Tag Archives: Zoe Brown

Zoe Brown: An Eloquent 20s Voice, For 2020

At Staples Zoe Brown served as editor-in-chief of the school paper Inklings and co-president of the Teen Awareness Group, and played field hockey.

She graduated last month from the University of Southern California where she studied communication and cinematic arts, founded the Girls Who Read book club, and was a Hillel leader.

Zoe started her blog, Coast Confused, in 2015 just before graduating from Staples and switching coasts. 

She is moving back to Los Angeles this week, to search for a job in entertainment. Her goal is to become a literary manager and producer, or a showrunner and creator like Dan Fogelman.

Zoe Brown: proud graduate, in her home town.

The other day Zoe woke up with many confused feelings. She watched videos of her favorite writer, Marina Keegan, doing spoken word poetry, then put down her own thoughts. The resulting blog story is a wonderful piece of writing: powerful, insightful, honest, raw, personal yet universal. I’m honored to re-post it here. 

Lately, I’ve been driving with my windows down, blasting music, mostly songs about feeling lonely, sad or about wishing for love. You know, “Modern Loneliness” or “Sad Forever” by Lauv or “Dive” by Ed Sheeran. I secretly hope that someone will shout out to me, saying they like my music and that we should hang out. I do have friends, but I miss meeting new people and getting to know them, while getting to know myself more at the same time. I miss that moment when handshakes turns into hugs, and names turn into nicknames. I always remember the first time someone calls me “Zo.” Mostly, though, I miss touch and attention.

It’s hard right now, for so many reasons. It’s hard to grieve people killed for reasons that make less than no sense, to grieve normalcy and touch and the job I would have been starting soon, had things gone as planned (they rarely do). It’s hard to grieve in general but even harder without a warm hug or a supportive pat on the back from friends or family.

I thrive off of touch, off the electricity I feel when my hand grasps the hand of the cute boy from school on our first date at the movies, or when I cuddle with my best friend on her couch and she falls asleep so I have to sneak out so she doesn’t wake up. I’m going to see my Grandmom in Philly soon, and I can’t even hug her. I can’t hug my favorite lovely lady on Earth, who lost her husband, my Grandpop, not even a year ago. She probably hasn’t hugged anyone in 4 months. Then again, neither have I, besides when I “hug” my sister and she doesn’t hug me back (she doesn’t always like to be touched) or when I remind my dad “I am moving to LA for good” so he agrees to wrap his arms around his little girl quickly, one more time for now.

Zoe Brown

I started watching “When Harry Met Sally” the other day and in the very start, there’s a make out scene. It’s a closeup of two people making out in a park and it looked so gross to me that I didn’t keep watching the movie that night. Kissing seems gross to me. I have probably kissed a hundred boys at this point, and I don’t think I ever want to kiss one again. Maybe that’s dramatic, but I guess it’s just so clear to me right now, because I’ve had to be so careful about germs, that it is GROSS. Swiveling your tongue around in the inside of a random person’s dirty mouth, ew!

But at the same time, I can’t wait to kiss again. I can’t wait to see that look in his eyes and know that he’s about to place his soft lips on mine, or on my cheek and the creases of my neck. And it doesn’t seem so gross after all.

I don’t even know when that will happen, or with who. I know who I want it to happen with. I want to kiss Him again. I capitalized the H in Him when I wrote this without even thinking about it, as if he is God or something. He is most definitely not God, so maybe I should demote him to the lowercase “him,” to just an Angel instead, or maybe a demi-God, in my mind at least.

I imagine him next to me sometimes, like when I’m alone reading on a chair at the beach or driving to pick up food. I hope that doesn’t sound too sad or weird and I especially hope it doesn’t sound creepy. I just miss him, and I feel like I don’t even deserve to miss him. I don’t know him that well after all and I’m sure he doesn’t miss me. Why do I get to miss him? But then again, I also miss the smell of my best friend’s hair, the taste of buttery movie theater popcorn, and the sound of pen on paper and professors lecturing about whatever it is I used to learn in school.

So why can’t I miss him? Who am I to tell myself who I can and cannot miss? I mean, at least I’m not missing that other him (definitely lowercase), the one who stomped on my heart like he was killing a spider in the shower, with intention and no regrets.

I miss my favorite writer, Marina Keegan. I never even knew her, besides through her writing. She was 22 when she died, right after she graduated from Yale. In one of her spoken word poetry sets, she said “I want to have time to be in love with everything.” I do, too. I want to hug my best friend when I go to her house to congratulate her on getting her first job. I want to high-five my friend’s mom after we run a solid two miles together in the New England heat. I want to look next to me and actually see him, and give his hand a quick squeeze to let him know I’m glad that I’m not only imaging him next to me anymore.

Zoe Brown, browsing at The Last Bookstore iin Santa Monica.

I want to be in love with my country, my home, this beautiful Earth. I definitely am not right now. I am proud of so much of the effort from everyone, to better themselves and fight for justice with racism, police brutality, and everything else that’s so fucked up in America. I am not proud of my President. I am proud of the Supreme Court, for its ruling to protect LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. I am not proud of the police. I am proud of myself, for selling postcards to raise money to support black emotional and mental health. I am not proud of my friends who are not taking this pandemic seriously. I am proud of my friends and those who are taking it seriously and the doctors who are fighting to save people and create a vaccine. I am proud of the people who stand back up over and over again after being shoved down repeatedly, because as long as they keep standing, they keep winning.

I am glad to be alive, but I am also sad and uncomfortable. It feels like I was living on a rug on top of a bunch of spikes and someone ripped the rug right out from beneath me. Now I live standing on the spikes, so I have to be careful of my every step but no matter how I stand, it always kind of hurts.

I know that the rug will be replaced one day, and I am hopeful that it will be a better rug, too, one made with more care, respect and understanding than the last.

I hope that this world becomes better because of everything it’s going through. I know I’ve become better because of my struggles. Even though I am hurting now, I am hopeful that the world we live in will come out of this a stronger, brighter, and better one.

(To read more of Zoe Brown’s blog, click here.)

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

 

Zoe Brown Has A Job. Or 7.

Zoe Brown loved Staples High School.

Before graduating in 2015 she served as editor-in-chief of the school paper Inklings, and president of the Teen Awareness Group. She was on Student Assembly, in Student Ambassadors, and played field hockey.

She learned a lot about herself. She made friends who, she says, “have made me a better person.”

The University of Southern California was her dream school. She loved the journalism program, the “Trojan Family” spirit, the beautiful campus, the weather, football games, party scene, and the fact that it was different than any place she’d ever lived.

When she got there though, Zoe realized there were 2 things she did not love: its size, and how far it was from her home and family.

She felt she could not get as involved as she’d been at Staples. She lost her confidence and her passion. And, she says, “I lost myself.”

Zoe Brown

For those reasons — and issues involving mental health — she needed to take a step “to the left.” (That’s the name of her blog post by the same name. Click here for her very honest insights.)

In early August, Zoe chose to take care of herself and her body, by spending the upcoming semester at home.

But she knew she had to stay active. Which is how she now has 7 jobs.

You read that right. Zoe is working at 7 jobs.

First, she was hired as a hostess at Pearl at Longshore.

She then joined Two Oh Three — the zip code-named lifestyle brand — as a communications intern.

Zoe picked up some babysitting and tutoring work too.

Then she became a seasonal worker for Challah Connection, the kosher gift company.

Zoe Brown, at Challah Connection.

She also started helping jewelry designers Allison Daniel and Devon Woodhill.

That’s not all. Zoe is starting a greeting card/poster business with her best friend from Staples, Olivia Crosby — a graphic design student at the University of Connecticut.

Once Zoe finishes her USC classes from last semester, she’ll start tutoring with Freudingman & Billings.

No wonder her business cards say simply: “Zoe Brown — A li’l bit of everything.”

Each job is different. Pearl and babysitting are the most tiring. Pearl and Two Oh Three are the most fun.

But every job involves people. Zoe loves everyone she works with — everywhere –and has learned a lot from all.

She thinks she’s learned the most overall from being a hostess: about people and communication, especially.

Zoe plans to return to USC, and graduate in December 2019. Then — why not? — she’ll head to massage therapy school.

She’d like to work on a yacht or cruise ship, traveling for free before going back to Los Angeles to become a personal assistant to a producer, or work for a production company.

At the same time, she hopes to complete her own screenplays. She’s started one already.

Which means Zoe Brown is actually working 8 jobs right now.

I guess she’s too busy to count them all right.

 

Zoe Brown: “I’m Glad I’m A Spring Admit”

Last March — a couple of months before graduating from Staples High School — Zoe Brown got the legendary fat envelope from the University of Southern California. That’s the good news.

The bad news: She would have to wait nearly a year. Her acceptance was for spring.

Zoe described her reaction — and what’s happened since — on her well-written, entertaining “IMO” blog. Her words should be read by every Staples senior waiting for their own college news — and everyone else in town too.

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Knowing that I would not start college at the same time as all my friends was scary and upsetting. I knew I should have been excited, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, even cheated.

Could I still make friends? Find my place? Graduate on time? What was I supposed to do for a whole semester? Should I turn down my dream school for one that offered me admission in the fall?

But after finishing up my fall semester at Santa Monica College — a highly ranked community college — I realize that being admitted in the spring was a blessing in disguise. I learned so many lessons and went through so many new experiences that I never would have if I’d started school in the fall.

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

This past semester I lived in an apartment building off campus, with 3 other girls.

With no meal plan, I bought my own groceries and cooked (more like “managed to throw together”) my own meals. With no resident assistant or instruction of any sort, I learned to deal with any issue independently.

I learned through clogged toilets, growing mold and festering food that I actually have to clean my surroundings thoroughly, like with a sponge and some special foam scrub.

And from my free time and the 3,000 miles separating me from my parents and most of my friends, I focused on putting myself out there to meet new people.

Most importantly, I also learned to enjoy spending some time with someone who will always be there for me: myself.

Zoe Brown, browsing at The Last Bookstore.

Zoe Brown, browsing in a bookstore.

Being a spring admit forced me to branch way outside my comfort zone.

Westport — where over 90 percent of the population is white and most people live comfortably, even luxuriously — is nothing like Santa Monica College. Here I met just about as many Asians and Hispanics as I did whites.

I met a girl who was admitted to New York University, but had to turn it down for financial reasons. I met a boy from Maryland who lives on his own, and works full-time at a real estate agency. I met a woman 3 times my age who is going to school for the first time, and a boy who knows everything about gangs.

At SMC I discovered that there is so much more outside the bubble that was my hometown and my high school. I’d heard about it before, and I’ve traveled a bit in my lifetime. But until now, I’ve never lived in a place where I could see what else is out there.

Zoe Brown: California girl.

Zoe Brown: California girl.

If you’re at USC, chances are you worked hard throughout high school. If not, you must have worked hard in some other way.

I worked so hard straight through my 4 years of high school that I never had time to do so many things.

Being a spring admit and having so much more time than a normal college student allowed me to cross many of these things off my to-do list.

I had time to explore Southern California in every way – from getting lost on hikes and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, to buying books for $1 at The Last Bookstore and doing an overnight trip to Laguna Hills.

I had time to start this blog, to write for other publications, and to actually read books for my own pleasure. Most importantly I had time to breathe, and realize how grateful I should be for where I am today.

Yes, sometimes it sucks to be a little behind socially, and live a walk away from all the on-campus happenings. When it does seem to suck, I try my best to remember that I still made it to the school I dreamed about for years. There’s no reason to be anything but thrilled and proud about that.

Anyway, what’s one less semester, when I’ve got the whole rest of my life to keep FIGHTING ON! with the Trojan family?

(To read Zoe’s full story — and the rest of her blog — click here.)

Even before officially enrolling this spring, Zoe Brown enjoys a USC football game.

Even before officially enrolling this spring, Zoe Brown enjoys a USC football game.

Zoe Brown: “Chris Lemone Will Always Be A Part Of Me”

Zoe Brown graduated from Staples High School in June. Now a freshman at the University of Southern California, she’s also the author of an insightful blog, “IMO.” 

Yesterday she shared her emotions on the death of Staples’ outreach counselor, Chris Lemone. She gave permission to share her beautiful piece with “06880.”

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“You’re it. Your life. Your decision.” That’s the Teen Awareness Group (TAG)’s motto.

Unfortunately though, sometimes life throws something at you that you can’t control, something that’s not your decision at all. I learned this the hard way today.

I didn’t think anything at first of the texts and calls I was getting this morning at 5 from members of Staples High School’s TAG, of which I was co-president last year and Chris was advisor of for many years. But when my little sister called me at 6 a.m. (my time), I knew it must be important.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I really still can’t. I screamed “NO” over and over again. My whole body shook and tears spilled out uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath for what felt like, and honestly may have been, an hour.

Chris Lemone was (and will remain) one of my favorite people ever. When I wrote him a thank-you note at the end of the year, I told him that I’d like to stay in touch forever, to which he said “absolutely.” I told him I could guarantee that he was someone who would be at my wedding, that we would still be close friends in 10 or so years. I even had a 30-minute conversation with him over the phone a couple of weeks ago when I was having trouble settling in to college. He made me feel a million times better, and was so happy that I called.

Chris Lemone

Chris Lemone

It’s all so ironic. Chris was one of the best guys I knew and one of the last people to deserve anything negative in his life, let alone this.

He spent all of his time working to help people and make the community a better place. He must have changed and bettered the lives of more people than I even know in total.

There’s no other way to say it besides that it’s not fair. To say it as Chris would have said it, “It’s just really f*cking unfair.”

On an even more personal note, Chris saw more in me than I ever saw in myself.  I was never able to truly express to him with words how grateful I was for his faith in me. So I tried to use my actions. He made me want to be so great that I really did live up to his vision of me.

At the end of last year he wrote me the nicest letter I’ve ever received, praising my leadership and passion. I hope he understood that so much of what I did was in hopes that it would make him proud, and that he would speak highly of me as he did of other past TAG members.

I now hang that letter next to my bed to remind myself every day to be the person that Chris saw me as.

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

What makes this even harder is that usually, Chris is the person I would call if I was ever feeling as I do now: weak, helpless and sadder than I thought possible.

I’m usually good at giving advice but now I’m completely lost. Nothing I say can make it better or make it hurt any less, no matter how hard I try.

So I’m going to try to think like Chris would. He would throw up his hands, raise his eyebrows, lean back in his desk chair in the TAG office by the cafeteria and say with a little half-chuckle: “F*ck. Life just sucks sometimes, man. You gotta try your best to make the most of it while you’re alive.”

I don’t know if he’d say it exactly like that. But he would definitely figure out a way to throw a curse word in there. He would be blunt and honest but also positive at the same time, as always.

There’s really not much else to say. I could write about how I cherish so much the times I would skip class to sit in Chris’ office, and give and receive advice. I could talk about how overly excited we both got when one of us would see a new Broadway show, or how we spent way too long talking about plays in general. Or I could mention the secrets we had that no one would ever understand and how happy I was whenever I was around him, even when he played his crazy loud rock music during lunch meetings.

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real; everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real. Everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

But I don’t need to spend too long talking about any of that because I know that I will always have those memories, even if I don’t have Chris anymore.

We know he loved us and he knows we loved him. We can and will remember the good times forever, and he will live on through our memories. And in everything I do and whoever I become throughout the rest of my life, there will always be a little part of Chris in there.

It’s pretty fitting that he shared this video on Facebook last month. Without us even asking, he left us with some of the best advice out there:

A good lesson shared by an even better man.

I’ll miss you forever, Chris, and I will continue to live every day trying to make you proud of me.

(P.S. I only included curse words because I know Chris is laughing about that from wherever he is now).

John Dodig: ReSpect

There is only one Derek Jeter.

And there is only one John Dodig.

Inspired by the fantastic Jeter “Re2pect” video honoring the Yankee great on his retirement — with everyone from little kids, cops and Rudy Giuliani to Jay-Z, Spike Lee and even Red Sox fans tipping their cap to the superstar — Staples seniors Zoe Brown and Taylor Harrington set out to give their retiring principal his due.

The result is a remarkable tribute to the high school’s one-of-a-kind leader.

If you know Dodig, and understand all he has meant during his 11 years as principal, you’ll look at this video, smile — and shed a tear.

If you don’t know Dodig, watch anyway. You’ll see the impact he’s had on everyone — administrators, teachers, athletes, actors, musicians, artists, kids who might have fallen through the cracks, secretaries, cafeteria workers, custodians, security guards — and you’ll wish you’d known him.

Zoe and Taylor clearly got the most out of their 4 years in Dodig’s Staples. And turning Jeter’s “Re2pect” into Dodig’s “ReSpect” is pure genius.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)