Of Course I'm Not OK: Taking BIG Leaps (with Artist Erinn M. Cox) [EPISODE 5]

of course I'm not OK

Our first guest joins us today!

Have you ever thought of leaving your job and/or moving to a new city/state/country? In today’s episode, Karen & Katie chat with the incredible Erinn M. Cox, someone who has done those things on a grand scale. After living in Chicago and wishing she could live and work as an artist in Europe, Erinn took the leap a few years ago and moved to Estonia for grad school. 

Now, several years later, she’s a well-known contemporary jewelry artist loving her life in Estonia, selling her art and working remotely as an art professor. Since taking her leap, she’s been featured in multiple exhibitions and international fashion magazines. 

In today’s episode, Erinn offers tons of advice for those looking to take leaps in their own lives – enjoy! And be sure to check out Erinn’s gorgeous jewelry on her website, and follow her on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Find this episode on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Stream the entire episode here or read the transcript below.

Keep in touch with co-hosts Karen Hawkins and Katie Morell on Twitter and Instagram.


Karen: Welcome!

Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Morell. I’m a creative and writer based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Karen: And I’m Karen Hawkins. I am the founder of Rebellious Magazine for women and co editor-in-chief of the Chicago Reader. You are listening to, “Of Course I’m Not OK: An Audio Project.”

Katie: Join us as we talk about mental health, coping with quarantine and what conversations we wish the world was having, and isn’t.

Karen: For some of our episodes, we’ll chat with writers and creatives to get their take. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Katie: All right, we’re recording. Hi, Karen, great to see you.

Karen: Hello, Katie. It’s great to see you.

Katie: Yes. Happy Friday or whatever day, whatever. That again.

Karen: Time is an illusion. It doesn’t really matter, but yes. Happy Friday.

Katie: Yes, it is so nice to see you. I love doing these little checkins. They’re so fun.

Karen: Agreed.

Katie: So, to dive right in, I know I don’t have any fight stories about melted butter this week. Sorry to say, wah wah.

Karen: No Subaru stories? So where are you right now?

Katie: I will say that there is a little story about the fact that I am recording this podcast in the backseat of my new Subaru. That’s real. So when we started this conversation before we hit record, I was about, let’s see about 40 feet away from the house where I’m staying. Now, the front of my car is in my friend’s garage. And then the rest of it is sticking out in their driveway because I want to make sure that I get their wifi. I mean, yeah, gotta do what I gotta do for an audio project, I guess.

Karen: Tell you what, I mean, this is a high-tech operation, and I just also want to remind people that we are recording this on Zoom. So I am looking at Katie. In the car. Right now.

Katie: You can see, it’s a pretty day. There’s sun shining through the windows. There’s a lot of natural light in this car. It’s a good, it’s a good look. Yeah.

Karen: Natural light?! I would hope a car would have a lot of natural light. Like that should be the one thing we can count on in life.

Katie: You’re right. You’re right, natural light in a car. And this might be my new thing. I mean, I will say that there’s an enormous amount of privacy. Like my dog isn’t barking. My husband isn’t around, like a kind of love that I could just like scream—not that I would scream in everyone’s ear—but, you know, I could, and it would be fine.

Karen: Maybe this is a tax write-off for you then, because this is a mobile office now. You’ve got like a, write-off-able situation happening in this new Subaru.

Katie: OK. I really like where you’re going with this, Karen, because seriously, that would be the largest tax write-off I’ve ever had. And so I really appreciate where your mind is at, because well, shit, I mean, because we’re already making money on this podcast. 28 cents, I think, is what we’ve made so far for our sponsors. Thank you, sponsors. We really appreciate it. We welcome more than 28 cents, but you know what, like that will definitely work for, for a home office. You know, this, this could be workable. I’m going to think about that.

Karen: I mean, keep in mind, you’re taking accounting advice from somebody who dropped their phone in the river. There’s also that.

Katie: That’s OK. All right. Well, these are all great ideas. Well, how was your weekend?

Karen: It’s been, uh, I’m not gonna lie, it’s been really stressful, which is why I’m so happy about these Friday check-ins. I won’t get into too much detail, just know, World, that I live in downtown Chicago and was up at four o’clock in the morning this Monday, filming people robbing the store across the street and eight squad cars coming and just living in fear of not only my building being burned down, but also the police doing something absolutely horrific out on the street. So I spent the first part of this week, um, as my friend Emily would say, ‘made of rage,’ just like native rage. Just angry at everyone all the time. And I’ve gone through every emotion imaginable since then. And I’m happy to be here now. And that’s what’s important.

Katie: Okay. So Karen, I’m so excited about today’s topic. So I feel like when we were thinking about this audio project, not yet a podcast, we had all kinds of ideas for different things, but a lot of things in terms of topics, but a lot of things have really surfaced because so much is happening with the pandemic. And so many people’s lives are being wildly disrupted. But one of the things that I’m hearing a lot is that people are thinking about, for lack of a better term, taking a leap in their life in terms of finance, in terms of professionally. So they’re thinking like they’ve been in the same job for the past several years. They have always wanted to do X, Y, or Z. And they’re thinking, you know what, screw it. I’m just going to go do it. Like, why not? Like life is short. Like there’s a lot of realizations at this moment. And so I feel like I’m just so excited to talk to you about this because we both have experiences in this realm. I mean, both of us have left situations that were not totally healthy and like we’ve, you know, kind of embraced new lives. And so I would love to kind of dive into yours because I feel like your story is something that I absolutely love so deeply. Like I just think that you are the ultimate bad ass when it comes to like truly taking a leap. Um, so do you want to go first?

Karen: Sure. I’ll go first.

Karen: So briefly I was working as a reporter for a news organization whose name I will not say, but whose initials are AP? I was really frustrated. I needed a change. I decided to found the online magazine I’d always wanted to do. Um, and it’s called Rebellious Magazine for Women. It’s at Rebelliousmagazine.com. It is how I know you, Katie, more or less. So I left the AP, was doing Rebellious, but also still working and then Rebellious took a disco nap. I was working a very lucrative corporate job and decided that was the big leap to me. So the first leap was deciding to found Rebellious in the first place in 2012. And then the second one was really in 2016, leaving my ridiculously overpaid corporate job to do Rebellious full-time. 

And Rebellious is still alive. I am still alive. It has been a rough ass, rough ass four years. I’m not gonna lie. I absolutely believe in taking leaps of faith. And I absolutely believe in the power of a PhD in just like fucking shit up and figuring it out. Like, I feel like that is something no MBA or PhD program’s ever going to teach you is how to survive when you have removed all of, you know, the structure from your life. Um, but I don’t wanna, I want to encourage people to follow their dreams and follow their bliss, but I also want a reality check about like, shit’s hard. Be ready.

Katie: I love that so much. I love that you’re willing to just go there in the reality of, it’s not always easy. So I’ll give my, you know, short explanation also. And then I would love to go into a little bit more detail. so I have always been a journalist, went to journalism school, worked on staff at different magazines and newspapers. And then, I guess it was 2009. I went traveling , in Asia for a little bit. And then I came back and I was like, you know what? I really want to try freelancing. And my whole thing was okay, I’ve only ever been on staff. I never learned how to freelance, in journalism school. That wasn’t even a conversation. I literally don’t think the word freelance ever came up in any class. But I really just wanted to be my own boss. That was my big thing. Like I was so tired of being under the thumb of different editors that just – there was no work life balance whatsoever. Not that there is even now, but I feel like that was just not really even a conversation. 

And so, yeah. So in 2009 I gave myself a year and I was like, if it doesn’t work in a year, I’m going to go back on staff. No problem. And that was 2009. It’s now 2020. And so I’m celebrating 11 years in business and I will say that that’s the headline and the subhead is that it’s really fucking hard. And you know, I’ve had a lot of inbound requests over the years of people who want to, you know, to talk to me about like, Oh, well, how do I be a freelance journalist? Like you do some travel writing, do you sit around in Paris with a beret and a cigarette? Is that your life? And I’m like, I wish – I mean, I don’t smoke, but – that’s not my life. And so really what I had to explain to them was, number one, it’s worth it.

I will say that from my experience. I absolutely love it. Number two, I worked 18 hour days for the first many, many years. And to this day I still have to, you know, grind that out. I mean, I think one thing though, for people listening, that’s like the biggest sticking point for them is financially. Like how do they make that work financially? And I don’t want to gloss over that in this conversation because I feel like I listened to a lot of conversations with people where they do gloss over it. And it’s like, okay, that’s not really fair because everyone has a different situation, of course, but I will say full disclosure: my partner, my husband, we were not yet married. He had a full-time job and that was the only way that I could do it. And so I’m not saying that that’s not the way. I have friends who started freelancing single, and they are fine and they have been able to make it work.

Katie: I had the luxury and the privilege of having food on my table. And so I then was able to earn money over time to make that myself. It was fine. Like I didn’t need his salary. I will say that, full disclosure, that is something that was really helpful to me. And I think if someone listening is a single person or they don’t have someone in their life that can help them, I think that having a little bit of – not that I’m a financial advisor – but like a little bit to just know that you won’t go without ramen, at least.

It’s tricky sometimes because it’s very personal.

Karen: It is incredibly personal. And I also write, full disclosure, have a partner, and who has been very supportive through this whole process. We met after I launched Rebellious, but we’ve been together since 2012. And I think, when I think about the financial piece, I think of, yes, the fact that people gloss it over and that yes, we have these conversations where people are “self-made.” Like, I forget which of the Jenners is like “the first self-made billionaire,” which is like the most offensive – I mean, come on now. And we don’t have conversations about the fact that Jeff Bezos started Amazon out of his parents’ garage with $300,000 in like 1997, right? So, yeah, I do feel like we all need to be really forthcoming about what that means and that if you don’t have a bunch of money saved, or if you don’t have a plan, the leap is harder obviously. I feel like that is the one thing I learned is that, like I had a nest egg and I was just like, ‘Once this is gone, I’m going to figure it out.’ And that’s like, not a great plan. And I will also say, I also feel like I hear from a lot of people who have golden handcuffs. I’ll just give you a tease that we’re going to hear from the guest who, uh, we both had the same golden handcuffs, very briefly. We both worked for the same company, making an absolutely obscene amount of money. For me, at least it was an obscene amount of money, and just realizing I hated every second of it. Every second of it, making more money than I had ever made in my life, making double what my mother ever made in her life. And I loathed every second of it. And, yes finances, yes money, but you can’t trade a high paycheck for hating your life. At a certain point, you just get-, I just got to a place of like, was I really put here to do this? Was I really, did the universe really come together for me to be making all of this money to be doing this? And the answer was no.

Katie: I would love to invite our guest on, because Karen, as you alluded to, this is our very first audio project-slash-podcast that we have a guest and our guest is so amazing! Would you like to do the honors of introductions?

Karen: I can’t wait. Oh my God, I’ve been *waiting* this whole time for this. My life was made for this. So our guest today is Erinn Cox, who is one of my favorite people in the entire world. And when I say world, I mean world, cause she’s in Estonia now. Erinn, I’m gonna let you really give your bio of who you are, cause I’m not going to do it justice. And you’ve done so many amazing things in the last few years that I probably don’t even know about. So welcome Erinn Cox. I love you.

Erinn: Aw, well thank you ladies. Long time listener, first time caller. Happy to be here. I’m an artist and a professor and I write, kind of professionally? When it strikes me, and when I feel like it. And I live in Estonia, currently.

Katie: Erinn, can you take us through your story for people who don’t know you or everyone who’s listening, we’re going to put Erinn’s website and all of the ways that you can contact her in our show notes for this episode. But Erinn, I would love to know a little bit about, like, your path to getting to Estonia and the incredible job that you’ve created for yourself there.

Erinn: Well, you know, when you guys talk about making those kind of life-changing leaps, like after I graduated college in my 20s, I did a series of those. And it was, you know, some of them were fantastic and some of them, total missteps, you know. But you go with your gut and you say, well, let’s give this a go. I mean, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen if I hate it? Well, then I move somewhere else. And so I did. Long story short, from like 2000 to 2007, I lived in like eight different places. I just kept moving around, and I landed in Chicago after I had finished my master’s of fine arts degree in Memphis to visit a mutual friend of ours, Karen and I’s, named Aaron, that I went to undergraduate with. And I needed money because I had like $300 in my bank account. And he was like, well, you can work for this art fair company that I worked for for a couple of weeks. You could stay at my house. And then I just never left. And I ended up in Chicago for almost 10 years. I had a similar experience to Karen. I was working, like four jobs. I was working full-time for the art fair company. I teach online exclusively for like three different schools because my student loan debt was outrageous. And so I was working like 80 hours a week and it was awful. And I quit the full-time job thinking I could just teach, but you know, that doesn’t pay enough. And then I joined the same monster conglomerate that Karen worked for and had a very similar experience of like, ‘I don’t know why you even hired me. I don’t know what my job really is. I don’t know what I’m doing in the least amount, but you’re paying me buckets of money, so, OK, let’s do this.’ But it was soul sucking. Like you both said, it’s like – there’s just that point where, and I think as we get older and I was in my late 30s at the time, you’re just like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to die in this.’ And I feel like I’m not going to make it to 40, you know, which is overdramatic, but it’s how it feels, you know?

How I got to Estonia was I booked a plane ticket to Toronto for a week while I was supposed to be working. And because I worked remotely and I was like, ‘I can work from Canada, let’s do this.’ So I booked a ticket and I was like, I had made a decision that I was going to like, figure out what I was doing while I was in Toronto and I have wanted to live in Europe since I was 18. And I’ve wanted to be an artist in Europe since I was 18. And I was like, ‘Why am I not doing this? I’m tired of saying, this is what I really want to be doing.’ And OK, so this is, ‘I want to study jewelry and I want to do it in Europe.’

So I found schools, I applied, and then it was like,- Our friend Joel always says that the universe responds to your juju. And so what you put out there is what it will give back to you. And it’s, you know, it’s a bit hokey, but it’s true. It really is true. And so once I made that decision of like, ‘Nope, this is what we’re doing. Hell or high water, I’m going to be in Europe by the time I’m 40.’ And I did. And it just kind of like I applied, I interviewed two weeks later, they accepted me for grad school here the day after. I quit my job two weeks later. I sold my apartment, like, two weeks after that, without even having to put it on the market for over what I was asking, you know? And it just, like, everything just fell right in place as it should, and it wasn’t stressful and it wasn’t hard. It was like, Oh, what have you been waiting on? And then I moved, I moved here and I did a master’s program here and graduated in 2019. Cause it’s easy to come to Europe as a student. It’s not so easy otherwise.

[musical interlude]

Katie: So you are an artist. For the people listening who are not familiar, can you describe your art and what you do in Estonia now? Are you still doing online classes as you’re teaching still, or like, how does it work in terms of supporting the arts and what kind of art you’re creating?

Erinn: Well, one of the great caveats of Estonia is that financially the American salary goes a long way here. So economically I can live on very little comparative to what I would need in the U.S. For an example, my apartment and utilities and groceries, my studio and utility, like combined, all of that is under a thousand dollars. Yes. So I can’t do that in the States. That’s one of the pluses of having an American salary, even though it’s not high comparative to the income here.

So I teach online when they have classes. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. My schools don’t really care where I am because I teach online. So I can be absolutely anywhere, which is why I like teaching online because I can travel. I can be here, I can be home, I can be Germany. I can do whatever I want to do, but still have a job. The other great thing about Estonia is that the arts funding here is phenomenal. I was fortunate to be able to join the artist’s association here, and they have a lot of grants and funding opportunities. We’re able to get money for expeditions and for travel exhibitions that we’re in. And right now I’ve been really lucky to get a creative grant, to help me with the bills for the summer, because I didn’t have any classes and I’m trying to build studio.

They make it a little bit easier to not be the so-called starving artists that we’re used to in the States, because, you know, most people don’t really pursue the arts because financially it’s very difficult. My work, I make contemporary jewelry, which is not gold and diamonds and silver and fancy and stuff. I work in really big pieces: heavy metals, copper, brass, steel, cast iron, and I make mostly work for men. So they’re quite large and big, and they’re very conceptually driven. So it’s not work that sells easy. You know, I’m not really able to count on that work as being a source of income. It’s just what makes me happy and what contents and fulfills is making these these pieces. And if something sells then it’s fantastic. But you know, again, I only need to sell like three pieces a year and I can cover the bills. So it’s also not so stressful in that regard because of where I am. And it’s a great place for my field. Estonia is a hotbed for contemporary jewelry globally. It really is. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here.

[musical interlude]

Karen: I love hearing all of that. And of course, I’m so happy to see your face and to hear your voice. And I just, I could go on and on about that, I’m going to stop. And I want you to brag about yourself a little bit, because I feel like from this end, right? All of your friends, we have this very cohesive – that’s a kind way of putting like this – very neby, very all-up-in-each-other’s-business group of friends in Chicago. As you mentioned – nebby is a Pittsburgh phrase for nosy, I just want to put that out there. Erin, I feel like for my life at the time, the Erins (boy Aaron, and girl Erin) that’s what we call these folks, were like the center of our friendship circle. And both of you have since moved away. And it’s just been so hard for all of us, you know, thrown off by both of you being gone. But I feel like there was this very cohesive group of friends, and we’ve just been keeping tabs obviously on what y’all have been doing and what you have been doing. And I feel like, from here, it looks like you moved to Estonia and immediately were like, your work was in a fashion magazine in Estonia, and we’re like, ‘what the fu-, what the hell, she’s supposed to be in school!’ Then you got into this, like, really amazing show. So I just want you, I just need you to brag briefly about these things you’re doing please.

Erinn: You know, I’ve been really lucky, but I think it’s also one of the things that, um, so my two favorite ladies here that both teach at the school, their names are Eva and [inaudible] and they’re amazing. And they always said, ‘You know, it’s always, it’s just about the work.’ Like, don’t worry about anything else, just focus on the work. And if you make good work, everything else will just fall into place. Because, you know, we’re always already thinking about, ‘Okay, how do I get into a gallery? How do I get into these shows? How do I get noticed? How do I get collectors to find me?’ And they were like, ‘Don’t do it. Cause if the work sucks, nobody’s going to give a shit.’

So just, you’re here to learn, focus on the work and the good things will come. And it kind of just did that way. And I got really lucky to, um, to have been in SCHMUCK, which is our big hurrah. It’s in Munich once a year, and like, a thousand artists apply and they pick about 60. And I got in the first time I applied, which was really mind-blowing and, you know, an honor and a privilege to be selected. And then I was selected again this year. It’s interesting because my work is very sculptural. That’s my background before doing jewelry. I make this big, kind of clunky, densely sad work, which you never know if people are really going to respond to, and then of course, when they do, it’s always really flattering.

I think one of the other really cool things that happened this year was, I was in Wallpaper Magazine and named, like, a jewelry pioneer from this year’s graduates. That was something really cool because that’s not just my field. You know, nobody knows what’s happening with SCHMUCK if you’re not into jewelry. But other people read Wallpaper. And then my mom and my grandma could go to the store and buy the magazine and see like,’ Oh, that’s, that’s my kid.’ So I think that’s been the really fun, fun part of it. Those are the kinds of things you just kind of get lucky and you just, you put it in the universe and you hope it likes it. But you also, it’s like you’re not making it for those things. And I think you don’t get too disappointed if you don’t get it because you’re just making it to make it.

[musical interlude]

Erinn: That’s a luxury that I have, like when you guys were talking about the financial side of, kind of making these giant life changes. I had a little bit of a nest egg from that horrible job, so it made it a little bit less scary. And then being here, you know, it makes it a little less scary because I know that if I don’t sell anything or I don’t get a grant this year that, you know, I’m not going to starve. I’m not going to have to come home if I don’t want to. You know, so I have a bit of a luxury in that sense that I can just make the work I want to make, and I don’t have to do a more commercial line and make sales. For now, at least, cause I’m terrible at commercial work, nobody’s going to buy my stuff. That’s too crazy.

Katie: Erinn, your stuff is so beautiful. I think it’s, it’s so interesting. You call it sculptural. I feel like people listening really, I really recommend going on Erinn’s website ’cause I feel like it’s just so interesting and like it’s stuff that I, I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s just so unique and gorgeous. I think one thing, you know, in this audio project-slash-podcast that Karen and I are really into mental health and we’re really into feelings and we talk a lot about like how we’re doing and that kind of thing. We talk a lot about therapy and all kinds of different things, but I would love to talk as it relates to taking a leap and how you’ve taken this enormous leap, Erinn, it seems, and it’s working out so well. I’d love to talk about the highs and lows, if you’re willing to, you know, kind of share a little bit. Cause I feel like people, you know, any listeners who are thinking like, ‘Oh gosh, this is so scary.’ Can you talk if you did feel any of that fear – if you didn’t, that’s great too – but any of those highs and lows as you’ve gone, and then how you feel now on the other side of all of that.

Erinn: Oh sure. I think going into it, it was just like, ‘Fuck it, I’m doing this. They want, they said I can come I’m coming.’ And you know, I had like a moment of hesitation when they invited me, and I, our friend Paul was like, ‘Why are you even debating this? Like, this is what you’ve been wanting. Like, why would you say no?’ And it was like, ‘Oh, you’re right. Okay. It was just a momentary blip.’ And then, because everything just kind of worked out going, it wasn’t scary, you know? And I knew that I was coming into a school, which meant I had a network of people that I was going to be able to meet already, which makes it way less scary because, you know, if you just move to a foreign country, you don’t know anybody like, that would be terrifying. Moving to another city can be terrifying, but a whole ‘nother country that you, I mean I didn’t even know where Estonia was before I applied, you know, and I’d never been this far in Eastern Europe.

So yeah, it was scarier once I got here, a little bit just because it was like, ‘Okay, well we’ve done it. And uh, okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna this work.’ And you know, Estonia is a really special, special place, and I say it’s magical. But it is a challenging place because, uh, Estonian culture of course is very different. Estonian temperament is very different, and I mean like complete opposite of Americans, and you know, thank God cause I really like it. And it’s, it’s really fantastic once you adjust it. But it’s not so easy just to talk to strangers or to ask questions. Most people speak English, but they don’t want to because they don’t think they speak well enough, even though they totally do. And my Estonian is terrible, even after four years. And, you know, trying to find an apartment in a foreign language, and then reading a contract and trying to get Google to translate it, and Google understands about half of the Estonian. So, you know, trying to get a phone card, and that kind of stuff is just like, ‘Okay, well I can point to my phone at the store and hope that you know what I’m asking for,’ and they do! So, you know, it’s okay.

But there’s certainly been moments of-, it can be a bit lonely for sure because I’m here completely by myself and I’m half a world away from everyone that I know and love and, you know my parents, I miss terribly. My grandmother’s 95 and I worry that she’s going to pass before I get home. I have two nieces that I’m missing growing up. So, you know, and then our-, our friends in Chicago. That group of friends, it was so bittersweet to leave them because they’re the most amazing group of people. And they’re so funny and I missed that last year that we had, you know. So there’s definitely been times where it’s harder for sure, but I’ve been really fortunate here that I’ve had a really good group of friends here, too.

[musical interlude]

Erinn: You know, it’s interesting because my thesis work was about loneliness. So you can read that and that’s definitely-, that was a low, that was a low, challenging time of, you know, being here and being single. The dating scene is difficult, mostly because I’m older than almost everyone I meet. You know, marriage isn’t as big a deal here so, but the people are together, but they don’t-, you don’t know because they don’t wear rings. So you’re like chitchatting with some hot fella and it turns out he’s married. He has like 14 children and you’re like, ‘Well, okay.’ So, the dating is definitely a more difficult part of living here, but if that’s the worst thing, then I think I’m doing all-, I’m not dead yet. You know, we’re doing okay.

Karen: Oh my God, I can say so many things about that. And I feel like one of the reasons I feel like you have this loyal group of friends, both in Chicago and Estonia, is, I don’t know, listeners, if you can tell this, but Erinn Cox is one of the most hilarious, funnest, most hilarious people ever. And I feel like you just bring so much joy with you. And I feel like it’s so interesting to me that you, to me have always just been this joyful person, this caretaker of our group. Like this, like cohesi-, you know, you’ve held this group of friends together with all of this joy, and then to see your work and to see you talking about loneliness, it was just like, man, that is the depth of personality I don’t know that most people have, right? Like that is, right? Like Katie’s making the symbol for justice. Like that, that is a full spectrum of human emotion that I feel like a lot of people are not-, don’t have, or are not willing to access them themselves. So.

Erinn: I think everybody does. And I think that’s one of the things that the virus has opened the gate, you know. I mean, everybody’s living in this state of, like, the morning after of some crazy blackout bender and you wake up and you’re like, ‘What has happened?’ But now I feel it all, and it’s just here, you know? And I think that it’s, it’s always been there for everybody. You know, it’s just what you choose to really share with other people and what you don’t share. Right. And so, definitely making a whole MA thesis about loneliness was daunting and it was, it was very exposed. And like, to the Estonian audience, they were like, ‘what the fuck?’ Because they don’t talk about this kind of stuff in public. And I was like, ‘Well, we don’t really either, but here it is. Because this is what it is. This is what it’s about. And you’re getting it and I’m giving you the full show. Like if we’re going to do it, we’re doing it.’ So, yeah. I wouldn’t say that, uh, it wasn’t a planned thesis. It was, it’s kind of, it is what it is. But you know, it’s dark here like half the year. So once we get into winter, it’s, you know, it’s daylight gray, like 10 in the morning, and then it’s dark at 3:30. So you kind of become this mole person, which I kinda like, but it’s dark and cold. So it’s easy to kind of retreat into yourself in a way, and kind of, get to tap into all that stuff that you’re feeling and thinking about.

But I think those are the things that lead people to make these kinds of jumps, right? Because you know that there’s something in your gut that’s not right. And your gut is telling you, ‘You’ve got to do something,’ whether that’s a job change or a city change. Or, you know, get a bicycle, I don’t know, whatever. You know, people started baking, I think. Which I did that for, like, once and I got halfway through mixing the stuff and I was like, ‘I hate baking. Why am I doing this? Like shit, virus or not, I don’t need the cookies this bad.’ Like I didn’t even finish it. You know, I think you have different degrees of life choices, right. But I think being willing to tap into those emotions so, whatever that gamut is for you, and being honest with yourself. It’s like we could die tomorrow, you know? And that’s a very cliché thing to say, but it’s totally true. So like, why are you wasting your time? Make the jump. What’s the worst thing that will happen? You know, most of us, even if we don’t have the money, you have family or friends who are not going to let you starve, you know. They’re not going to let you be on the street. They’re going to help you because they want you to be happy and successful just as you would for them. So, you know, I say, go for it. Make the jump. See what happens.

[musical interlude]

Katie: Wow. I mean, for people who, I love that you not only changed professionally to do different things, but then you also moved across the world. I mean, I think that’s something that so many people dream about and I know Americans can’t go to Europe right now, and hopefully post COVID will be able to do a lot more things. But I guess, because you have that depth of knowledge about moving to Europe, for example, what kinds of advice would you give someone who-, you know, you had mentioned early in this conversation about, you know, it being a little bit easier for you to be able to go to Estonia because you were on a student visa. So would you recommend something like that? Or like, what kinds of tips that maybe you didn’t know right away would help others who might want to move to a different country and, kind of, upend their life in that dramatic way, that exciting way?

Erinn: Well, especially for Europe, you really have to look at what you-, because the residency issue is different in every country and some places it’s incredibly rigorous, and other places it’s a little more easy, but it’s different. So here, because I was coming from the States and the U.S. is a NATO partner with Estonia and actually supplies troops and things, we have a different agreement. So I didn’t have to get a student visa. I moved here and then I got a residency permit that was good for a year that I could renew every year, because I was in school doing a graduate degree, not an undergrad, because it was a master’s program. And then once you, if you graduate with a master’s program degree here, then you can apply for long-term residency. And now I can stay about the five years and then try to renew every time. But you can’t do dual citizenship with Estonia.

But you know, let’s say, if you wanted to go to Spain. Oh, it’s a nightmare. You have to do a crazy jump through hoops. Even though they’re all in the EU, they have different rules. And so, when I was looking at grad schools, I was looking at a school in Germany and Germany’s even trickier. So they don’t necessarily want you to come from the States, and so it’s a very difficult process of getting a way in. And then they want you to know German and okay, well, I don’t. But if you’re going in from like, I have a friend here from China, he has much different regulations. So it really depends on where you’re coming from and to where you’re trying to go. But, you know, you research as much as you can before you go and make sure you have some cash on you when you get here, because you’re going to need it and contact the embassy.

They were really helpful when I first got here, and they kind of helped navigate some things. Luckily I had a friend-, Karen has a friend in Chicago who’s Estonian strangely enough. And so I got to meet with him before I came and he gave me, kind of the lay of the land. So if you can find a local from where you’re trying to go, and they can tell you like, ‘Okay, this is the neighborhood. This is what you get, the banking. These are the services you need, and this is how you do it.’ Then you just take your notes and you just show up. It’s tricky, but it’s doable. That’s the thing. It sounds really scary, but it’s really not any scarier than, like moving to Nebraska. You know, like that’s a change. I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to do in Omaha. You know? So, yeah.

Karen: So not only-, so Michael, who I connected you with before you went there, his wife is from Estonia. He is from here and they were living in [inaudible]. I met him obviously in Chicago. And then their son was at the same school as you in Estonia at the same time in a different program. And it was so random.

Erinn: He was at the [inaudible] Academy he’s in the States now. So-

Karen: Yes, he’s back. I do agree though. Just even that, that you knew someone, me, who knew someone who’s Estonian like, this idea that you were talking about and that Joel was talking about with the Juju, I feel like, the same thing that when I started Rebellious, this same notion that like, when you are on the path, the path just fills in as you go. Like, I feel like if you were walking the path that the universe wants you be on, and again, it’s so woo-woo, but it’s true. Like, shit just falls into place, and you don’t have fear because you just keep getting affirmed. Like ‘I am doing the thing I am supposed to be doing.’

Erinn: Well, you’re all in, you know what I mean? You have completely bought into yourself and your plan and what you’re doing. And so you’re on like this steep track. You’re not worried about the things on the side. I’m not worried about this job I hate anymore. I’m not worried about this. I’m just focused on this. And so it’s not so scary when, ‘Oh yeah. Okay. Oh, wait. You know, somebody from Estonia? Fantastic! I’m moving to Estonia. Let’s talk, you know? Okay, well, I need to do this.’ ‘Well, I gotta buy-, Great, you’ve got miles. I’ll take your miles.’ You know, because you’re just so zoned in on what you want to do, that you can focus on it in a different way. And so it’s the universe or the Juju, or, you know, the lucky quartz in your pocket. I don’t know. But whatever it is, it works.

Well it’s like, what are you chasing? What are you really, really chasing? What are you after? And whatever you’re after is there, you just have to be willing to go in and try to get it. Whatever that means for you. You know? So if it’s moving halfway around the world, do it. If you can do it, do it. You know, if it’s buying a brand new Subaru, fantastic. Like get two, you know? Like why, why half-ass it if you can’t choose? Like, let’s do this.

Karen: Cause one’s your office. One Subaru’s your office.

Katie: Exactly.

Erinn: Perfect, yeah.

Katie: The other one I need to drive with, but one of them needs to be parked in my driveway all the time.

Erinn: Perfect. Yeah. You’re like a walking advertising. Maybe that could be your sponsor for the audio project: Subaru.

Katie: Yes, Subaru. We’re talking to you. We would be more than happy to talk about your amazing air conditioning. I’m sitting in 100 degree weather right now, and I am chilling. Thank you for that.

[musical interlude]

Katie: But Erinn, thank you so much for coming on this. Like this is so fun.

Erinn: Oh, thanks so much for having me.

Katie: You’re the most perfect first guest. Karen, thank you for even thinking of Erinn to come on. This has just been so much fun.

Erinn: But thanks for having me. This was super fun.

Katie: This was so much fun. Thank you, Erinn. This is amazing.

Erinn: You’re very welcome.

Katie: Yes, we will see you all next time. Thanks for tuning in.

Karen: Thank you!

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