My husband and I switched home offices in October 2020 and I took that as an opportunity to redecorate the space that would become SGS Workshop’s new headquarters. I had a fresh, blank wall that was screaming for some kind of art and I had the seed of an idea for what I wanted to put there.
But first, let me back up.
Just a few months before doing that home office shuffle, my dear friend, former coworker, and current Marketing & Mocktails co-host, Katie Morell made a big announcement in her newsletter (Rainbows and Shitpiles).
She wrote, “Just this week, my friend Karen Hawkins and I launched something called ‘Of Course I’m Not Ok: An Audio Project.’”
I was so excited about this! I LOVE IT when people start new projects, go for something they are passionate about, and put themselves out there. I mean, I basically built my business around people doing that very thing.
In her newsletter, Katie went on to say, “Yes, it’s a podcast, but we aren’t calling it that because it is rough. And we are new. And it isn’t polished. And we are both afraid to jump into the polished pool of podcasters.”
As Karen said when I spoke with them recently, “Who were we to start a podcast?”
But fear or uncertainty didn’t stop them.
They were afraid…and they did it anyway.
Being creative, as they talk about on the podcast, has incredible mental health benefits—something they both experienced from building this podcast. As Katie put it, “I desperately needed something like this for my mental health back in July of 2020.”
And Karen confirmed, “I really enjoy the process and the product of it. This has absolutely been a big boost for me.”
If you haven’t attended a Marketing & Mocktails meet-up yet, Katie Morell is my amazing co-host and conversation facilitator. In addition to being a podcaster and professional journalist, Katie is also a writer, writing coach, workshop facilitator, content consultant, creator, mental health advocate, and the host of incredible writing workshops focused on Joy & Vulnerability (cue the funny hats and dancing breaks).
Katie and Karen have been friends for a long time. Katie explained, “The idea [for the podcast] came organically from our natural friendship, from conversations we were having monthly for several years. Karen brilliantly kept saying, ‘these should be podcasts.’ And those conversations are actually consistent with what’s on the podcast now.”
Karen added, “Sometimes we forget other people are listening.” Which, I’ll say, is what makes it oh so good.
An award-winning reporter, editor, and entrepreneur, Karen is co-publisher and co-editor in chief at the Chicago Reader, the founder and Rebelle in Chief at Rebellious Magazine, and a frequent and enthusiastic speaker on diversity equity and inclusion (DEI), feminism, mental health and creativity, and LGBTQ+ issues.
Of Course I’m Not Ok quickly became the perfect name for their creative endeavor. The name instantly evokes honesty (perhaps brutal honesty and TMI), humor, emotion, and vulnerability—all things they offer up each week. For example, Episode 2 dives into Rage—how hard it can be to express anger and how some things explode into full-blown rage (let’s just say there was a gummy bear incident).
The Of Course I’m Not Ok description on Apple Podcasts and Spotify reads: Hosted by Karen Hawkins and Katie Morell, writers & longtime friends, this podcast explores mental health, creativity, & coping with quarantine. The goal: to help people feel less alone, share stories, & create connection.
Katie and Karen explained (with third co-host Flopsy, Karen’s cat, in seeming agreement), “A lot of the ethos of the podcast is to talk about how creativity manifests in people’s lives and how that helps with mental health, how we can sustain that in a pandemic, and hearing about people’s struggles.”
I asked them (thinking of those of you who might be interested in starting a podcast of your own) how they got going.
Karen explained, “We downloaded Anchor first…I’m not sure who found it though.”
“You did,” Katie interjected.
“But you mastered it,” Karen confirmed. “After I saw it, I felt like ‘we can do this,’ it’s super easy. And Anchor’s marketing was genius—it was like three steps and you’re done.”
“And it was true,” said Katie. “I couldn’t believe it. Honestly a third grader could do it. So yes, Anchor was our first step. One other thing though was Karen. She thinks of things and then she does them. Every time. It’s a thing. You need a friend like THAT.” Sidenote: in addition to their podcast, Karen also launched the Feminist Erotica podcast at the same time.
I was thrilled to see on October 26, 2020, with one full season under their belt, that Karen and Katie continued forward with Season 2, dropped the “Audio Project” label, and embraced their status as a full-fledged podcast. Through the coming weeks they discussed Self-Care, Sanity Saving Tips for Winter (with writer and editor Kate Silver), The Power of Rituals (Even in Quarantine), and Bringing Back the Mental Health Day.
One of my favorite episodes was an interview with Tamara Lefcowitz and Randi Pearson on their activism using a Bat Light (yes, you read that right…tune in and learn more about these brave women). Journalists at heart, Katie and Karen are amazing interviewers, conversationalists, and clearly great friends. It’s a joy to be “part” of these weekly conversations (because that’s how listening feels).
In Season 3 they kept me going (and got me literally chiming in out loud) with conversations about Embracing Boredom, Comparison: The Joy Thief (creatives…you will love this one!), and their two-time guest Dr. Tania Isreal with an UNFORGETTABLE intersectionality cover of the SchoolHouse Rock song “Interjections!” I was still humming it days later.
Season 4 came in hot on April 29th, 2021 with “Katie and Karen’s therapy session” and they have NOT STOPPED. I screamed like a Beatles fan this week when Katie mentioned my name in their latest episode, Coffee Talk & Intuition.
And now, that it’s been a full year since that very first episode, they are hosting their first-ever LIVE RECORDING SESSION—A BIRTHDAY PARTY fundraiser that we can all attend!
But what in the the world does Of Course I’m Not Ok, the podcast, have to do with that blank space in my new home headquarters?
Here is a photo of my idea seed all grown up and hung on the wall (thanks to Jessica Langley at Langley Metal Works, photo by Kim Thompson Steel).
My metal sign says, It’s going to be ok. And, I believe that. Through all of life’s challenges, it’s the one piece of wisdom that’s risen to the top and infuses all my work. John Lennon said it well, “In the end, it will be ok. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
After my conversation with Karen and Katie, I got to thinking. If I believe that it’s going to be ok, then HOW can I be such a devout listener, eagerly awaiting Monday morning for the next episode to drop of a podcast that’s called, Of Course I’m NOT Ok?
Resilience—the belief that “it’s going to be ok”—is not an instant feeling. Resilience is a place you arrive.
When I’ve been faced with a major life challenge—health crisis, loss, failure, disappointment—I’m not instantly strong and optimistic. The first part of any challenge is painful, often full of fear, anger, anguish, even despair. And, I believe that’s the beginning of the road to resilience. It’s a rocky, pot-holed, unpaved, ugly road with no beautiful vistas in sight. It’s the part where the doctor says “likely malignant.” Or when you’re still waiting for test results. It might be when another past due bill comes in the mail, or has been sent to the collection agency. Maybe it’s the door slamming in your face, a big no, or an unexpected good-bye. Or maybe it’s an unknown number of months ahead, staying at home during a pandemic lock-down.
No matter how seasoned or strong or RESILIENT I’ve been before, at the beginning of a new challenge…OF COURSE I’M NOT OK. When things get hard, in the beginning, I am raw and vulnerable. My mental health might be wobbly, my emotions all over the place.
And, when in that tough place, the things that help are humor, friendship, and creativity. I believe, the more I embrace and accept that feeling of I’m NOT ok—in the way that Karen and Katie model, talk about, make space for, the closer I can get—the further down the road I go—towards resilience…the knowing and believing that it’s going to be ok.
I hope you’ll join me each week and listen in to two friends and badass women, Karen and Katie, as they explore creativity and the messy, vulnerable, emotional parts of life with humor and friendship.
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the Of Course I’m Not Ok ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY Show. I’ve never attended a live podcast recording before—have you? I can’t wait.
And I hope this reminder, this explanation—it’s ok to NOT be ok before you’re able to believe it WILL BE ok—helps you wherever you are today on the journey of creativity, business, and life.
Karen Hawkins and Katie Morell recording Of Course I’m Not Ok, the podcast. Guest appearance by Flopsy the cat.