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SPRING IS HERE

The personal pages of a New York City based fashionista's notebook

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The Mass Marginalization of the Young Woman: Becoming a Caricature of Myself.

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Dear NoteBrooke,

Deliberate avoidance of a visit to the ATM out of fear that one’s bank balance has become so irreparably attenuated via overdraft fees – those pesky, dirty little dings that are inflicted upon us each time that we swipe our thin plastic life lines through the requisite Bergdorf/Starbucks/Duane Reade (I’m just naming the essentials here) credit card machines long after they’ve been sufficiently maxed out –- is a tactic that’s as effective in amassing some semblance of a savings account as is my ability to avoid bum rushing all of the kitchen cabinetry the moment that my fiancé cavalierly asserts that he ordered up a jumbo jar of Nutella from Fresh Direct earlier that afternoon.

I’ve learned, more aggressively than most, perhaps, that denial only begets a slew of egregiously misguided life choices — those that eventually, invariably, render one physically and emotionally displaced upon a coarsely carpeted, sickly colored hotel room floor while commencing a manic search for a place to call home and clutching a newly ascertained rendition of the King James Bible. This is, of course, a brief allusion to the disastrous conclusion of my previous relationship and to the abrupt/urgent move to New York City that ensued immediately thereafter.

In more extreme instances, it can also catalyze undercover jaunts to markedly unsavory destinations across the globe, those that are generally presupposed to house a slew of sticky, heat saturated Central American brothels in their tropical custodies — the types of establishments that smell of thick, low hanging cigarette smoke and that cater to a predominantly pale-skinned, fair-haired customer base of gringo pedophiliacs looking to fulfill their criminal perversions behind the semi opaque veil of extreme third world poverty.

If you’re immersed in a culture that propagates a consistent barrage of stringent generalizations regarding the female identity, then you’ll soon realize that most of us are allotted just enough room to be catalogued as either a Kim Kardashian or a Kate Middleton, an ideology that subliminally disseminates polarizing extremes and virgin/whore complexes aplenty.

So if it means disproving widespread, preordained notions that draw staunch parallels between fashion savvy, fresh faced young females and vapid, vacuous superficiality – you know, the especially icky kind that lends itself to labels like spoiled rich girl, airhead, gold digger, frivolous, self-absorbed, pathetic, disposable – (Because, I’m quite certain that I’ve been assigned all of those titles at one time or another), then you, too, might engage in your own game of Russian Roulette, disappearing into the previously mentioned Central American Red Light District with nothing more than a poorly concealed Go Pro camera and bits of badly broken Spanglish under your belt.

You’d be on a no holds barred mission, after all – not only to unearth the complexities of the story at hand, but maybe, in some way, to produce (pun intended) your personal truth, as well.

Which is all to say, that I’ve spent the greater portion of my twenties making a lot of wildly erroneous life choices in an internal quest to seek some measure of external public credence. I’ve pursued more than one misguided career trajectory, including, as much as I hate to say it – journalism. Here’s the thing: although I l-i-v-e-d for the actual act of producing worthwhile, worthy content — the kind of stuff that I’d be willing to sleep in grimy, bug ridden motels sequestered between hidden hills in desolate and dangerous foreign lands for — I didn’t want to be Lisa Ling if it meant that I couldn’t be Miroslava Duma, as well.

Because, why should a penchant for contoured cheekbones and swoon worthy street style outweigh my requisite intent to hop on a plane and to risk my right to things like – well, habeas corpus, for instance, in the name of storytelling?

Tell me: in 2016, why do static characters and predilections regarding the female gender continue to penetrate and permeate our society? What if you could see who I really am?

I wonder what you’d think; I wonder how differently I’d feel in my own skin.

X,

Brooke

 

 

3

The Indelible Value of a Spring Statement Shoe.

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Dear NoteBrooke,

If presented with the opportunity to fast forward through my youth by a few decades and to slip right into a South Floridian retirement community instead, I would take that deal in about seven seconds or less.

Born and raised in the Tristate Area, I’ve become all too accustomed to elongated spasms of snow/hail/sleet/frostbite/tears/et. al. And so, despite my penchant for eighty-two degree days and the occasional beach wave, I’ve compiled a wardrobe that’s decidedly more conducive to ensuring that my limbs remain in tact than to begging the [rhetorical] question:

Don’t I just look so summertime chic right now?!

It stands to reason, then, that whenever springtime (finally) does roll around, I consistently experience a recurring bout of fashion panic, racking my brain for stylistic options that seem as fresh and unique as the balmy spring days that have eclipsed my six month stint in semi-reclusive hibernation.

When I first found M.Gemi, the shoe line that birthed these bad girls (!), I was uber surprised and pleasantly taken aback. Because, come May, I often find that I’m wholly disenchanted by the cookie cutter-esque options that are strewn across the shelves of every major department store in New York City. Do I really want to opt for another pair of Jesus style lace up sandals and/or ballet flats that aren’t actually flattering on anyone other than Olivia Palermo?

M.Gemi is the first line that I’ve found that offers absurdly cute and cost effective sandals, pumps, flats, booties and sneakers. In styling an outfit, or building a wardrobe that one loves, I always suggest starting with the right pair of shoes and building upward from there to create a silhouette, color scheme, and vibe that lends itself to the themes of chic and unique. Upon scouring the M.Gemi website, I quickly found that they essentially do the work for you insofar as creating options that are instant outfit completers, especially in the way of street style.

Everyone loves a colorful espadrille, a seasonlesss pointed toe flat, and a tastefully done lace up bootie that instantly elevates a wardrobe by way of texture, fit and individuality. And thus, it’s safe to say that I’ll be rocking A LOT of M.Gemi when it decides to stop freezing rain and being grey here in New York City.

Check them out and thank me later. 😉

X,

B

 

2

Swimwear Season, Let’s Get Real.

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[Photography: Conor Doherty]

Although the majority of my girlfriends are relatively unapologetic in their emission of a dejectedly collective sigh as it relates to summertime planning and the overarching subject of obligatory swimwear purchases (Because, hello, no matter how much you think you want to, you really can’t rock that full body snuggie to the beach without assuming the risk of either heat exhaustion or mandatory institutionalization), I experience a slightly different, if not more poignant, brand of horror at the mention of the ultra taboo topic of

…bikini season.

Because, in visualizing the experience of shopping for suits, my brain consistently makes a recurring beeline to the deeply entrenched image of an old Instagram photo that I once spotted of Isabel Goulart — yes, that’s the ultra fit, I-always-make-time-for-the-gym-lah-dee-dah-dee-dah Brazilian supermodel.

Sporting her itsy bitsy teeny weenie, not only is Isa the physical embodiment of goals on goals on goals, but she’s also…get ready for it….J-U-M-P-I-N-G  R-O-P-E on the deck of a yacht amidst a friendly group of eager onlookers.

TALK ABOUT CONFIDENCE.

Listen, I’m well aware of the fact that I have an ironing board like/Gumby-esque physique (Attribute that to my Grandfather and his deeply entrenched Eastern European roots/a diet that consists of fairly well balanced moderation — sometimes), but generally speaking, I don’t even feel self-assured enough to get up out of my lounge chair while donning a set of strings, let alone to prance into a patch of glaring overhead mid-day sunlight in order to commence a full blown jump roping excursion. I mean…who wants to shake in their swim garb?

And for me, it’s not usually about body image issues concerning weight or shape, per se; however, I’m perpetually plagued by all of those other physical flaws that probably exist mostly in the recesses of my brain but that haunt the heck out of me nonetheless — think moles, dark body hair atop a Casper like shade of pallid skin (not a cute subject or look – sorry, dolls), excessive razor stub, et al.

So, then, how did I end up enjoying a bikini shoot so much? Well, I finally found some swimwear that I actually felt Isa-caliber comfortable in. No – seriously!

In the past, I’ve spent pre-summer hours/days/weeks scouring racks of bathing suits at both department stores and random boutiques only to walk away with wildly overpriced and often ill fitting options – those that were too big, too small or just wholly unflattering altogether. But upon clicking through Express.com and taking a gander at their impressive selection of goodies, I enjoyed a totally different kind of shopping experience, one that had me positively giddy over the imminent arrival of beach season.

And with a whole host of super affordable options (!) at my immediate disposal, I was able to order up a few unique styles without enduring the residual effects of buyer’s remorse.

Imagine this: you poke through a collection of cute suits on Express.com and decide on a couple of well-priced wonders. When the requisite package arrives at your doorstep, you tip toe over to a full-length mirror and carefully open the plastic packaging; hey, history has proven to you that return (coupled with excessive self loathing) is an inevitability when it comes to this endeavor, right?

WRONG!

Not only do you now have a couple of adorable bathing suits that actually fit TRUE TO SIZE (there’s a concept!), but you’ve also avoided breaking the bank, which is obviously an amazing rarity and a total bonus. Now, enjoy your tanning, swimming, photo opping, and maybe even jump roping (?!) for several months to come 😉

Visit Express.com to see what I mean.

 

X,

 

B

8

Finding the One.

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Dear NoteBrooke,

After launching a full blown career in fashion upwards of one year ago and spending the greater portion of my life (we’re talking at least from toddlerhood and beyond here) attempting to effectuate a level of stylistic perfectionism that could only be categorized as a derivative of some severe form of obsessive compulsive disorder, you’d think that I would have managed to find the perfect “go-to” white T-shirt by now.  Assuredly, such an acute wardrobe staple should hold a ubiquitous presence in the closet of any fashionista looking to birth her own stylistic identity, let alone one who works to create different looks for a living.

But while I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time contorting my limbs into various states of distress, switching from outfit to outfit in the tiniest…and grimiest…of Soho café restrooms (think mysteriously sticky floors), and then emerging from the ordeal(s) looking “freshly powdered enough” to shoot my next post, I still couldn’t manage to ascertain the holy grail of must have items of apparel — that is, a perfectly fitting white tee.

…until I stumbled upon this gem.

So, THANKS, Kate Spade New York!

In celebration of the fact that I no longer have to tip toe into my fiancés closet to swipe one of his oversized monsters, attempting to fold, tuck and maneuver it so that the fabric somehow falls well enough (Is that really the barometer for acceptability in the way of apparel purchases?!) to be photographed for an upcoming shoot, I incorporated my newly acquired and perfectly fitted Kate Spade top into three different looks today. With Spring quickly approaching, I’ve been big on new discoveries of late, including, of course, this long sought after wonder. In fact, I’m seriously lusting after various KSNY goodies at the moment. Take a look for yourselves, my loves, and let me know what you think!

X,

Brooke

4

Daddyless Daughters.

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I’m a magnet for anything involving Iyanla Vanzant. The very title of her show on OWN contains a command to “Fix My Life!” so I mean, really, what more could a viewer ask for in the way of a reality television spiritual guru.

Although I’ve admittedly scoured perused old Iyanla YouTube episodes with titles like, “A Father of 34 Children Confronts His Painful Past,” and “My Toxic Obsession: A Former Model Battles an Addiction to Butt Injections For Beauty,” it was the five minute segment called “Daddyless Daughters” that rendered me something of a human rag doll — a sudden mix of nausea, full body shakes, tears and snot — lying solo in the fetal position on my bathroom floor.

Sorry neighbors. Sorry readers.

But you see, I am a Daddyless daughter.

That I might possess a societally ordained disguise as a well bred, high functioning woman with two parents who live in the heart of Greenwich, Connecticut, matters little when Iyanla poignantly, and so fucking factually, states the obvious — “Daddy Gone –” encouraging all of the other daddyless daughters in the audience to own the enormity of their pain/hurt/confusion via the use of three short, grammatically incorrect syllables that cut, like a flesh ripping blunt blade, right to the crux of the matter.

Daddy Gone.

Statistics would suggest that I’m one of twenty-four million Americans who grew up in a biological father absentee home and that — for all intents and purposes — I’m decidedly one of the more fortunate byproducts of a broken system.

It stands to reason then that I’ve never allowed myself to bask in an elongated state of self-pity or to feel the residual effects of a rejection that I still can’t even really begin to process myself. Although I was made aware of the sobering, “wow-this-is-really-kind-of-a-conversation-STOPPER” circumstances surrounding the situation, like my father’s apparent demands for my mother to have a first trimester abortion (cat’s out of the bag now, guys!), by the age of fifteen, I was determined to play sleuth, spending my summer vacay hidden away on the desktop computer in my attic and ascertaining all of my Dad’s noticeably covert contact information while blasting Ashlee Simpson’s, “Pieces of Me.” Eventually, I reached out to him via letter (From what I’d been told, we both had a penchant for writing) and we actually corresponded via a series of enthusiastically riddled long distance phone calls.

But for reasons that I can’t quite make sense of, the deeply articulate voice on the other end of the line suddenly slipped away again like a helium balloon passing through the fingers of a credulous child as it soars through the boundless blue sky above. Fly if you must, John, but fix me first. Give me back the piece of myself that you took with you at the outset.

Beyond the absence of my “bio dad,” one could easily assert that I lead a fairly privileged existence, especially because at the age of five, my stepfather arrived onto the scene like a brand new pink Power Wheels Corvette convertible (That was the hot toy car circa 1992) — the pinnacle of big red bow surprises sent straight from the universe.

Offering up an entirely new identity that came replete with a two-parent family, a big white house, pre-paid tuitions aplenty, and a little sister, to boot, surely, I could no longer be categorized as a daddyless daughter.  In fact, even within my household, we rarely spoke about the subject or mentioned the fact that I had another father floating around somewhere within the continental United States.

Here’s the thing: my stepfather provided for me as if I were his own, and I believe that he genuinely intended to view me as his biological daughter. My Dad, as I came to call him, was indisputably good to me for the large majority of my life. That said, there was always a palpable disconnect that existed between us — an unspoken, if not inconvenient and tragic truth, that alluded to the fact that a fundamental piece of our emotional bond was mysteriously absent.

I can’t speak from his perspective, of course, but I can tell you that although I loved him, I loved him, I loved him, I consistently felt largely inadequate beneath the glare of his presence. The relaxed cadence that he seemed to enjoy around my mother and sister quickly dissipated when it came to striking up conversation with me.  Was there something wrong with the way in which I communicated?  Was I boring?  Was I stupid?  Worse yet, was I a subconscious physical reminder of another man — one with dark features and Grecian roots?  As a child, I really didn’t want to be that; the very idea of it sickened me to my core and made me feel guilty, helpless and dirty.

Although I’m deeply appreciative of it and believe that it’s something that shouldn’t just be swept under the rug, I needed more than the financial stability that my stepdad afforded me. I craved some further measure of warmth, expression, cajoling, empathy, humor, love –- anything to break the unyielding glacial barrier that rudely, aggressively, purposely wedged itself between us for twenty some odd years.  If I could have knocked it down by myself, believe me, I would have, but ultimately, it was too strong, and I needed his focus and concentration to dismantle it in its entirety.

Of all the people that I’ve encountered in my life (sans my biological father of course because, well, again, I’ve never actually encountered him), ironically, my stepdad was the only one who I could never quite win over despite my foremost efforts. I always believed that if we could somehow remove the invisible wedge that consistently drove us into an awkward abyss of horrible politeness, struggling at times even to form small talk, we could’ve enjoyed a profoundly rewarding father/daughter relationship.

Recently, my Dad and I decided to go our separate ways. He’s another helium balloon in the bright blue sky now, and regardless of our conclusion, I’ll always pray that he soars safely and peacefully amongst the gentlest of winds.

But I had to stop looking up at the sky in order to face what’s right here in front of me.

At the end of the YouTube segment, Iyanla sat upright in front of the women like some kind of eretheral maternal deity.  She encouraged them to “clutch their pearls,” which is really code for “I’m-Iyanla-Vanzant-and-I’m-about-to-dispense-some-really-fucking-unbelievable-wisdommmmmmm-so-listen-up.”

And then she chided, “You really have to be able to forgive yourself for the things you told yourself as the result of the story that you made up about the reason why your father wasn’t there.”

In doing this — that is, in retracting all of the less than kind words and sentiments that I’ve developed throughout the course of my life about myself, I’m healing.

While I try to reserve most of my blog entries for substantially more uplifting topics, the preeminent reason for creating the written portion of NoteBrooke.com was to normalize either esoteric, unattainable or hard to talk about topics — to make them more chit chat worthy and less… dire.

So, here’s my truth: I’m a Daddyless daughter, and I forgive myself for it anyway.

17

The Real Deal: Fashion Week from An Interloper in Disguise as An Insider

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

Pre and post the age of Mira Duma/Olivia Palermo/Julia Sarr Jamois permeating the walls of every single lust worthy Pinterest Board scattered across the web, I vaguely recall noticing signs – clandestine, if not purposely whispered intimations – that suggested that New York Fashion Week was lingering near and upon us in the same discreet manner that a dimly lit UFO might if were to make a brief appearance on a grassy plain somewhere in the Midwest.

But as quickly as those denim on leather on cashmere clad uber focused street style strutters could disappear back into wherever they came racing out of in the first place, the elusive production, in all of its unattainable grandeur, was dismantled in a manner that was as brisk as it was discouraging to the industry Outsider (“Outsider,” in this context, was decidedly meant to be written with a capital “O” and to be megaphoned if ever verbalized aloud) who couldn’t manage to comprehend that golden tickets were never going to become available via a magical chocolate factory…or even, like, on StubHub.

When I first attempted to onboard myself to the tenth planet [that is fashion], I was consistently advised that such a feat would be a task on par with assuming the position of a Greco Roman wrestling champ. Regaled with vague idioms about impenetrable walls and impossible growth beyond the retail sector alone, I lucidly recounted only two clear-cut facts in the frustratingly ambiguous haze that I perpetually encountered. Nepotism wouldn’t be an option  because not only had I somehow failed to acquaint myself with a single soul in “corporate” (whatever that actually means, anyway) throughout the course of my life, but invariably, I wouldn’t be considered for anything without at least a Derek Lam internship (or six) listed somewhere immediately prior to tenth grade anyway. That said, I also knew that I had soaked up every element of clothing since my toddlerhood and that I was willing to work harder than I ever had before to prove my worth to anyone that would have me.

No one would have me.

When NoteBrooke was conceived, I had little to no idea that the blogosphere, save for, like, Sincerely Jules, worked so closely in tandem with the fashion industry. Shortly after the time in which I initially met my photographer, Alex, the Spring 2016 shows were closely upon us, and she casually questioned me about which ones I was scheduled to attend.

…c-o-m-e  a-g-a-i-n.

Go to a show? How? Why? And WHO would want me at their acclaimed, insider laden production? True, I’d experienced a mild degree of positive feedback in the way of sharing my personal style posts online, but I never really believed that my passion would equate to any measure of tangible success or liquidity. Alex, in her ever diplomatic but wholly practical manner, suggested that I merely reach out to the requisite PR departments of presenting designers and…ask.

So I did. And I heard back. And I got invitations and seating assignments. What’s more, immediately prior to the shows, street style photographers snapped my looks, and I realized, that I, too, had become one of those denim on leather on cashmere clad uber focused strutters outside of Moynihan Station.

But here’s the thing: as I’ve progressed, attending fittings, pulling items from showrooms, and Snap Chatting from my [sometimes] front row seats, I still find myself silently shrieking: “There’s been a huge mistake here, people! This seat is reserved for someone important, for someone who’s able to intellectualize every single garment that she sees on a passing model and to explain why it’s Fall 2016.  I’m just a girl who lives for the way an outfit can change one’s whole demeanor, one’s whole outlook on any given day.”  And don’t get me wrong — I still have a LONG way to go. Even now, for instance, I have no concept of how girls get backstage at DVF, snapping Kendall and Gigi in their wrap dresses before running back to Tresemme to get freshly milk braided.  But I do get to see my work equate to something that I’ve always desired, so in a sense, I guess those golden tickets really do exist.

 

 

 

 

10

“You’re Really Like, Um…A Fashion Blogger?”

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

Dear NoteBrooke,

As the slightly wayward spawn of two Ivy League educated, fiscally oriented parents, I was raised to believe that success was something tantamount to a combination of corporate America and intensive/unyielding discipline.

Despite the fact that I spent the majority of my childhood altering my desired career trajectory more frequently than most people change their bed sheets and that my projected job descriptions ranged from Grammy Award winning songstress (That I had no rhythmic ability to speak of mattered little — invariably, I would release an album rivaling that of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits), to public relations mogul (Think Jonathan Cheban status) to corporate attorney, the underlying premise remained consistent. That is to say, I would achieve an expansive, longterm career that equated to mass public credence and a lofty measure of self sustaining financial stability.

I proceeded forth and realized many of my pre established goals. By twenty-three, for instance, not only had I long since graduated from a reputable university, but I also went on to complete three additional years of intensive schooling, earning my Juris Doctorate degree. Ostensibly, that propelled me further towards a tangible piece of paper proof that I was more than just a walking lipstick. And, at twenty-six, I stood smack dab in the center of a New York City newsroom and watched a piece that I produced air on national television for the first time.So, when I opted to become a bloggerwhich is unequivocally the single worst job title in the world second to… hooker…maybe, I never anticipated that I would be nearly as enamored with the endeavor as I am. Garnering a bold base of female followers who corresponded with me about a plethora of deeply personal, intellectual and relevant issues, I found it indescribably gratifying to share my life in all of its edited and unedited splendor.

Then came this gem:

Disgruntled Instagram User #1: “Before you try to relate to people, understand that most people don’t live the way you do yet manage to be as inspiring without it. The “’fans’” who don’t see through you are kind of pathetic.”

Followed closely by:

Disgruntled Instagram User #2: “In fact, on her blog posts, she has never even practiced law…probably because it would be too hard/too many hours.”

Since commencing this endeavor, I’ve been referred to as “SO ugly,” “SO fake,” “painful to look at,” “disgustingly thin,” et.al. People have questioned whether my hair is actually a wig that — unbeknownst to me — was somehow placed haphazardly on top of my head. They’ve fervently insisted that I must spend my days spinning around in the mirror while snapping an endless barrage of selfies. None of these comments have ever particularly jarred me or even warranted a block.

That said, why would the above mentioned sentiments inflict a substantially more serious wound?

The premise of my blog has a lot to do with a self propelled, if somewhat grassroots, effort to stop the incessant marginalization of women. I will never be only one thing — neither will you.  I promise.

So Y-E-S.  In many respects, it’s true: I’ve been blessed enough to lead a privileged life. It’s not as if that somehow evaded my conscious mind, rendering me immune to the sentiments of my readers. But here’s the thing — I’m not trying to portray myself as Lena Dunham’s ultra relatable, female friendly character in Girls either. My privilege is a single piece of a comedically large, overtly complex puzzle – one that a renown psychiatrist strives to put together twice a month before prescribing my recommended daily dosage of Clonopin and Zoloft and standing up to signify that my time.is.really.up. That means:

Get out, Brooke, and reenter the world all by yourself. Whether or not you feel like you’re going to fucking drop dead, face first on the pavement, you’ll survive this one too.

I’m not a character. I’m a real woman.  In the same way that I wouldn’t intentionally overshadow my posts with visions of deliberate ostentatiousness, I also wouldn’t linger on the abuses that I’ve endured throughout my life, the moments of intensive self loathing that I’ve grappled with for decades, or the more cringe worthy decisions that have come to define significant portions of my adulthood.  Because it’s all me.  But I do fervently hope that, in choosing to be rather unfiltered in my writing, my readers will feel comfortable being equally candid with me. While plenty of people perceive blogging as being a thinly veiled excuse to retire early and procreate, I can honestly attest to the fact that I generally work from about 10 am to 1 am, and that I make my own living off of this endeavor, which is both my passion and my career. Listen, I’m not operating under the pretense that what I’m doing is neurosurgery. But I love the idea of creating a space where people can be inspired and feel comfortable to be themselves, and I’m proud to say that this little big blog, and everything that comes along with it, is truly my life’s work.

X,

B

13

Everything You Need To Know about Being Present and Showing Up to Your Life.

 

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[Photography By Alexandra Wolf]

I know as well as anyone that a level of every day exhaustion rivaling the residual effects of walking pneumonia is a thing, that crossing six New York City Avenues to reach preferred salad bar/therapist’s office/workplace, can render one desperate for an extended state of repose, and that day to day quasi adult life (because, let’s be serious…on time bill paying whereby the lights aren’t shut off prior to a dark and humiliating late payment? Right.) can diminish the concept of downtime to something that’s synonymous with a Real Housewives of Orange County marathon and a full body snuggie.

What I also know is that, at the risk of sounding grossly misguided (what with a career that’s centered around social media and a prolonged IPhone6 slouch that resembles more of a perpetual stoop than a graceful saunter), there’s no supplement for authentic engagement and the act of being physically and mentally present for one’s own life.

Regardless of what’s going on with Saint West via all of the click bait articles peppering the screens of our gently lit social media devices, nothing makes a more noteworthy memory than saying, “Even though I’ll invariably go numb and ruin the pointed toe tips of my suede BB pumps on the way to drinks with my bestie, I’m not going to pull out because of a psychosomatically manifested post work ‘headache,’ cramps, or even the all consuming nightmare that is chronic fatigue.”

When I got engaged in September, I immediately envisioned the loved ones who I wanted to surround me at my white and chrome laden (that’s a story for another post) wedding reception. I quickly flashed back to every no holds barred and often wildly inappropriate gargantuan laugh thats been shared between my best friend, Laura, and I, and realized, She lives on the Upper West Side for fuck’s sake – why aren’t I taking more proactive measures to see her as much as I did in college? Has the fear of a failed career and the need for an extra ninety minutes of sleep come to outweigh the importance of making memories that will eventually come to define the entirety of our lives?

Joyce Meyer encourages me to push past emotions (this woman delivers such powerful sermons that I often feel that she intends to communicate DIRECTLY WITH ME as I press play on YouTube and commence my morning listening/makeup routine); she insists that they’re unreliable, subject to frequent change, and therefore – fundamentally untrustworthy. In the same way, I’m learning to forego procrastination in favor of something substantially more gratifying –- the purposeful cultivation of my closest relationships. In sum, Joyce suggests (although never in these exact words) that we push past the bullshit. It’s a well-known fact that long-term happiness can’t be synonymous with complacency, so hello Isabel Marant walking boots, let’s get going in perfect Parisian street chic style.

On my wedding day, I don’t want to be surrounded by a room full of friends that I created memories with in “the good old days,”– you know, the many times we shared together long before entering the realm of adulthood, if adulthood were a thinly veiled reference for work, shower, cry, Zoloft, sleep, repeat. Instead, I want to make a decision to show up to my life, keeping my scheduled coffee, wine and dinner dates and relishing the act of basking in the presence of those who I love the most.

Why wouldn’t I want to reap the rewards of a life well lived?

 

5

2015, the Year of All Things Unexpected.

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

It’s the first week of 2015. When I stumble across a quote on Instagram that reads, “Sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to come,” I’m taken aback by the fact that two declarative sentences posted on Fuck Jerry have the capacity to sum up the entirety of my innermost feelings concerning the present state of my career trajectory.

Despite my ostensible unwillingness to actively effectuate a significant change, it’s blatantly obvious that I need to resign from what I once referred to as my dream job. On my last day of work,  I’m almost immediately summoned into my boss’s office, and in the most nebulous communication thats occurred post the use of hieroglyphics, I’m unable to determine if I’m being fired or if I’m finally just shaking off the fuzzy quilt of complacency and quitting.

Suggesting that my work performance is not what it once was, my boss insists that I “go home and take a few days off.”

Amongst a sea of shock filled eyes peppering the newsroom floor as I exit stage left, I grab my yellow/green Celine and cab it back to my apartment. While lying prostrate on my bedroom floor, I can’t help but think that, save for the humiliation of being ‘let go,’ I’m desperately longing to leave this position. What was once an enthralling, all consuming experience has turned into a desk job, a series of 3 pm lingering Starbucks saunters runs and hourly clock checks.

With a friend’s wedding hastily approaching in Malaysia (with a five-day layover in Dubai, to boot) I come to terms with the idea of putting everything on hold until after I return from the trip, reasoning that this is an experience that won’t come around twice. Except I can’t just travel — my Type A OCD personality won’t allow for it, so instead, I meticulously plan and style all of my outfits, put my laptop and camera into my carry-on, and decide to write not only about my experiences as a newfound globetrotter, but about all of the other changing factors in my life, as well.

And thus, a personal style blogger with a penchant for journalism is born. On Valentine’s Day, I go to Paris with my boyfriend, and I photograph every last detail of the experience. He teaches me to love the city in a way that I never have before, and I realize that I want to start a career that’s centered around photo documenting visually spectacular moments as a form of voyeuristic escapism but that also places an authentic spotlight on the harsher realities of my personal life as a millennial woman.

It’s not all Avenue Montaigne and butter croissants, though. For the first half of the year, at least, I’m humiliated by the fact that I’ve found my life’s passion as a…blogger.

In the same way that I’m able to synopsize my feelings concerning my former job in one snarky Fuck Jerry quote, I come across another gem of wisdom on Instagram that reads, “The genius thing we did was…we didn’t give up.” Author? Jay-Z.

I commit to every travel opportunity that presents itself throughout the year. After Malaysia, Dubai and Paris, I visit Monaco, St. Tropez, St. Martin, Anguilla, South America, London, Prague, Florence, and Madrid, camera in hand, outfits pre-planned, editorial calendar set in stone.

That said, I’m still overwhelmed by all of the unknowns that have become synonymous with my life. What’s going to happen to my career? Will people suggest that I’ve forsaken a significantly more prestigious pathway for the sake of indulging in a glorified early retirement? What about my personal life? Will my significant other fall out of love with me on a whim? When did I become this pathetic, insecure mouse?  Am I going to allow the abandonment issues set forth by my bio Dad to control my life forever? At 27, if I don’t have my ducks in a row, is that pseudo socially acceptable or has it transcended into the realm of the dire?

Towards late summer, I hire a professional photographer. I decide to tell a story – one about a young woman who lives in New York and loves fashion. To accomplish this at a level that I can be deeply proud of, I stake out locations that are emblematic of life in this city, work to develop my personal aesthetic, style my looks well in advance of shoot days, iron, pack and go. In some ways, I realize that fashion blogging is not all that different from producing – it requires a fixed plan, an establishing shot, a strong shoot, and even a script of sorts.

In September, my fiancé proposes and I’m elated. It’s the most magical day of my life, and I feel enormous humility and gratitude that God has given me the gift of a soul mate. I start to think about my wedding and consider who I want to surround me on that day. When my nearest and dearest come to mind, I realize that life is ultimately about relationships, and that I want to cultivate my most important ones further. I make an active decision not to cancel scheduled dinner dates with my besties because I’m tired/overworked/cramping, et.al

At the end of the year, I lose a few people who were very close to me, and it cuts like a steak knife to the stomach; but then again, I find new love in unexpected places. NoteBrooke.com begins to prosper. I’m no longer embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living because I’m proud of the content that I’m creating. I start to feel that I, alone, am enough. Stripped of any pedigree that I might have had, my secrets borne to the world, I’m able to love myself anyway. I’ve never felt that before, and it’s something as comforting and beautiful as it is entirely foreign.

When I initially commence this year of aimless globe trotting, I ask myself, Is it possible to find a path while wandering the world? What I’ve learned over the course of the past twelve months is that it is…

as soon as you stop looking for one.

6

Self-Lo(ath)ving.

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

It’s 4:10 am and I’m making a frenzied dash up the street to my celebrity boss’s apartment in a panic stricken quest to get her up and airport ready.

With droves of fans already lining up outside of Barnes & Nobles stores in Cleveland and Chicago, respectively, there’s no such thing as late, sick, or lightheaded (due to mass sleep deprivation + unexpected sprints) when it comes to preparation of aforementioned diva. Although I packed my carry-on the night before and spent the greater portion of the weekend ensuring that all of the spa services that she requested have been booked and triple confirmed, I failed to factor in the difficulty that apparently comes with hailing a cab at 4 am in New York City. With no mobile options in sight, I commence an awkward sprint throughout ten pitched black, snow-laden streets.

Utterly convinced that I’m going to die via an aggressive bout of frostbite or the blunt force trauma that occasionally coincides with running through the streets of Manhattan alone at 4am, I start talking to God, begging Him to send anything.moving my way. From what I’ve been told by the other girls in the office (because, invariably, I’m the newbie), one mistake, no matter how trivial or innocuous it might seem, could easily beget the wrath of a no holds barred emotionally unstable reality TV star meltdown unto me. As such, not only do I manage to ensure that we make it to the airport well in advance of boarding time, but I spend the next forty eight hours running (literally) on coffee and manic energy alone, ensuring that no task – however bizarre or demeaning that it might seem — is ever completed without precise attention to minute detail.

Upon return to New York, I’m immediately instructed to unpack my boss’s suitcase, and although I pass out on the floor of her walk-in closet while doing so, I find that I’m satisfied with myself today because, despite mass sleep deprivation, prematurely raised blood pressure, and a .05 mg increased clonopin dosage, I got the job done and I can rest assured that I’ve given it my all.

In law school, my final semester consists of studying for a mock bar exam, which is a grueling prerequisite to graduation. As such, I spend about eighteen hours a day locked in a library examining everything from Article 9 of the United States Constitution to the specificities of criminal procedure. Foregoing any and all social interactions, and most forms of basic personal hygiene, as well (overshare?), I spend my “free time” either on the phone with my therapist or running like a lunatic on the treadmill at 2 am. For six months, I go without seeing friends or family, barely brush my hair, and break down crying in front of a particularly smarmy professor in the middle of the library, which, in law school, in definitely NOT a safe space. But although I’m under an intense amount of pressure, I’m once again completely satisfied with myself. This is what you should be doing with your life, I insist, although I never really ask myself why I consider that to be the case.

I’m in Central America and I’m producing a shoot for MSNBC. After working four consecutive twenty-hour days under dangerous and emotionally taxing conditions, my team and I are stopped by local police. Detained on the side of the road for three and a half hours, our passports are seized and we have little to no idea what’s going to happen to us. Have you ever seen the show Jailed Abroad? With an onslaught of police vehicles continuing to drive up, firing off quick fire exchanges in Spanish about the odd ball group of Americans with cameras and microphones aplenty, I should probably be scared, and to a certain extent I am, but my level of exhaustion is so extreme that I can only manage to take a seat on the sidewalk and stare off into a lake bereft of energy, adrenaline, or any of the other requisite emotions that might ordinarily be induced by such an occurrence. Upon entry back into the US, I give myself a huge pat on the back; you’ve done a good job this time, Brooke.

An interesting observation: I seem to have two speeds at which I operate – Mach 10 or passed out in bed.  During this shoot for instance, I avoid traffic by hopping out of my cab and sprinting seven city blocks to meet my photographer.  I hop on top of a bolder in Central Park in thigh highs and a mini skirt to get a good shot and the proceed to strip down in front of a gift shop (not entirely, but closely enough) in December to change for my next look.  But when I’m not completing my work in a way that’s entirely exhaustive and all consuming, I tend to get incredibly down on myself, insisting that I’m perpetually lazy and wasting my life away. Attribute it to some deeply rooted childhood issue, or a culture that seems to propagate the glorification of busy, but whatever the reason is, I think it’s enormously important to learn what work-life balance is.

During a recent conversation with my almost ninety-year-old Grandfather, he suggested that “things are weird now,” and told me that he used to work from 9am – 6pm and that he doesn’t “understand the hours of today.” 9am-9pm? Why? After raising five children and providing them with a financially sound enough upbringing, I wonder if he, too, ever admonished himself for failing to put in those ten zillion extra hours — you know, those that provoke anxiety attacks, physical responses, and nonsensical tears. Although I love my blog and feel incredibly blessed to get to do this for a living, I think about my upcoming honeymoon and wonder if it’s even remotely appropriate to ask my fiancé to snap pictures of my OOTD’s throughout our various pit stops in Asia. I mean, we only get one honeymoon, and while the scenic opportunities are unquestionably visually spectacular, when is time to put down the camera?

I really don’t know. But right now, I’m off to go get my second iced latte of the day because I have about ten more hours of work to tackle. 😉

X,

B

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