Tiny, Mary Ellen Mark, 1983.

Erin “Tiny” Blackwell photographed by Mary Ellen Mark, 1983, via the documentary Streetwise.

Dear Rookies,

Before we introduce this month, allow me to introduce Rookie Yearbook Three, our third print compilation, bringing you the best of our content from the website’s junior year in tangible form!


In addition to your favorite articles and photos, now 100 percent cuddle-able, we also have some truly wonderful new stuff that you won’t find on our site, including interviews with and contributions from the likes of Tina Belcher, the Broad City babes, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Lorde, Shailene Woodley, and Sia. A few more super-special print-only extras: stickers, a crossword puzzle, valentines, and a Rookie pennant that DOUBLES AS A SLICE OF PIZZA.

It comes out on October 21, when you’ll be able to buy it in our shop, on our publisher’s site, and in bookstores of all kinds. I am 50 shades of ecstatic about how it’s turned out, all the wonderful contributions that went into it, and getting to share it for real so soon.

Now for regular site biz: July’s theme is THE GREAT UNKNOWN. I’m writing this on my first day in my first apartment, where I am living alone for the first time. These two facts are related, despite my usual attempts to not build these themes too much around my own life circumstances. This is what I sent our staff a month ago to get our brains churning:

By the end of high school I felt that so much had come full circle—that I’d been able to check off so many of the Teen Fantasies™ I’d been hoping for, that I had archived/documented/crystallized so many parts of my adolescence through my diary-keeping and through Rookie, that I had lived these years as fully as possible.

Then my S.O. and I broke up, and I graduated, and now I just feel like, overwhelmed by not knowing who I am now or what my Identity is or what my Core Me–tools are to come back to when I feel sad. Going back to what used to be myself just pulls me into a lot of painfully bittersweet memories, so I’ve been talking less and drifting more and actively testing a theory that reincarnation can happen to live bodies by trying to turn myself into a blank slate. It leaves me both terrified that I could become an actual monster, as well as thrilled that I could become the exact person I ought to be, WE CAN BE HEROES Bowie-style. June/Action was a month of good, colorful fun, but July/The Great Unknown is black and white in anticipation.

I don’t think this is an issue exclusive to having graduated and being my age, exactly. I had a series of these moments during high school, too. The most horrifying thing was realizing, during early junior year, that I would have to be stuck with myself for years, and that you have to live with your own brain, and I felt like I had no surprises left in me (like, I felt OLD for the first time, but also mortifyingly young) and like it was becoming less and less fun to find myself, because myself suckkkked and what I’d needed was an opportunity to become someone new, and I think I did, but that person was largely attached to this other person, and so now I feel like a weird fetus again.

And it is actually really wonderful.

Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones. “Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. “Time Will Tell” by Blood Orange. “Still Sane” by Lorde, and how perfectly it captures the moment before you know everything is about to change. The delightful few seconds in “Hannah Hunt” by Vampire Weekend when the sound implodes and blooms and the singing becomes screaming.

I made this month’s moodboards backstage on break at rehearsal, in costume for the play I’m doing, This Is Our Youth, which is about three young people living in New York City in 1982. I love it because it’s such an unglamorous depiction of youth, and of all the horror that having your whole life ahead of you can bring. Like, the characters all have these realizations and belief systems that they delusionally think are brilliant and original, and it’s both pathetic and sweet. I loved going through the thousands of photos I keep for making these monthly moodboards and picking out ones that I felt my gal would gravitate towards. Unlike the guys in the play, she has somewhat of a trajectory for a future with school/a career, but she’s also incredibly socially inept and unsure of herself and overwhelmed by the very basics of being alive.

That is something I’ve related to so deeply lately. Not feeling in my body. Not knowing how to talk to people now that I’m no longer an enchantingly eloquent kid, but just another adult. It’s ultimately so much nicer to be spoken to as an equal, but it also makes me mumble more. It reminds me of a lyric my BFF Claire and I wrote sophomore year when we had a band for a minute: “You were so proud, with so much to say / How does it feel to just run away?”

From an interview with the playwright (I know this seems like a huge plug for this production but man, if this is not all so relevant):

How do you feel the disillusionment of that generation relates to what the kids are experiencing?

Well, they are stepping into a world where there is no longer a place for their particular philosophy. They’re full of opinions and beliefs and ideas, but at that very instant, their team—so to speak—has been not just beaten, but totally dismantled—so they don’t quite know what to do with themselves. And of course their family situations are not especially stable. So they find themselves struggling to break free from their families without necessarily rejecting the ideas their families gave them. Which leaves them in kind of an odd spot.

And some Joan Didion:

I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man; lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and a proven competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the non-plused apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand.


Here’s a picture I took in the Chelsea Hotel the summer before Rookie started. I was in NYC, and Anaheed and I were having our very first meetings and I just wanted a photo of the patch on my jacket, but I now find this shitty photo very sweet. Rookie was just about to HAPPEN!

That was the summer when I started to notice the fraying edges in my and my friends’ families, and other things that are sad and painful. I saw it all as snowballing and thought it was the apocalypse, until I realized that a lot of life is sad and painful, I just hadn’t seen it before. Adolescence is series of realizations that everything is so much more layered than you thought, and often so much darker. And, as our pal Lesley Arfin recently told me in re: heartbreak, actual growing up only ever really happens during these tough periods of your life; the happy stuff is just meant to keep you going until the hard stuff comes along and actually makes you stronger, more yourself, more complete. I think there’s a way to learn from the good stuff too, but I also know that when Lesley said that, it was pretty much the only thing that made sense to me at that moment.

Notes from Anaheed:

“Remember this thing that Neil deGrasse Tyson told Hazel back in 2012?

So many people only want answers. To be a scientist you have to learn to love the questions. You’ll learn that some of the greatest mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, and that’s the fun part. That’s the part that gets you awake in the morning and running to the office, because there’s a problem awaiting your attention that you might just solve that day. You have to embrace the unknown and embrace your own ignorance.

I hate it when people who believe in God or a “higher power” think atheists are dumb for “believing in science” because science still “can’t explain everything.” I mean, what could be more wonderful than that? Wouldn’t life be boring if everything were known to us?

In a weird way, NdGT’s quote there reminds me of this gorgeous thing from the wedding scene in the movie Frida. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s friend Tina Modotti, in her toast to the couple, says:

I don’t believe in marriage. No, I really don’t. Let me be clear about that. I think at worst it’s a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it’s a happy delusion—these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they’re about to make each other. But when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don’t think it’s conservative or delusional. I think it’s radical and courageous and very romantic. To Diego and Frida.

I love how NdGT’s thoughts about science are as romantic as Tina Modotti’s thoughts about marriage, and how they both have this faith in the beauty of diving into the unknown—it’s a reason to wake up in the morning, a reason to have hope, and a reason to love someone. I mean maybe I’m going way overboard here, but that all makes me pretty swoony.

The Great Unknown is scary: It’s the bottom of the ocean, the far reaches of the universe, what will happen to us in 10, 20, 30 years, and (the ultimate unknown, I suppose) what happens to us after we die. But it’s also pretty wonderful, because it’s where hope lives, and where stories start. it’s a place that exists only in our imaginations, which makes it more OURS than any place we’ve ever lived. And that means everyone’s unknown is a little different.”

Then there’s this comment that Rookie reader “M” left on my June editor’s letter:

Ho lee shit. I’ve been having this thought a lot lately: “What if I tried my hardest with everything in my power to do the things I really want to do?” It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I’m not already trying my hardest, and also that this simple thought has only recently popped into my head. Every time I think this thought, I start to feel nervous with excitement, though.

M is talking about June’s theme, of course, but I think they tap into the exact exhilarating feeling that makes the Great Unknown truly wonderful, even if you can’t stand unanswered questions. The anticipation of your newest incarnation alone is true excitement under all those nerves, and this moment is worth basking in all on its own. Looking out my window at my new view, I am immensely comforted by the neutrality of every building, like the world is just waiting for us to color it in.