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SPRING IS HERE

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

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A Girl From New York City Applies For Her Library Card.

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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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NoteBrooke’s New Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

Dear NoteBrooke,

For the greater portion of my adult life, I’ve purchased my parent’s Christmas presents with their own American Express cards, respectively, the numbers of which I kept stowed in a Word Document somewhere within the recesses of my Mac Mini. Opting to reference their personal information ONLY for excessive expenditures that surpassed the value of my monthly stipend medical emergencies, every December twenty-third, I would both commence and complete my holiday shopping, wrap everything up –- corners askew, double sided tape visibly exposed — and then emerge home for the holidays baring the same Polo knit sweaters and Tiffany pens that I had already purchased for several consecutive Christmases prior.

I have an emphatic need for instant gratification (Hello, my name is Brooke, and I can’t stop watching Patrick Ta makeup tutorials and then partaking in Super Market Sweep- style quests to find and purchase all of the requisite products needed to recreate the look), which prompts me to [over]indulge in apparel and cosmetic related expenditures approximately eleven months out of the calendar year. Strangely enough, though, in the same way that I wasn’t, well, the best gift giver ever to walk God’s green Earth, I was never particularly impassioned by the idea of compiling a list of quasi-desired items that I hoped would emerge under the Christmas tree for myself either.

Attribute it to my recently diagnosed closet control freak nature, but I consider my wardrobe to be a living, breathing entity of sorts — a denim, leather and silk based bestie who I’m acquainted with on the same primal level that, let’s say, a new mother might be with her infant spawn. In the past few years, especially, my wardrobe has become one of my foremost focuses, something that I’ve carefully curated with the utmost precision to consist only of those items that I covet the most. My obsessively/compulsively/manically chosen pieces effectuate a grand scale portion of both my personal identity and my career, so naturally, I’m very specific about what I invite into the walls of my closet(s). That said, when requesting a Christmas gift, how can I expect someone [of sound mind] to meticulously differentiate between the nude and dusty green shades of the Isabel Marant Etoile Dicker Ankle Booties that I’m so desperately longing for?

Between my insatiable need for instant gratification and the fact that the specificity of the items on my wish list rival the complexity of extreme medical procedures (think septal myotomies and such), until a few years ago, it would’ve been totally reasonable to suggest that, invariably, I wasn’t the most festive or fun participant in the way of gift giving/receiving.

So what changed? Well, after a fair amount of maturing (I mean…it had to happen at some point, I guess) – pouts, kicks, wines — and the introduction of some particularly generous people into my life who noticeably enjoyed the act of gift giving as a result of the personalized sentiment that it denoted, I, too, came to understand the value of pre-planning a holiday list and bringing it to fruition for the purpose of celebrating loved ones. As such, in the past couple of years, especially, I’ve ruminated over holiday present ideas well in advance of December twenty-third and then searched for customized options that I felt were conducive to the specific personalities, quirks and tastes of those who I was gifting. Isn’t that the essence of what giving someone a present is all about?

In lieu of this semi-recent conversion from Scrooge to Santa, I decided to make a holiday gift guide that’s based on all of those carefully curated, tried and true items that can be found within the walls of my own closet. By doing it this way, I can personally vouch for all of the pieces that I recommend because, well, there are some major benefits to my previously mentioned need for instant gratification and OCD prompted purchases of wildly coveted items – I can now pass them along to you too.

See?! So it’s not all about me after all. 😉

X,

B

 

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Seven Years in Journalism — What It’s Taught Me About Tragedies and Our World.

A B C D E F G H I

[Photography: Alexandra Wolf]

I’m twenty-one years old when I first hear the sound of a human being wailing in horror. Situated outside of the scene of a triple homicide, I’m an intern at a Boston based news network, doing my best to pretend that I have the savvy necessary to cut it as a big time journalist – that is, I want to be Lisa Ling more than I want ANYTHING ELSE in this life. So, in an effort to compile a demo reel that I can send to potential employers with the hope of eventually getting hired, I tag along with an experienced crew of media professionals to put together “packages” (that’s news-geek lingo for stories) and then track my content back at the station thereafter. Thus far, I’ve covered topics like airport congestion and Earth Day, so when I’m urgently summoned to a breaking news scene on what appears to be a rudimentary enough Saturday afternoon, I have no idea what to expect.

In a suburb just outside of Boston, my team and I are among the first group of journalists to arrive and set up camp. Standing outside of a yellow taped off area in the dead of winter, we’re curious about what’s going on, of course, but we have no real concept of the carnage that’s unraveling less than about a hundred feet away from us. Later, we learn that, without warning, a twenty-three year old man stabbed two of his younger sisters to death, decapitating the youngest – a five-year-old baby — on her birthday. Police shoot and kill him before he’s able to take the life of his nine-year-old sister, as well. From my vantage point, I don’t see the parents rush home in a quest to discover the extent to which this futility has ravaged their world, but I hear a low bellied shrill emanating from somewhere within the mother’s being, causing me to turn my body towards her just as she collapses to the ground. Her scream denotes an agonizing mix of the rawest form of human emotion that I’ve ever borne witness to — a distinctly horrifying blend of anguish and dread. Although she’s immediately taken out of our vicinity and brought to an ambulance for medical attention, I continue to hear her primal torment reverberating like a terrible tortured backdrop for hours into the night. That was seven years ago, and I still vividly recall the poignancy of her shrills today; within them, I inherently recognize what the definition of intensive human suffering is.

Last Friday, I opt to take the day off. After a nonstop week of shoots, IT, and paperwork, I’m decidedly excited to treat myself to a long weekend with my fiancé. As we prepare to leave for dinner in the evening, I pass the living room TV and see – impossibly, unbelievably — that Paris is under massive attack. Shock. Dread. Horror. Disbelief. Together, my fiancé and I stare at the screen in front of us, messaging our friends in the City of Lights and attempting to understand the reality of what’s transpiring. I’m utterly devastated at the thought of such an idyllic, innocent and magical place undergoing any measure of horror – let alone a literal massacre of this magnitude. That said, when I choose to post a photo of the Eiffel Tower on social media and encourage people to pray for Paris, I receive feedback concerning the fact that we aren’t also being urged to pray for Beirut, Russia, Kenya, and Baghdad – as well as the sites of several other atrocities that have unfolded across the globe.

Upon reading the sentiments of many of my followers, I too, come to understand the conundrum that they’re justly grappling with. While no one would ever seek to diminish the extent of the devastation occurring in France (that would be ignorant and disgusting), it’s important to acknowledge to myself that I wasn’t even aware of the catastrophes happening elsewhere across the world. Of course, we all have a personal responsibility to educate ourselves on global affairs, but I can’t help but wonder how much of the distinct lack of coverage can be attributed to the media as a series of grand scale institutions, as well.

Here’s the thing: years after my stint as an intern at the news station in Boston, I move to New York and acquire that needle in a haystack position that I was so fervently seeking in the first place. At twenty-five, I’m producing and reporting content, much of which airs on MSNBC. It’s my chance, I think. I’ve made it to the majors. (Btw, this is the only time that you’ll witness me use a sports reference in anything that I write — ever). Committing myself to my work in a way that I never have before, I learn what it really means to shoot for four consecutive twenty hour days while on location, to willingly put my personal safety at risk in order to slip undercover in a series of cities south of the border (Box of cigs? Nope. That’s actually a covert camera being used to expose pedophiles on tape), to gently interview tiny survivors about a plethora of focuses so vile that they literally have the aptitude to bring grown men in the room to tears, to have my passport seized by a barrage of corrupt foreign police officers at 2am while being detained in a city that I can barely pronounce (let alone send out an SOS from) because of its insanely remote locale, etc.

And, truth be told, I can assure you that all of this feels entirely worth it if it means that you’ll be given an opportunity to spotlight a cause that you’re deeply passionate about and that will decidedly be advanced by receiving the national news coverage that it so rightly deserves. But what happens when you get all of the footage required to do justice to the piece, fly back to New York, spend countless hours in an edit station cutting it — and then the network — after giving it heaps of praise, unilaterally decides, without explanation, never to air it at all? What do you tell all of the survivors who were brave enough to come forward and share their stories with you in a quest to end such a ghastly epidemic? How do you explain something to them that you, yourself, can’t even understand?

I’m not being didactic or strident in suggesting that governments and grand scale media institutions alone mustn’t be the answer to our problems. But I do believe that all of us have some measure of personal power with respect to what happens to our world. It’s vital to be cognizant of the fact that regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or class, we inhabit one collective home – that is, Earth. And yes, evil is unquestionably everywhere; it’s in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Baghdad, an upscale suburb just outside of Boston on a Saturday afternoon, in the pedophiles who travel from all over the world to take advantage of vulnerable/disadvantaged children from third world nations, etc. One of the most commonly used phrases of jihadis is “we love death more than you love life.” In order to combat this devastation, then, we must love and appreciate life in a way that we never have before. Often times, when tragedies occur, we exhibit our best behavior for a couple of months thereafter. But what I’m suggesting is a process of immersion, whereby we take advantage of the fact that we’re all united in our grief right now and use it to come together — accepting one another more, exhibiting kindness to those who we encounter on a daily basis, and actively seeking to find the beauty in all of our moments.

It was with a heavy a heart that I initially thought about putting up a post subsequent to Paris. But if I didn’t continue forward, appreciating my life and creating the best level of creativity that I could, then the majority of this entry would equate to nothing more than hypocrisy. So today, I’m sending you love and healing, and I’m encouraging all of us, through a process of immersion, to allow these tragedies to catalyze us to a stronger place of every day beauty.

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