanks for listening. Bye bye.