2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jessica Leach)

by Steven Spoerl

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Last year, Jessica Leach turned in an entry to this series that focused on meaningful growth in the cultural landscape. Leach first appeared on my radar thanks to the stellar Basement Babes zine. That endeavor dissolved due to geographic complications but Leach’s voice remains a vital one so it’s a privilege to be hosting this piece. The vitality of art, the legacy Basement Babes left behind (on both a micro and macro scale), and the value of progression are all touched on below. It’s intimate, effective, and another one of this series’ definitive entries. Read it below and remember to value the good things left to the past while working to ensure a positive future. Enjoy.


I’m honored to be contributing to A Year’s Worth of Memories for the second time. Last year, I provided somewhat of a personal account on the progress I saw in 2015. At that time, I felt an intense mixture of fear and optimism. Unfortunately, as we now know, the former was more in tune to what came than the latter.

Looking back at all the horrible things that happened, I’d say the overarching theme of the year was loss. Some were suffered personally, others were felt worldwide. To me, 2016 meant losing a few too many of my most important role models, quitting my “safe” full-time job to change careers and sadly ending Basement Babes, the zine that I co-ran with my friend Yasmina Tawil for the better part of two years. Yasmina had moved to Brooklyn, and we decided that trying to publish the zine living apart would be too much of a challenge.

While that all made sense and felt right, I knew I would miss having that constant outlet to create and share work. When the stress of my job was hindering my creative senses, I’d be pushed by the publication of the zine to get going again, or I’d have the work of our contributors to inspire me.

The silver lining was that Yasmina and I got to say goodbye to Basement Babes with a sold out show at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. The lineup featured Diet Cig, free cake for every creature, and Daephne – three bands whose incredible music carried me through many difficulties throughout the year. For that reason, it seemed only right that they would play Basement Babes into the zine afterlife.

We always said that when we’d go out, we’d go out with a bang, and that show was everything I imagined and more. It was okay if more people were there to see the bands than to say goodbye to us. Just being on the outskirts of that crowded room, knowing they were there in some way because Basement Babes existed, made me feel we must have done something right.

As we sold the last of our issues and buttons that night, though, I wondered how I would again feel these small connections to an artistic community I’d been part of for so long. In the moment, I consoled myself by believing I no longer needed them as much as I used to. Now, on the brink of a terrifying presidency, maybe I’ll try to find my way back in. There’s that push again. Begging me to turn my fear into something wonderful.

In 2016, it felt like every time I moved two steps forward, something would pummel me to the ground. Hard. And yet, just like any other year, many of these major setbacks were made better or made sense of through art. Whether it was creating my own or experiencing others, art was a tiny speck of goodness in a pile of shit that kept me hanging on. I’m happy that as long as it lived, Basement Babes at least provided me with some of that kind of cathartic creativity. It will be hard to fill its shoes.