Buffering is a collection of narrative essays that tell Hannah Hart’s stories of pain and joy and discovery. I knew going into this that I was probably going to get to know her really well, and damn am I happy that I was right.
“Selfishly, I wanted to write this to feel less alone. Selflessly, I hope it helps you feel less alone too.”
The ways Hart opened up in this book made me feel so deeply connected that I was kind of scared. Her essays featured a plethora of heavy subjects such as “schizophrenia, sexuality, questions of faith, questions of fame, psychedelic visions in the desert, self-harm, sex, spiders. . . and more!” And it both educated me and felt oddly personal.
The combination of all of the above left me with a lot on my mind, which is my favorite thing to end up with after finishing a memoir. I seriously cannot stop thinking about everything that went down.
“Are you writing out your feelings?”
She’s nodding. “That’s what I do when I can’t talk to someone I love.”
When I read what Hannah Hart had to go through as a kid, I just had no idea. She’s been through so much, and I cannot help but admire her reckless optimism. It’s truly awe-inspiring.
My favorite essays:
THAT SUMMER FEELING:
This essay described a time when Hart thought of running away from her home. And it left me with chills all over.
“As I left the house, I turned back and waved good-bye to the people inside. That was a habit. Whenever I left the house during the school year, I would pretend to say good-bye to people who weren’t there, just in case someone was watching and tracking my movements. My mom told me that our neighborhood had “prowlers” who would hide behind fences and watch for empty houses.”
I still can’t believe a little kid had to have such a terrible thing in mind. It kind of breaks my heart.
But she didn’t end up running away because something quite scarring happened instead. My stomach is still in knots because I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that people like this next one actually exist.
“Do you know how to get to Howard Street?”
My heart was beating hard in my chest. I was so scared of that man and his truck. I felt the hairs stand up on my arms. They were scared of him, too. I shook my head no.
“Are you sure? I thought it was right around here.”
I was lying. Howard Street was only two blocks from where we were. Maybe I was being paranoid. I thought of my father. He would be ashamed to see me lying to someone. I shouldn’t lie. Lying is sinning. Sinning is wrong. God hates sinners, and I don’t want God to hate me. I spoke and pointed. “It’s that way.”
I pointed harder. “That way.”
“Listen.” He leaned across his seat and opened his car door. “It’s close, right? Wanna just get in and show me? That would be a big help.”
I can’t stop thinking of how startled she must’ve felt.
“The day I tried to run away was scary, but I did take something positive away from it. After that day I started to walk around the neighborhood more often. It was a great way to pass the time, and I had learned I could trust myself to stay safe and avoid danger. And now, in my adult life, I make it a practice to walk for at least thirty minutes every day. It helps get me out of the house and out of my head.I also have a visual reminder: a print of Little Red Riding Hood walking through the woods with the wolf.
For me, dealing with depression isn’t about trying to run away from the feeling; it’s about learning to walk alongside it.”
“My mother always told us that there are no bad guys in this story. That things are more complicated than one person who was wrong or one person who was selfish.”
Hart had shared about her little half-sister, Maggie, in the previous essays and I was feeling really invested in her life. I mean, what Maggie went through kind of shattered me… she was just a little kid when she was taken from their house because it wasn’t safe.
“After Maggie was removed from our house, the courts said she could go and live with David, her father and my stepdad, as long as he didn’t live with my mother.
For some reason, David didn’t fight for Maggie. He decided to stay with my mother. Maybe he thought Maggie would be better off as far away from both of them as possible. Maybe he didn’t want to abandon my mother because he knew she’d end up homeless if he did. Maybe he wasn’t done trying to get through to her.”
Sometimes it’s just easier to decide that someone is the bad guy. But the truth is never that simple. Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone has a clear view from the rearview mirror.”
That last sentence!!
This essay was about Hart realizing and coming to terms with her sexuality.
“The path to accepting your sexuality has to start somewhere. For those who identify as heterosexual, the childhood bliss of an early crush is typically encouraged and praised. Milestones such as your first date and the prom are celebrated by parents and friends.
But when you’re anything other than straight, it’s more complicated; your growth gets shrouded and stunted. That’s why a lot of queer people, when they fall in love and get into a relationship for the first time, revert to a kind of prepubescent puppy love: spontaneous, impulsive, obsessive, and ecstatic. I’ve heard many people express annoyance at friends who “just came out and it’s totally cool and whatever, but do they have to talk about it all the time?” My answer to that is “Yes. Yes, they do. Don’t you remember puppy love? Well, imagine if you had to hide it for twenty years. So yeah, if they wanna gush about it, let them gush. There’s a first time for everything.”
The more I read, the more I fell in love with her personality and voice.
“I may not have had lunch money or good hygiene or nice clothes, but I began to realize that I had something else: I was funny. It didn’t matter how I looked or how I dressed as long as I could make people laugh. In sixth grade, a bully at school tried to get everyone to start calling me “pit stain” because of all the, well, yellow pit stains on my T-shirts. Once, when I was wearing one of my favorite shirts, he pointed out that he could “see my titties through my shirt.” I replied blankly, “What titties? Oh. These aren’t titties, I’m just fat.” The whole class laughed because I was very obviously, and unabashedly, chubby and flat-chested. With the laughter from my classmates on my side, I proceeded to point out that the only reason he could see them was because he was so short.”
I know this may seem wrong, but I’m literally cry-laughing at how she got that bully.
Also, her talking about her best friend was THE BEST:
“With thick, dark hair, pale skin, and strong (these days people say “fierce”) eyebrows over piercing green eyes, Rachel was the prettiest girl in whatever room we were in. There was something powerful and passionate about her. I “wasn’t gay” at the time, but boy, was I supergay at the time.”
I was so into her life.
A really important piece on anxiety and managing your time.
“Despite all of this, part of me genuinely believed I could do it all. Because I usually thrived on pressure. In college, I started all of my papers the night before they were due, and I never outlined. My senior thesis (which was a comparative analysis of memory and autobiography!) was written over the course of one panicked day. I never wrote first drafts, everything left the printer as final. I never learned structure or systems to do things differently because up until that point the pressure had worked for me.
I love that I now know that you can write a senior thesis in a day… not that that’s the recommended way to do it… but just in case.
“I tried exercise as a way of managing my anxiety—walking had always helped me clear my head and was usually a good way to reset my system. That helped, but I couldn’t pick which direction I needed to be pointed in since all my obligations were equally urgent and equally important. And since I was used to getting 100% done at once, these larger products1 that would require multiple drafts and edits and attempts, were my nightmare. I didn’t know how to do things 10–50% at a time. So instead I stayed trapped at 0% checking one project off at a time.
Hard to prioritize when everything feels like a priority.”
She really gets me. It was unbelievably re-invigorating having her describe something I’d been looking to put into words.
(UN)PACKING A PUNCH:
This was a really emotional read that talks about self-harm and also about what happened the day Maggie was removed from their home. And it was consequently my favorite piece.
“As I approached the three steps back to the house, I stopped to pray. I prayed that today would be different. That somehow today, when the cops came, they would stay. That Maggie’s future would be different from mine. That she wouldn’t live in a house with holes in the walls. That I wouldn’t have to keep living with holes in the truth. When I finished my prayer, I saw a police car pull up and a young officer get out. By that point we recognized most of the officers who came to the house, but this guy looked new. There was a sliding glass door between the house and the driveway, and I saw him in the moment I passed it. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I just opened it and walked outside and asked him to stop for a second and told him the truth.
He listened and then called into his radio for social services and more officers. He then moved past me and kept walking toward the front of the house. I felt sad and sick. I had broken the only rule we had. I had betrayed my family.”
My heart is slowly breaking.
“Someone told Maggie to come with them and I went to follow, but a social worker stopped me. Maggie asked if I was coming with her. The social worker stepped between us blocking her from my line of sight. I remember that she was wearing a gray suit. She seemed in control. She turned to me and told me to tell Maggie that we would see each other again in a few days. On Wednesday. I asked her if it was true. She said nothing. But her expression showed I had no choice.
I bent down and hugged Maggie and lied.”
I can imagine this so vividly in my head and it’s frightening.
“I didn’t see Maggie again for three weeks. In the foster system, they can’t determine who from the biological family is “good” or “bad,” so the blanket rule is that there is to be no contact between the removed child and relatives. Maggie and I broke the rule by meeting at a Starbucks with the help of her new foster mom. She had radiator burns on her arm. She told me that one of the other kids had pushed her and she had fallen into the radiator. I comforted her as best I could trying not to let my own grief show. We called them tiger marks, and I said she was like a fairy that lived in the jungle.”
I’m literally trying so hard to hold back tears right now.
“I can’t describe what it was like to see my baby sister that day, knowing that she was injured and there was nothing I could do about it, that I would have to send her away again. In many ways, I felt as if Maggie were my child, because I had raised her up until that point. I can’t think about those days without crying. It’s a loss that still feels present even though now I can call Maggie or see her anytime I want. The guilt I feel over that moment—though I know it’s unfounded and there was nothing I could do—still feels like a wound that hasn’t fully healed.”
That hurt is indescribable.
But I’m glad that we got to know that she got adopted by a loving family
“Maggie was placed into the home of a family of a close friend and former boyfriend of mine. The family was kind and open-hearted and doing their best. Eventually, they adopted her and she had her own family and her own journey to begin.”
“Over the past ten years, I’ve processed a lot. I’m still processing. And there is more to be done. But I’m very proud of the person I am today. I’m proud to be gay. I’m proud to be a reckless optimist. I’m proud to keep learning and sharing what I’ve learned. I’m proud to be a work in process.”
Somewhere in this book are all my shattered pieces of heart.
Hannah Hart is my hero right now. She went through so much, and I’m probably still a little shell-shocked. But she seriously deserves the world and so much more. I need more Hart in my heart.
Also, I love how there were photographs scattered throughout:
(P.S. Her story-time about that last tattoo was the best.)