perhaps this may be news to some of you (it’s not), but i am an absolutely HOPELESS romantic. i write the love poems and i read the love stories and i watch the love movies.

so it only seems fitting that i would eventually find writing that resonates so deeply with me as a hopeless romantic that i’d obsess over it.

in the foreward of richard siken’s poetry collection crush, it’s described as a book about panic, and it really is. i’ve read interview upon interview and analysis upon analysis, everything i can find that had anything to do with this book, and it’s all about panic. fear and desire and love so big that it terrifies you.

i’ve also read that much of the collection was largely inspired by the death of the author’s boyfriend in the 90s, so ouch.

not only is this poetry about love, not only is it about fear or desire or the crushing, consuming weight of infatuation — it’s about being gay and fearing everything you love and watching it all fall apart before you.

this collection is panic. it’s crush, it’s chaos, it’s whirlwind uncertainty felt at a thousand miles a minutes. the words pour out and you don’t know how to control them because maybe some things just can’t be controlled.

i think i connect so much with this collection because i’ve also felt so heavily, so overwhelmingly. i’ve always given so much of myself to people, held so much love in my heart that my entire body is weighed down with it.

the first poem i ever read of this author is “litany in which certain things are crossed out,” and it’s probably my favorite poem ever. i think it’s about forgiving oneself when love falls apart, but maybe i’m wrong, but maybe i don’t need to be right. in the collection, this poem is the last of the first part, and it feels like the collection’s truest beginning. to me, at least, it’s where the story begins. and the last poem of the collection, “snow and dirty rain,” is the end. the two poems reflect each other so well that it’s easy to assume they belong together.

i haven’t exactly been around the block much, but i’ve never read anything that quite captures this level of overwhelming devotion to someone, the ache that longing leaves in your stomach when you love people who can never be yours, when you love people who were yours but never will be again.

this was a very long-winded way of saying i love love, and i love every single word of this little book of love. i love raw and passionate and tight-mouthed. i love carnal, unabashed desire. i love the flutter and the ache and everything else that falls somewhere in the middle of it all.

this is a book about panic – love and loss and death and desire and longing and fleeting – and i am still washed in the aftermath of the attack.

the handmaid’s tale

so we just finished reading margaret atwood’s the handmaid’s tale in english, and boy let me tell you what a RIDE it has been. i  personally don’t really want to put myself or anyone reading this through the pain of rehashing this bleak world, but there’s little to be said about it otherwise, so here we are.

first of all, this book is sad. and not in the boo-hoo weepy way, but in the sour sinking-feeling-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach way. i never wanted to but this book down once i got into reading a section, but i also never wanted to pick it back up again after. it’s definitely something that caters to a morbid curiosity we have for chaos (among other things).

the government was massacred and completely overthrown by christian extremists, their rule gradually tightening its grip into what is now the republic of gilead. women’s value is assigned based on two things: how “morally corrupt” they are, and their ability to bear children. offred is our narrator and a handmaid, a woman whose sole function in society is to have children in a state where populations have been decimated by diseases causing death and infertility. she describes this world as she experiences it, with the occasional flashback to her life before the republic and the limbo period between that and becoming a handmaid.

we want this world to be unfathomable. we want it to be impossible. we don’t want to ever consider for a second that any aspect of this world could ever exist – this pious, totalitarian nightmare. and what’s scarier is that it could happen, that it is happening, somewhere in some way. certainly not to such extremes, but freedom is a privilege not all of us our granted. the book discusses this as well – this “freedom to” versus “freedom from.” there is a freedom to autonomy for women, but there is also a freedom from men’s unwanted attention to women; the republic has chosen the latter, and its citizens suffer for it.

i’m someone who has always been vehemently independent, and the thought of losing my autonomy (especially in such an extreme setting as this one) makes my skin crawl. this society, this world of the handmaid’s tale, is abhorrent. the thought of my existence becoming nothing more than my body is terrifying, but i cannot help but fear its possibility. sure, it’s an extreme state of mind, but in this day and age, even the ability to fear it is a virtue.


this isn’t really a story, but a series of personal revelations.

i’m just gonna get this out of the way now: existence is exhausting. it’s not really me trying to be hashtag-edgy or whatever else anyone may want to cast unto me, more of just a general fact of nature. i’m tired all the time, humanity is in shambles all the time, and i really just dislike being confined to this single physical plane all the time. if my outlook on life is so bleak and horrible, then what’s the point, right? well let me tell you, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (she says, meaning not quite the opposite, but landing somewhere in the middle).

lesson one: it’ll all be alright, probably, and here’s why.

believe it or not, i’m actually a bit of an optimist. okay, let me clarify: when it comes to a general outlook on the world as a whole, i’m pretty sure things will all work out in the end. i essentially feel the same way about my own life specifically, but it’s a little more convoluted and wonky to get to those conclusions. i go back and forth between bouts of idealism and realism, pessimism and optimism – some of the few things i don’t actually have hard opinions on. i have days where i feel like there’s no real hope for the state of the world we live in just as much as i feel like there’s so much hope for it.

overall, i think our world is growing and changing so much and so quickly, and nine times out of ten, i think it’s for the better. but our lovely little friend social media really really knows just how to put a damper on things. i see so much good and creation and innovation all through this little electronic window into the rest of humanity, but it seems like there’s a new tragedy every time i refresh the page. is this awareness of world news and events important? absolutely. does that mean i need to immediately hear about 30 dead in such-and-such or five dead in so-and-so? not in the slightest.

lesson two: it’s the little things that count, i guess.

rest assured, there are some big things, too. new technologies are being developed every day to cure diseases, provide clean drinking water, and over all just improve the quality of living for people all over the world. i put my name on that probe nasa just sent to the sun – just because i could! just because it felt cool to say something with my name on it is currently in space! studying the sun! tell me that’s not at least a little cool, i dare you.

i place a lot of extra value in things that subjectively don’t matter. i save knick knacks and trinkets that probably would find a better home finally being thrown away, which is part of why it’s so hard for me to keep my room clean for very long. but i like having the memories of the little moments, like a friend’s prop from when we presented student plays in my oral communication class freshman year. they’re nice little reminders of the times when i didn’t worry about anything, the times when i was just having a laugh without having to be burdened by, y’know, that crushing weight of existence.

lesson three: there is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.

let me just say, it’s hard to be an optimist in the face of all the turmoil.

but i do it, because i have to believe there is something to tether me here and make all of this aforementioned peril of existence actually worth it. when i’m not feeling up for so much heavy reading about rising death counts, the next story is a dog seeing snow for the first time. remember what i said about the little things?

and there are big things too, of course. the new technologies and whatnot. so you have to fight for them both. fight for the sunsets just as much as you fight for revolution (now talk about opposite ends of the spectrum). while it’s really easy to just get caught up in all the sad nastiness of the world, it’s so much more worth it to look for all of the good in it.

aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe

let me be clear: this book will destroy you. it will make you ache in ways you didn’t think were possible to ache before. you will feel it heavy in your chest for days – maybe even weeks – after, certain words echoing in the empty spaces of your life.

and you’ll love it for doing so.

when i read books, i always have a little sheet of post-it flags tucked into the front cover. why? to keep up with things i want to remember, to make note of the particular ways in which a sentence was worded that fell just right on my tongue or my ears, to make note of little phrases that punch me in the gut in just the right way that i never want to forget them.

with this book by benjamin alire saenz, i wanted to put a little flag on every. single. sentence. and every time i come back to this book, i somehow manage to find another little bit i love but never noticed before, and i have to flag it, too.

now, don’t get me wrong. i have read at least a couple books that have emulated a similar near-obsession with their contents. i have read plenty of pretty stories, or stories that are told in pretty words.

but this book is beautiful.

i stayed up well into the a.m. several times reading it, simply because i physically couldn’t muster up the conviction to tear myself away from it.

at its core, i find that this book is simply about adolescence. adolescence and human connection and discovering all the secrets of the universe, in the simplest (and most meta) of terms. readers witness our main characters, ari and dante, open themselves up and shut themselves down – to both each other and their families. our boys learn how to swim and run around desert flats in the rain and save birds. they love and they hate and they learn so much and so quickly, because that’s what being 15 is.

what saenz manages to do with this book is truly capture the whirlwind and complicated and – at times – ridiculously trivial nature of growing up, in a way that somehow manages not to feel cheesy or unrealistic or… well, like it was written by a 60-year-old man. this book is feeling things you still don’t quite understand, feeling things you’re terrified of feeling. it’s how easily we allow ourselves to act without thinking, yet still manage to be pensive about things we really should have done a long time ago.

when asked about my favorite book, this one is the first that comes to mind. when asked about my favorite author, this one is the first name on my tongue. when thinking of things to look forward to, this book’s pending sequel and film adaptation are at the forefront.

this book is everything i hope to be and more as an author. this is how i hope to use my storytelling, and these are the stories i want to tell.

the perks of being a wallflower

when thinking of books that have resonated with me – really, truly resonated with me – this book often heads the top of the list. this story by stephen chbosky has been in my life in many different forms, each one hitting me in a different way than the last.

the first experience i ever had with this story was in seventh grade, around the time its film adaptation came out. from the get-go, knowing nothing more about it than what i saw from trailers on tv, i despised it. absolutely wholeheartedly detested it, based solely on the idea that it was just some boring tumblr-cliche, hipster-y, coming-of-age junk. this was a time in my life where i very aggressively prided myself on the notion that i was “not like other girls” and utterly loathed anything that would categorize me as either a “basic white girl” or a pretentious hipster.

come eighth grade, however, things became a little different. i Totally Legally watched the film on my phone one night in bed and proceeded to cry my eyes out. truth be told, i think it’s the first film that’s ever drawn out completely gut-wrenching sobs from my body. this was a time in my life were i was – to put it lightly – having a really horrible time. it had become so easy for me to isolate myself and convince myself that things would never get any better. then i got curious, and i watched that film i had claimed to hate just a few months prior, and everything was new.

finally getting around to reading the book hit me even harder, although in a different way. it was interesting to see all of the details that felt so big and important while reading the book that didn’t make their way into the film, as well as to see little things that came up in their own subtle ways.

really, i was more enamored with how the book was able to capture something the film couldn’t quite get. i saw so much of myself in the main character, charlie – not in his experiences, but how he experiences. as i get older and find myself going back to this book, i find newer parts of myself that i didn’t have the last time i read the book. as i keep my own journal, just as charlie does, i begin to notice new parallels, and even lines that run together as one.

i feel that seldom do readers ever find a book that they can truly and wholeheartedly find themselves within. it’s not really a matter of connecting with the characters, but more so an act of seeing so much of oneself reflected through paper and ink. chbosky’s book is able to capture mature themes such as adolescence, mental illness, and sexual abuse in an innocent candor that i’ve yet to find match for. there’s something incredibly endearing about the sheer vulnerability of the story being told, as well as the fact that such mature themes never once take away from the innocence of how the story is being told. it’s something that has stuck with me not only as a reader, but as a writer who wants – more than anything – to share vulnerability with my own readers. the influence of this book’s storytelling on my own is unmatched by any book i’ve ever read, and i’m sure any book i ever will.


the very first words readers ever see in this book are, “my name is mary iris malone, and i am not okay.” that’s it; that’s the first chapter. all you really know about the main character is her name, and you’re left wondering why she isn’t okay. of course, author david arnold is quick to provide the background and leap straight into the beef of her adventure. mary iris malone (mim) is not okay, and she’s trekking herself from jackson, mississippi back to her hometown in ohio to find her mom.

from the get-go, 16-year-old mim is sure of herself and her convictions. she despises her stepmother and father for hiding her birth mother’s illness from her and making her family move away, and she’s convinced that running away and going back to her mother will make everything okay again. her confidence makes readers trust her, because what does she have to lose? why would mim fabricate a story for herself just to ride a greyhound bus from mississippi to ohio?

readers receive real-time, first-person accounts of her journey to her mother. this is where her convictions start to become a little… fishy. it becomes very easy to get enveloped in the world of mim, which makes it difficult to pull away from it and ask, “why?” the extravagance of her tale and the strength of her emotions almost make mim’s story feel unbelievable. but she’s our protagonist, our heroine, so we want to believe mim. we want to understand her truth as nothing less than the truth.she’s weird and she’s endearing and we can’t help but love her, despite the little red flags telling us to proceed with caution.

as we learn more and more about mim, we also learned that she knows less and less of what she’s doing. readers experience her world and her plans completely unravel around her; everything she thought she knew was a lie, and we want to stick by her as she grapples with this new reality. and by the end of it all, we learn that mim’s convictions weren’t all she led readers to believe – or even what she herself believed. but we feel for her, and we want her story to end happily.

life throws mim curveball after curveball, and she deals with them by manipulating them into something manageable until making them easier to swallow isn’t possible anymore. they solidify into her reality with the grounding words: “a thing’s not a thing until you say it out loud.” she learns that in order to recognize the truths of her life and change her life for the better, she must first acknowledge the existence of such truths. this is of course an important lesson for all of us, the acknowledgement that it really is okay not to be okay.

david arnold’s mosquitoland is definitely a book to remember, from the idiosyncratic characterization its protagonist to the absolutely whirlwind plot to the lessons on humanity that never quite leave you. mary iris malone is not okay, and she doesn’t have to be. she just has to say it out loud.

enjoy the sanctuary

they say time flies when you’re having fun (i guess that means msa was fun)

last semester was… a lot, to say the least. some of yall know what i’m talking about, others don’t, and those others are either gonna be nosy and ask around or they’re gonna mind their business. i don’t think i care either way.

we’ve already established my disdain for astrology, but sometimes coincidences just really get the best of you. i was having just a genuinely horrible time, and i came across an astrology post i don’t remember the name of, probably some bs about ~what the signs need to hear~, but what really got me was that little blurb of text next to aquarius:

“coming home is not a defeat. you did something most people only dream of. sometimes all you can do is grab on to plan b and make it work. doesn’t mean that you are a failure because plan a failed. you tried your absolute hardest. you still won. so come back. enjoy the sanctuary while we still have it.”

this is the first and only time i ever considered leaving, coming home, admitting defeat. i’d actually considered resigning to the fact that this thing that i’d been wanting since i was 14 years old wasn’t what i wanted it to be – what i needed it to be.

but an even stronger voice said no. that little eighth grader who wanted nothing more than to find her people and do what she loved stood up and said resignation isn’t an option.

i was not giving up. we were not giving up. i wasn’t betraying every single thing i’d believed in and fought for since 2015.

so i stayed, but things still changed. they had to.

i was in a situation before that wasn’t good for me, and i’ll be the first to admit it. i had to get out of an environment that surrounded me with heaviness. i had to get out of an environment that tied bags of bricks to my ankles and threw me to the sea. i cut the rope and floated back up. the first breath i took was the strongest relief i’ve ever felt in my life.

there was a point in time i didn’t think i’d make it to turning 16, and a point in time i didn’t think i’d make it to going to msa, and a point in time i didn’t think i’d make it to finishing my first year of art school.

but i did. i made it to all of these. and i’m really glad i did.

i don’t know what i’m doing but god i’m trying

so like. life is exhausting. what can ya do.

a lot of things are going on all at once, and my brain can’t quite figure out how to process them.

my brain’s been like this for a while. four years, at least.

like, i used to look forward to learning how to drive and going out with my friends and planning what my sweet 16 would be like and going to college and becoming a doctor or something like that.

i used to be ambitious. used to have a drive and a passion for my future. the things idolized by tv shows used to actually be exciting to me.

then i found myself at a point where i wasn’t thinking about my future because i didn’t think i’d make it there.

i’ve gotten out of that point, thankfully, but the feeling still remains. the complete lack of understanding, the loss of ambition.

the future started to scare me. it still does, sometimes. the future means leaving monotony behind, abandoning the routine i’ve come to depend on in the past four years.

familiarity, get me through the day.

i have no idea what i want to do with my life because i thought it would be over by now.

i’ve managed to dig myself into this hole of complete and utter fear of the future. my mom is researching colleges for me because she knows how badly it stresses me out. i never really looked into colleges, never submitted my act scores to any schools, never did anything for my future.

and now i’m going through lists of schools that offer the majors i want and planning college tours this summer.

this is the future. this is what i didn’t think i’ve ever see. and thinking i’d never see it meant figuring i didn’t need to worry about it.

so now all of the worry that should’ve been building up gradually over the past few years has slammed onto my desk like mountains of paperwork at a cubicle desk. it’s all coming at me faster and faster than i can handle it.

but i think i like it? i think i’m excited for it?

all i know – all i’ve ever really known – is that i want to write. i want to be an author. i want to write books that affect kids the same way they affected me. i want to create something that’s there for somebody, something that inspires.

i’m sure i’ll figure it out eventually.

these things just take time i don’t have.

like a dog or a boat—


—you tether it.

how does art mean anything?

does my art mean anything?

how can i make what i do mean something?

how can i make this matter?

can it help me make sense of Everything Else?

recently, i watched a video (more like a feature-length film) by a youtuber called itsamemyleo, or myles for short. i first watched it on a sunday with my brother, then i watched it the following monday while i packed for school, then i watched it the following tuesday with a friend who lives in maryland. every time i watch it, it feels a little bit different, but i haven’t quite figured out what that different is yet. upon each watch, i notice something new or make a connection that i hadn’t fully realized the last time i saw it. little offhand sentences hit me like trains, while other bigger lines blow by like leaves across my feet.

this film is basically like a really long vlog, and that’s all i’m gonna say without spoiling it. it’s a vlog in the same style as all his other videos, one that makes it feel like you’re watching a movie. it’s his first video in a really long time, and you can tell he devoted all of that time between his last video and this one to just making this one. and it’s something that must be watched all at once, not with pauses in between random minutes. you have to find the time to sit down and absorb it for everything it’s worth.

all i really know to say is that it will inspire you in ways you’ve never been inspired before. i don’t wanna say it will change your life because that just sounds cheesy, but like essentially it will change your life. it’s made me do a lot of thinking about my life and my family, which i think it a good thing and a bad thing? i can’t quite figure out how to describe it, but maybe it makes some odd form of sense somewhere.

i’m pretty sure there’s a quote that goes “i don’t know all the answers, but i’m beginning to ask the right questions.” i think this film inspires that. i think it’s made me ask questions i’ve never really thought about before, and it’ll give me new questions with every viewing for at least a little while.

i’m not saying you should watch this film, but i am saying that if you’re feeling a little lost, this might give you a good idea of how to start being found.


elena – spanish, “shining light”

so i’m writing this blog on april 4th, but i assume by the time it goes up, it will be april 12th. i only mention this because the next day, april 13th, my best friend turns 17.

so, elena, this is dedicated to you.

when you first added me on snapchat all those years ago, i don’t think either of us ever anticipated ending up here. all of this was an accident. but we started talking, and lucky for us, we had a lot in common.

the date on your first physicality in my life is february 21st, 2015. just a few days after we started talking if not the exact date. from “the things we dig” down to the fact we both have one dimple, i think our fate together was sealed.

i have the clearest memories of sitting in the back of my fifth period science class, surrounded by stupid teenage boys, hiding my phone under my desk to reply to you because mr. hobbs wouldn’t let us have our phones out in class. i can see the yellow hearts, too.

since then, we’ve both been through a lot. the first year’s worth of our conversations is gone (still wish i hadn’t deleted that snapchat account). the history is gone, but i still remember skyping you while i painted commissions for an art project in my backyard. i still remember messaging you on instagram and you messaging me a few months later to tell me you didn’t even realize it was me you were talking to.

every moment i have with you becomes my new favorite.

in jack antonoff’s words, nothing has changed me quite like you. i know it sound cheesy, but it’s supposed to be. there are more references to describe us than i can count, but you’re the only one who would get them anyway.

i can write all the words and make all the playlists in the world, but none of them will ever capture what we are. birds of a feather, floating to each other across the pond.

elena beth brammar, you are my best friend, and now you’re 17. soon i’ll be 18, and you’ll follow two months suit, and before we know it, we’ll be old ladies in rocking chairs with the husbands (or wives) we dreamed of having. and all i can hope is those two wrinkly old ladies in their rocking chairs are best friends just like they were all those years ago, back when their skin was bright and pink and full of hope that one day, 4377 won’t come between them anymore.

you already have the playlist, but i made something else for you, and this time, the words that describe us are all ours.