Tunesday: Festival Flashback

It’s been a month since I’ve blogged, so what better way to cop-out than a Tunesday post! (Real writing is on the way.)(Hopefully.)

This past weekend, I went to Weekend One of the Austin City Limits Music Festival… i.e. spent three days sweating, dancing, singing and generally living it up with some amazing people. I’m still in shock at it all. I saw 16 concerts in three days, including some of my all-time favorites and artists I never thought I would see live. It was an incredible, to say the least.

So what better way to relive one of the best weekends of my life than to attempt to wrangle some of my favorite performances? Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: I pulled these videos from YouTube, courtesy of people who recorded them at the sets. Sorry for shaky camera work and people yelling. It happens. 

  1. “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots

This band saved my life in a lot of ways. This song in particular means the absolute world. The knowledge that you are not alone in having intrusive thoughts, in using music to keep darkness at bay — it’s very comforting. Plus, Tyler risks his life at the end and it’s equal parts terrifying and awesome.

(TØP is one of those bands that you either really get or really don’t. I don’t care what you think about them, honestly. They mean so much to me, and that should be enough for you.)

2. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake

This was one of the best shows OF MY LIFE. There is pre-Drake Hanna and post-Drake Hanna, and it’s a good life on the other side. I’ve been listening to Drake for ages and ages, so the mere concept that I got to see him life still hasn’t processed for me. Like…DRAKE. DRIZZY. AUBREY GRAHAM. WHEELCHAIR JIMMY. (Also, he brought Future out to do some songs from WATTBA and I actually lost my mind.)

Moral of the story: Drake loves Texas, loves Austin and loves what he does. It was incredible to witness.

3. “Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier

Hozier sounds better live than he does in the studio, which is a total treat. His stage presence is really great — all tall, noodle-y rock star. The whole crowd was dancing and singing along, making it one of the best atmospheres I was in the entire weekend. He also did a killer cover of Blackbird (my true weakness). 


Truthfully, there’s no way to narrow down the entire weekend into three songs. Each show was memorable and amazing in its own way, and I loved every second I spent in Zilker. If there’s one thing this weekend has confirmed for me, it’s the money is best spent on experiences (specifically musical ones). Also on tacos.

Shoutout to the wonderful people I got to spend the weekend with, and thanks for still being my friend even when I can’t find a way to shut up about Drake. Y’all rock.


If you’re wondering, this is who I saw:

  • Drake
  • The Weeknd
  • Disclosure
  • alt-j
  • Hozier
  • Tame Impala
  • A$AP Rocky
  • Chance the Rapper
  • Ben Howard
  • Twenty One Pilots
  • George Ezra
  • Flosstradamus
  • Glass Animals
  • Halsey
  • Ryn Weaver
  • Years & Years

There were a few sets that I couldn’t make for logistical reasons: I gave up Sylvan Esso for Halsey, picked Chance over Vance, missed Foo Fighters for Disclosure. There are so many more concert tickets left to buy in my life. I’ll catch them the next go ’round. (Foo Fighters, if you break up before I can see you, I’m going to be so mad.)


Can y’all believe I got to see Drake???!!!!

The Hindsight Looking Glass

Some nights get into me like fish hooks. Teeth marks left long into bleary-eyed mornings. Tiny scars to remind you that adventure starts with a simple decision.

“Are you coming with?”

And then suddenly I am flung into my favorite headspace: sitting in the back seat, music turned up so loud you physically can’t think about anything else, a quick glance and a shared smile.

Let’s talk freedom. Let’s talk summer. Let’s talk that rumble in the pit of your stomach, that happy growl when you bend the rules, that lustful humming of  hubris. Let’s talk being as young as you’ll ever be again.

Nights like these are the ones I am always scared to write about. I can’t find a way to explain the feeling of youth. I can’t hold them long enough to examine them, to pick them apart. The memories don’t stay still. They wiggle and buck and skitter away into the dappled shadows of street lamps.

Your name melts into the folder of things I wish I remembered, but I can’t get the way your hands felt out of my head.

Until this year, I never spent a summer in Columbia. I fled, with the majority of my fellow students, to other adventures. Found home in cities far away from Missouri, from routine.  But from May to July I found myself, college degree (metaphorically) in hand, dancing in summer rain and crying in my empty apartment. Alone, but not lonely (except when I was).

It was a happy, sleepy, sweaty, stormy existence.  Half of it was the mundane pattern of food service closing shifts and finishing my research project. The other half was a fever dream of freedom, of clinging to friends and not acknowledging the countdown to saying goodbye.

Romanticizing the hell out of my life is something I do very well. I can take a stranger at a red light and spin them into a glowing golden lost love. Very basic human kindness sends me spiraling into a mess of metaphors. I am a sappy, ridiculous human being, all sadness considered.

But the months I spent in Columbia this summer practically wrote their own poems. When I was in the thick of it, it was too big to fit into 26 letters. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough, couldn’t swallow enough sunshine, couldn’t hold enough rain in my hands.

I moved home and things slowed down to a quieter existence. I mostly drive my family to work, stress about finding a job and build my marketing portfolio. And, of course, write. Spare time presented itself to me shyly for the first time in ages, and I was excited to examine the life I had lived so decadently for two and a half months.

But every intention of dissecting my summer went out the window with a pain like a train leaving without me on it. I couldn’t look directly into the sun I was trying to write about. Nights blended together — was that the night those creepy guys were staring at us? Or was that the night we made dinner together? Before or after I closed my thumb in a car door?

I have tried and failed to convey how it felt to be there. The haze of vodka and beer, warm in the bellies full of cheap Mexican food and cheese pizza. Passing a cigarette around a circle of friends, unconcerned with sharing spit or lipstick smudges. A pile of humans and dogs in a too-hot living room, singing Action Bronson and Purity Ring and Frank Ocean.

It was art only recognizable firsthand that I am trying to drag back into my home. Records with songs we sang in the car, in your room, on the street.  Candles that smell like rain and smoke, like your shirt, like too much Chinese food. A shadow-box of every 3 a.m. I’ve ever seen: wet grass, ticket stubs, streetlight, bug bites shoved into a frame.

What I did, objectively speaking, was very standard. I went to the same coffee shop nearly every day. I spent too much money on brunch for the sheer nostalgic value. I made a shaky, nervous, giggly effort to flirt. I stayed up late. I watched fireworks from parking lots.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a very standard summer, so why did my heart feel fit to burst with light? I tried to talk myself down, but the warm, syrupy magic of it all never washed off my fingertips.

A misfit band of heartstrings tangled across the radius of downtown. We ran down brick roads. We shared hash browns. We split vodka sodas. We danced with strangers in dark bars. We dragged our un-showered bodies to McDonald’s in time for breakfast. We stood on chairs. We said goodbye.

Friday night, I went out with new friends. We raced down a highway at 11:30 p.m., hungry for beer and loud music and people we’ve never seen before. Or at least, I was. I wanted to tap back into my summer dream state. Less checking Glassdoor for average salaries, more moving through crowded dance floors. Less anxiety-induced shaking, more kissing cute people.

My CoMo summer sits apart from the tail-end of summer I’ve been living at home in Austin. It is a brewing thunderstorm I can’t tear my eyes away from. A beautiful bruise I can’t stop poking.

Andrea Gibson wrote a poem called “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power Is Out.” I can’t remember if they read it when I saw them perform at MU, but I don’t think I would have got it.

I started asking the sun about the Big Bang

the sun said, “it hurts to become.”

I carried that hurt on the tip of my tongue

and whisper “bless your heart” every chance I get

so my family tree can be sure I have not left

you do not have to leave to arrive, I am learning this slowly

Facing truth head-on is much less terrifying when your bones have been warmed by the radiator that is your old heart.

So here are my summer truths: Summer ends because winter must begin, just as winter will end to make way for warmth once more. Noses must be pressed to grindstones in order to afford to buy the next round of shots. You can lose a pair of kind eyes in a crowd as easily as an earring back. Love aches in the best possible way. Long-distance friendships are just as painful as you thought they’d be.

Life can’t always always be a yellow-saturated dream about the madness of youth. It doesn’t have to be a constant grind either.

It’s okay to write 1,000 words about not being able to write down how you fell in love with the simple magic of being.

You can’t always channel heat lightning into your writing.
There is no way to nail a luna moth to your notebook.



Here’s a video + transcript of the Gibson poem. Get your tissues ready.

#FreeWriteFriday: Things In My Dreamcatcher

12:04 p.m. 

I dreamed about meeting you in an airport. Saving my pennies for a plane ticket. About falling into your arms, about crying with the sheer joy of finally getting to put my hands around yours.

We are jumping on hotel beds. We are watching terrible TV movies and laughing to tears. Building an impressive blanket fort in your basement. There is a dog there, and he curls into the small space between our sleeping bodies. Everything feels right and slow and warm.

In my dream, I am thin and beautiful. You are you before sadness stole your light. You play guitar absentmindedly and I croon along. I sound like Joni Mitchell; You smile like the sun.

It all ends like a sun-speckled dream sequence from a Sophia Coppola film. Flashes of the five Lisbon girls smiling, miniature supernovas of teenage freedom before the darkness comes rushing back. You and I tripping through years and years of “come here, come here, come here,” stumbling over our I love yous because they can’t come fast enough.


There is a mystery boy who lives in the very back of my memory. He kissed me over and over, little pecks until both of us were laughing. When I woke him up with the same kisses, he grinned. Tucked his arm around me, tracing his fingertips along my arm. “This is perfect. Let’s just stay here all day,” he said with the sleepiest sigh. I was afraid he could hear my heart fluttering.

He made me roll my eyes and laugh when he threw the cutest tantrum about getting out of bed. He held my hand in the back of my friend’s car, then disappeared.

I don’t think about him often, but sometimes the way the light comes in through my bedroom window puts me back there. Kissing him was a flash of a fairy-tale, a sleepy summer night with the last chapter missing.


I miss him with a faceless innocence. I miss you with a painful, misplaced ferocity.

These are the just ghosts my dreamcatcher caught. I am not sitting on the floor on a hotel room with you. I am not drunk on freedom, pointing out fireflies.

I am sitting at my kitchen table, listening to old records and drinking coffee. It’s no longer hot, but I don’t have the energy to do anything about it. My body doesn’t move right. It is big and heavy. I stare into mirrors, screaming silently at myself to change, to stop crying.

You don’t like coffee. I have no idea if he does.
I dump the last half cup down the sink.

12:58 p.m.

I haven’t posted a FWF since April 2014. Whoops.

TFLNM: Sahara Heart

“Sweetheart, what did you bury in the garden?”

My hands are covered in potting soil. I smell like dirt.

I could lie. A coffee cup. A book I love. A letter to a you.
I look down at the ground.
“A hatchet.”

Forgiveness has never been one-size-fits-all. You could sell my car for parts and lose my favorite sweater and I would still take you back. Not like I have much choice. You wiggle your way back into my poems while my back is turned. I find you curled on the couch, asleep, with my diary as a pillow.

I dig holes everywhere there’s room, hiding little bits of you from myself. Underneath my kitchen sink is a stack of disposable cameras I never got developed. Your old sweatshirt is in the shed with the paint rags. The paperback I stole from your bedroom goes out with the next Goodwill donation. I stop buying honey from the stand close to your house. They never put the lids on tightly enough anyways.

I try to scrub the sound of your footsteps out of my kitchen floors. Gone are my favorite writing pens. My old journal mysteriously goes missing. The mix you made me gets lent out to the friend who has never been good at returning things. I sold your bike.

And yet there you are on every dance floor. A touch magnetized to the back of my neck, the curve of my spine. Bodies fit together like gears. Every breath screams “welcome back” without a single word. A friendly ghost I don’t have the heart to scare away.

Maybe I wasn’t meant to get rid of you. Maybe there are stains that never come out, scars you never outgrow. I still cry to the same songs. I still look for you in a crowd. I still write you into every love song.

I forgave you long ago for always coming home. It’s not your fault I leave the door unlocked.

TFLNM, or The First Line’s Not Mine, is a creative writing prompt project. Step one: pick a random generator. Step two: write it out. Step three: hit publish. Let’s play.

Iced Toddy and Calculated Risk

I go to coffee shops to get work done for the same reason people go to gyms to work out. If you’re surrounded by other people and also possess a healthy sense of paranoia, you will feel extremely motivated.

Consider this sampling of my Gold’s Gym inner monologue: I HAVE to run this mile instead of letting myself walk every other minute. There are people watching me! The mom next to me just run an eight-minute mile and I think she has three kids! Why have I done this to myself! I am so sweaty no one look at me oh God why why why. Okay, hang on. You can totally run on pace with this Jay-Z song. Okay. This is your moment. Go.

Now compare to my Bennu monologue, one iced coffee in: Hanna, put down your phone and type with a purpose! Finish that project! Send that email! Check your LinkedIn! Stop dancing in your chair — people will think you’re blowing off work! Do NOT open Facebook! Why are you so restless please sit still and focus for the love of God above us. Wait, I know how to phrase that poem I’ve been working on for a week. And that email will take 15 seconds to send. Okay, this makes sense. You can do this.

It’s a lot of panic when I sit down in a crowded place. I have always been acutely aware of my presence in public. How much space I take up, how loudly ice clinks in my glass, how my hair looks from every angle, how often my phone accidentally buzzes. I want to be small and quiet and unassuming. I don’t want to annoy anyone with my typing. I don’t want to draw a single unnecessary thread of attention.

I’ve always been like this. A unfortunate by-product of an overactive empathy gene and a too-big body.

Then, somewhere in the din of worry in my head, a chord strikes clear and clean. Focus, like the ever-elusive stray cat you’ve been trying to feed treats to for years, slinks into the room. For fear of spooking her, you keep typing, keep breathing. It’s like hitting a runner’s high. That sweet spot around mile five when your body slips into auto-pilot and your mind gets to freely wander without screaming about aching joints.

There is a calculated risk of letting myself get in my own head. More often than not, it doesn’t go well. I accidentally jostle a wasp’s nest of decade-old stressors. My brain chemistry remembers that it has total control over my day and decides we haven’t had a good cry in about a week so why not right now in the car with my mom that should be fine? Remember that time you were unintentionally really mean and never properly apologized? Yeah, that person probably hates your guts right now. Let’s stop and think about it for a little while.

But when you dig deep on a good day, when it’s warm outside and your head isn’t clouded, you can make some really great art. You hit your writing stride. Sending emails doesn’t make you want to crawl into a hole. Projects magically break themselves up into completely attainable steps. Items fly off your to-do-today checklist. It’s a goddamn miracle.

Today I stopped putting off my productivity. I finished projects that got swept under the rug during last week’s mental health breakdown. I applied to a really cool job. I wrote this blog post. I semi-successfully resisted a full-on Chance the Rapper dance session in the middle of a cafe.

When you wake up every day with a risk of a Bad Brain Day, you learn to embrace the good ones. Being vocal about feeling happy is a surefire way to remind my sad self that things are going to be okay. “See, Hanna? You will be happy again. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now. I know you’re upset and stressed. I know you feel lost and useless. I know you want to sleep and not speak to anyone. But it always gets better.”

Even after an entire winter of sadness, I always find myself staring into the sun, blinking with disbelief.

So don’t be afraid to tap into the scary stuff. Don’t be afraid to put your headphones in and take up space in public. Don’t be afraid to write the truth.

Or, be afraid. Be terrified. Seeing truths written out in front of you can be horrifying. Realizing you are not, in fact, “over” that one thing. Or that you don’t know what makes you truly happy. Or that you aren’t sure if you’ve ever been in love. It’s enough to make your heart stop.

So go out into this giant, terrifying world of ours. Drive to new places alone. Don’t talk to boys who are mean to you. Practice spoken word poems. Write love letters to your best friends. Let yourself be happy, even if you don’t know why.

Be scared. Be brave. Drink some coffee and start.

I’m a little scared that all my blog posts are starting to sound the same. But, regardless, here’s this. Thanks for listening to my babbling!

Thought Stream: Buttercup

Writing online is a lot like shouting into the void most days.

You sit down, type, edit, start over at least once, ponder metaphors, pull up and wonder why you can’t think of synonyms for “call,” type more, look at Twitter, pretend to read through your work and hit publish. Your post gets 50 views. Your friends comment nice things. Your mom shares it onto her wall.

Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you hit a vein. People show your words to their friends. Hundreds of people leave comments. A poem you didn’t think anyone would relate to suddenly has 300,000+ notes. Strangers on the Internet nod their heads in agreement. You get to, for as long as you want to milk it, bask in the knowledge that you are a Good Writer. That maybe, just maybe, you weren’t coddled into thinking you were a writer or a poet. That you actually have skills and inherent talent. That you could sustain a living by writing. That maybe you could cobble together an collection of poems for publication.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work like that. You work for two days on a poem. You breach a painful dam in your chest and let yourself feel loss. You cry, head on the table in front of your computer, because things should have been different, things should have worked out. You write and re-write and edit and cry again and write and write. You push yourself into the crawlspace you’ve been avoiding, that realization you never wanted to see written out. And, terrified and proud, you publish it. It gets 16 notes, most of which are from close friends. Cue the panic that maybe you aren’t cut out for poetry. That your words are silly and cliché. That the metaphors you slaved over don’t even make sense. That you should have studied science and left your notebooks in your childhood closet to gather dust.

You pull it together. You wipe your nose. You absorb the hit, storing it away for a Later Meltdown and move on with your day.


I have a habit of repeating information about myself. People usually don’t remember things about me, so I add them into the conversations. Salt-and-pepper epithets to jog people’s memory of simple personal facts. Little answers to questions I got tired of hearing. Instead of answering the painful “Wait, where are you from?,” I simply beat them to the punch. I’m from Texas. I’m a writer. I’m a lefty.

I never really noticed it until two of my friends (Hi, Sparks and Nathan) poked fun at me for it. “Oh, you studied in Brussels?” “Wait, where do you work?” The painful (painfully funny?) part was that I didn’t realize they were mocking me. I thought they legitimately didn’t remember where I went abroad or that I worked downtown. Finally, after the 100th “I work at Chipotle,” Nathan laughed kindly and looked straight at me.

“Hanna, I know you work at Chipotle. I’m just kidding.”


I’m forever stuck between writing only when inspiration hits or writing every day as practice. Actually, let me rephrase. I want to write every day. To fling words out into the world and get better. But what actually happens is I sit down, can’t think off how to put my feelings into sentences, close down my document and go back to watching makeup tutorials on YouTube.

Imagine one of those Expectation/Reality scenes from “500 Days of Summer.” On the left is me publishing a collection of my writing, grinning next to my husband Matthew Gray Gubler (who fell in love after reading my poems online). On the right is me refreshing Twitter for the millionth time while trying to decide if I did anything remotely Instagram-worthy in the past few days.

I delete half of what I write. I don’t like half of what I publish. Most of my poems repeat themselves. The same phrases crop up time after time. They’re usually about a boy. I am always alone. It’s hard to put a pen to an exposed nerve, to talk that final step into recovering from a broken heart.

Why make yourself look sad and hopeless on the Internet time and time again when you could, you know…not? I could leave the writing to Andrea Gibson, to Shinji Moon, to anyone who isn’t me. I could stop trying to reconcile pain into poems.

But pain demands to be felt.


Today has been a weird day. I woke up angry, on the edge of a panic attack. I felt a misplaced shame for liking things that aren’t “cool.”  I felt ugly and too big and sad and exhausted. This happens to me every so often — the result of post-grad stress and wonky brain chemistry.

Every day I say that I hate writing. Today is no different. It’s okay to feel a little resentment toward the thing that keeps you alive, but makes you work for it. Writing is a solo act. It, by nature, isolates you. It makes you feel.

But I wasn’t alone. Leah texted me and assured me I was allowed to like whatever I wanted to like, regardless of rude people. Amelia reminded me that I am important no matter if I am lost or found. Jackson made me feel less weird about having a silly crush. My sister bought me tacos.

I put on some soft music and made myself write. I drank cold water. I let myself feel.


I learned (way more recently than I care to admit) that my voice is important. That I shouldn’t put up with bullshit from immature boys just for the attention of the male gaze. That people who don’t make me a priority in their lives should not be a priority in my life.  That love is everywhere I turn.

Every day I am reminded, with incredible clarity, that I am not in the same middle school setting which twisted my self-esteem so many years ago. My friends remember little things about me. They celebrate my accomplishments. They’re proud of me.

I learned that, despite every self-conscious anxiety-induced fear in my head, people listen when I speak.

That sunshine feels good. That it’s okay to lay in bed all day. That writing isn’t supposed to be easy.

So I shout into the void. I write apology letters with torn-up eviction notices. I throw poorly-folded paper airplane poems out of open office windows.

Sometimes, something sticks.
Sometimes, the void shouts back.

I am no longer invisible.

“Keep writing, kid.”

Tunesday: Men in Hats

Oh, it’s been a minute since my last Tunesday post. Apologies. Life is sort of weird right now, and I haven’t been great about consistent blogging. Or eating at normal meal times. Or sleeping enough. Anyway…

I’ve seen each of these three artists live, and the vocals are just as amazing at a concert set. Check out these non-studio songs (and send me music to listen to).

1. Gregory Alan Isakov performing “The Universe” for a Fuel/Friends Music Blog Chapel Session in Colorado Springs, CO.

the Universe, she’s wounded
but she’s still got infinity ahead of her
she’s still got you and me
and everybody says that she’s beautiful

I love Gregory Alan Isakov so, so, so much. When I was driving through construction at night with a U-Haul trailer attached to my car after being in the car for more than 12 hours (read: on the edge of an anxiety attack), I put on his music to calm me down. The Universe is one of my favorite songs ever, and always makes me feel sad-sleepy-nostalgic-content. I saw him in Columbia when he opened for Iron & Wine. There was a truly awful crowd that nearly ruined it for me, but I’m sure I’ll catch another set in my life.

2. Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors performing “Tennessee” in a living room session

I am the second born of my mother and father
He’s a lion hearted man, she’s a Jesus lovin’ woman
And no matter how far I roam I always belong

I was in the front row to see these guys in Columbia. For this song, the rest of the band went backstage and Drew sang this alone and acoustic. I nearly didn’t make it because I was so overwhelmed (okay, that’s really dramatic, but you know me). They’re playing at ACL in October, so I’m hoping for round two.

3. Shakey Graves performing “Hardwired” for Stetson Center Stage

Well you bumbled like bees
And I’m boiled like the seas
While you led where no one would follow

This! Man! Shakey Graves (i.e. Alejandro Rose-Garcia) played Blues On The Green in Austin on my birthday last week, which was the best present I could have asked for. He’s a total goober with an incredible voice, and this song is so bittersweet. He’s also playing at ACL, so hopefully I get to dance to Roll The Bones again.

What’re you listening to these days, friends?