All posts by BB

Starting Today, I Love Myself

by Brooke Blaney

Starting since forever,

To the end of my life,

A certain truth

Remaining with me always;

The only one I can depend on

Is you, myself.

No one else can handle so much,

Going on with me no matter what.


Today I know the pain is from me.

Offering too much to others,

Destructive people, destructive thoughts,

Aching when I’m alone with you, myself.

Your value meaning nothing to me.


I promise you, starting today, I’ll stop making you:


Love people who hurt you,

Overthink feeling alone,

Value yourself based on the words of others, and

Echo those terrible memories.


Myself, I promise you from now on,

Your value will not depend on others,

Seeing and remembering evils will not hurt you,

Earning love from men will not be a priority, and

Love will replace self-guilt and shame.

Forever, I will learn to love myself.

Justice for Barb

(Spoiler warning: Avert your ever-scrolling eyes if you haven’t seen both seasons of Stranger Things, the Netflix show about telekinesis, monsters, and kids that should be watched more closely by their parents). TV shows are like portals, sucking us in over and over again to help us escape our mundane and stressful lives. Unlike stand-alone films, television series can foster emotional attachments that keep us wanting more of our favorite characters in each episode and season. We begin hoping for good things to happen to our favorite characters, like for Hopper, the lovable chief of police from Stranger Things, to somehow come out of the upside down alive. We also hope for bad things to happen to the TV jerks, like to the not-so-subtle racist character, Billy, and for fan-pairings like Nancy and Jonathan, both older siblings of the more important (sorry but it’s true) main characters, to become official couples. These shows teach us lessons, make us think in ways we might not usually, and make us wonder what it would be like to be one of those characters.

Personally, it’s difficult for me to get sucked into TV shows other than comedies that you can understand no matter which episode you jump into. (Meaning I don’t usually save up enough brainpower at the end of the day to think about complex dramas). And yet, when I finally joined the hype and began watching Stranger Things, I fell in love. My love of horror and well-thought-out plot-lines and characters were quickly satisfied by this series. I revel in the culture that has surrounded this show, including “Justice for Barb” memes and Halloween costumes based off of the characters. While thinking about the show, I know that I would thrive in most horror situations, stemming from my lack of fear of most “creepy” things and my morbid curiosity. (Actually, you know what? That might make me die sooner. I would have to stick with one of the main characters that can never be allowed to die, like Eleven, the heroine with telekinetic powers.) So if I were a character on any TV show, it would definitely be Stranger Things.

As an actor on the series, ignoring the fact that I actually have no acting talent, it would be amazing to work with the legend, Winona Ryder. It would be wonderful to just meet her because she is an iconic and talented actor, starred in my favorite movie Heathers, and overall seems like a cool person. The other Stranger Things actors seem cool too, but I would take a bullet for my girl Winona.

With my love for Stranger Things so strong that I’ll debate theories with you if you get me started, I would be happy playing any character, even if it were only for a few episodes and I end up dying from a demodog. However, it would be even more fun to stick around for longer to support the kids’ mischievous adventures and help the other characters, you know, not die. (Except for Billy, he’s on his own.) I’d also love to be friends with my favorite characters, Hopper and Steve, the once-jerk who has now become the unfortunate babysitter of kids that constantly almost get themselves killed. I would get justice for the randomly-iconic (dead) character Barb, Nancy’s friend, and the not-so-iconic but well-meaning (also dead) character Bob, who briefly dated Joyce, the only dedicated parent in that town. From this, I would become a small hero until I ultimately die or become part of the “upside down,” because only Eleven can be the real hero in the end.

What Love Really Is

My senior year of high school was a very lonely time for me. I had once been excited to go to school and start every day, but by the end of my junior year, I could barely get out of bed. I would smile, act normal, and bear it, but my heart ached and my stomach felt like it was ripping in two, especially on my drive to school.  

That year began with one mistake that led to an even worse one. A boy in my class asked me out because he thought I was pretty, and I said yes. I believed him every time he said he liked me, when he actually just wanted arm candy. I even believed him when he ordered me around, saying “this is what couples do.” Those five months were a whirlwind of confusion, exhaustion, and sadness. For a while, I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy with him. 

In September of my senior year, I broke up with him on a whim. I sobbed, screamed, and regretted it, but he got over me in a week. In about three months he would get another girlfriend of his same moral standing, by that I mean none, and start a long-term, actually respectful relationship.  

I was in more pain when he began ignoring me. It was even worse after I saw him actually caring for someone else, someone who wasn’t me. Instead of going to my friends and family, I made the wrong choice and didn’t.  

My friends knew I was unhappy, but I refused to reach out. He had already distanced me from my close friends when we were together, but I found out that several of them knew he was a bad person and didn’t tell me. I was enraged, became very paranoid, and chose to silently distrust and hate everyone.  

By the time the school year was over, I learned a far different truth. When I finally opened up, I was greeted by so much love and support from my best friends that I cried happy tears instead.  

They took care of me, listened to me, and took the time to understand. They helped me drive away my persistent negative thoughts and worked hard to convince me that the way he treated me was not my fault. I would drop by their houses at random so that I wouldn’t have to sit alone and think about how worthless I felt. My friends let me vent even if I was just repeating myself and never complained about me dragging them down. Most of them still don’t know everything that happened, but they still sent me late night texts to help me sleep and always helped me have fun despite the pain. 

Graduation was one of the tougher times that my friends got me through. It was supposed to be special and exciting, but I couldn’t understand how my horrible ex was happy while I was still so miserable. But my friends were, and still are, so loving and understanding that they convinced me to go to prom, graduation, and even the all-night grad party hours away from home. My ex was at the grad party too, having fun with his friends and girlfriend. If I didn’t have my friends, then I know I would have hidden and cried all night. Instead, my friends stayed by my side and we had a blast. That night of dancing, playing games, and laughing until no sound came out at Dave & Buster’s became one of my favorite memories. 

The next few months before college were still hard for me because being home brought back bad memories, but I can’t imagine recovering from this without my friends. I am truly thankful for these friends who showed me what loving someone really looks like.  

I Sleep in the Ghost Room

Growing up, I played with toy animals a lot, making them talk and telling different stories through them. But even though I named them all and treated them as if they were living beings, I knew that they were not supposed to move on their own.  

Toys moving on their own was not the only reason I suspected that my house was haunted. I thought that someone had died in it, even though no one ever had and it was a fairly new house. I had several memorable dreams about this and even one instance of sleep paralysis where it felt as though something floated my body all the way downstairs and back up. Despite this and my spooky unfinished basement, the guest bedroom seemed the most haunted.  

I was scared of the guest bedroom even though no one ever told me that it was haunted. It was colder than the rest of the house, had creaky floors, and always felt eerily empty even when someone was staying in it. There was also an old mirror that scared me half to death, even though it should have been cheerful with its wooden-engraved parrot. The mirror could only show your face and neck, and every time I looked into it, I thought that someone would appear behind me if I stared for too long. Still, that room had the best space where I could create different scenes with my animal toys without having to clean up every time.  

On the day of the “incident,” I went into the guest bedroom to practice violin. Not only was it the best play space, but it was also where I was far away enough from my mom to practice in my screechy eardrum-bursting way. On that particular day, I brought one of my teddy bears in with me to keep me company. I sat it on the dresser facing away from me as I played terribly into the mirror.  

Even though I usually avoided the mirror, sometimes turning it away from me, on that day I stared into it as I played song after agonizing song. After a while, I decided to quit playing because I felt so uneasy. I packed up my violin and turned to take it and my teddy bear back in my room with me when I froze. The teddy bear was staring directly at where I had been standing, and I definitely did not move it there.  

I didn’t ignore it, scream, or even run. I simply dropped everything and sped out of the room, casually terrified. To this day, I know that the bear moved to face me and I still cannot find an explanation why. For years to come I would not play in that room alone, although I ignored the creepy feelings when I was with a friend. I did stop caring eventually though, because I moved out of my tiny twin-bed room into that bigger queen-bed room several years later. Now I share a room with the ghost that moved my bear.  

It’s Not a Phase, Mom, It’s a Season

Once the heat slowly fades away and the cold starts nipping at my nose, I know that autumn has begun, despite what the calendar might say. Even when the weather doesn’t come soon enough, September comes and we all break out our jeans and leggings. (Unless you’re the kind of person who ignores all seasons and wears shorts into winter, you do you.)  

With the warm clothing and feeling of the debatably best holiday (Halloween) nearing, dark fall colors come out too. Bright summer colors and florals fade into black and maroon layers and dark lipsticks. Here’s the season to express a darker aesthetic without your parents thinking you’re starting a goth phase in college. 

Faux-goth aesthetics are also perfect for farms and fall festivals, day and night. For me, autumn isn’t complete without the fall festival at Fairfax’s Cox Farms. Pumpkins outnumber the crowds of people, from huge orange beasts to cute tiny ones. In the day, kids run across the colorful leaves and fallen hay, racing to feed the goats and other farm animals. The smell of homemade BBQ and fresh caramel corn wafts around the corn fields, slides, and country bands.  

When the family hay rides and BBQ end, the sun goes down, the bonfires are lit, and the farm becomes its own Halloween paradise. Festive teens and adults fill the now “haunted” trails and corn mazes. Peaceful hayrides now swerve around the fields to avoid sprinting zombies in the dark.  

After letting volunteers scare and stalk people around the farm, each bonfire is surrounded by people taking shelter from the chilly air. The festival also isn’t complete before we fill up on the warm fall-fuel of fresh cider and at least a dozen apple cider donuts. Once we’re warm enough, my friends and I take advantage of the silly photo-opps and dance to Cotton Eye Jo on the lit-up dance floor.  

At the end of the night, my friends drag me out of the peak of my favorite season, but not before I grab as many apple cider donuts, bags of caramel corn, and tiny pumpkins as my arms can hold.