Briana Johnson: A Summary

Let’s just say, I struggle to create witty titles. It’s not really my strong suite.

Also get ready to get visual.

My name is Briana Johnson. I grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. I’m an only child who grew up watching a lot of Sidney Poitier, Marilyn Monroe and Gene Kelly. My dad was into a lot of New Wave music, so, think like Wham! or Blondie. He really shaped my heavy interest in media studies and music, which is probably why I ended up as a Communications Major (even though he likes to tell me my taste in music is weird, his are literally the same in comparison). 

I call my mom Marilyn. To a lot of people that’s weird, and disrespectful. Which, honestly, started out from a place of disrespect. My mom and I were at each others throats almost every day when I was in middle school (yeah, I know, all moms and daughters are at this time). I started referring to her as Marilyn with such contempt, that I think people actually thought I hated my mom. Like really hated my mom. But I definitely don’t. Now I just call her Marilyn because it stuck.

Mom and I, always posing for the camera.

She’s probably one of my favorite people to talk to. Most of our conversations end up in fits of laughter, both of us red in the face and crying. In a lot of ways, I’m just like her. We both have this odd knack for attracting conversation, whether we want it or not. Every time we leave the house, my mother runs into someone she once knew. And let me tell you, these conversations last forever. Although at first I didn’t notice it, my friends have pointed out that the same shit happens to me. Thanks mom, I’m definitely a talker. 

A lot of the time when I tell people I’m from Port Huron, Michigan, people give me that glossy eyed “oh okay, I don’t really know where that is but I’m going to pretend I do” look. But lately, a shock to me, Port Huron (and its surrounding areas) have been sending a lot of its students to Michigan. There was a moment where I was walking down the street last year with a friend, when I said “You know, it’s weird, Port Huron doesn’t really seem the type of place to breed Michigan students, but I keep meeting a bunch of people from there,” to which a boy walking in front of us whipped his head around, smiled brightly, and said “hey, I’m from Port Huron!” I kid you not.

Port Huron sits across from this thing called Chemical Valley. A lot of people hate it. Although there have been reports that it’s perfectly safe to be living across from a chemical plant, it’s still a bit unnerving to hear drill sirens wailing at midnight on Mondays. Since we sit right on the water, and Chemical Valley is across from us, you can take a drive up the one main road that goes straight through town, and gaze at it in all its glory. When I was little, I called it the fairy city. I mean, what child sees a distant land of twinkling lights, and wouldn’t think that? Right?

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Nice, right? Like our own little city…full of chemicals and wonder! So, basically just like the city. 

Honestly, Port Huron is the type of place to either a) lock you in completely, or b) cause so much emotional damage to you that you have to get away. Or at least that’s what I’ve noticed. It’s a small town, not a lot of diversity. I was one out of about 7 or 8 black students in my graduating class. The number was a lot lower for other ethnicities. There isn’t much to do either. Besides sitting at the bridge late at night, or sitting in the Meijer parking lot (change of location is nice sometimes, yknow?), or spending hours wandering the empty carcass that is downtown Port Huron, the younger crowd of Port Huron is bored out of their minds.

I’m so tiny! In the young sense, and the physical sense.

So, naturally, I began to draw. Yeah, kind of weird place to stem off. But I honestly think the lack of social interaction I had as a child, combined with my overwhelming library of media, and the fact that Port Huron had (or maybe still has…) nothing really going for it, that I became the art kid. When I was little, it seemed like that’s all I did. Heck, in highschool that IS all I did. I did it so often and well enough that I got my art on billboards throughout the county. After a stressful 7 months, I got a 5 on my AP art exam. On the side, I was a section leader in marching band. I got straight A’s. My friends and I were happy together. I got my first boyfriend. I breezed through highschool, barely even breaking a sweat (kind of). My life was seemingly perfect.

Near the end of my senior year, I started working at the local Ruby Tuesday. It’s where I met my second family. For my first summer there, I hosted.

My coworker, and best friend, Carolyne, once called me out for constantly having a coffee in hand. I’m still working on it, okay?

A lot of people knew me as the quiet, secluded girl who did art (and as Bryan’s daughter, because my dad was there a lot). I got my first nickname, Pearl, because I wore pearl earrings every day. They were the only fancy earrings I owned, which were passed down to me after my grandma died that year. But when I came back from college for my second summer there, people learned I was anything but quiet. I became a waitress and things changed drastically. I got into fights with people, cursed under my breath a lot more, and was physically assaulted by a customer. I saw one of my coworkers get addicted to opioids and go back to rehab. It’s where my caffeine addiction started. I was eating a lot more than I used to and gained 20 lbs. I stopped drawing. I had my share of depression.

A watercolor I did freshman year before my sophomore year of hell. 

My world pretty much fell apart.

During my sophomore year I almost, comically, lost my mind. I got into a lot of friendships that probably weren’t good for me, and I wasn’t a good friend. I depended on people a lot, I overshared even more. I didn’t really know what I was doing. But like someone stranded in the ocean, I drastically thrashed to stay afloat. My art didn’t seem as good as it was before. I lost an eye for it. I was a lot less passionate about my passion.

I fizzled out. I spent a lot of time by myself.

But I wrote a lot of edgy poetry, and that’s something I found that I like a lot.

After the hellride that was sophomore year ended, I was horrified that I’d be damn near hysterical for my last summer at Ruby’s. But I wasn’t. I was fine. I found myself laughing with people, getting along with customers (as much as one can get along with customers) and drawing a lot more. Ruby’s taught me a lot about what it actually means to grow up. At first I was super cynical about it. Drug addiction is depressing, weight gain is depressing, depression is depressing. But I learned so many coping mechanisms during time there. The art of oversharing was something I had mastered in my previous life, but now I know how to share just enough. How to say fuck it, today, I’m going to try and be happy. No matter if I eat a little more than I want, or I learn something that sends me into a bout of cynicism, I’m going to be aware of it.

I’m allowed to make mistakes.

The quality on this is significantly worse than on my phone. Lame.
A self-portrait from an art class I took last semester.

Anyway, that was a rant that got really deep, really fast. And it’s pretty disjointed, so if you have questions, ask I guess.

I’ll probably have more to share in other blog posts.

So, here’s more of my art.

And my roommates that I don’t want to go too deeply about, but they’re really great and I love living with them. They push me to be a better person.

I can’t wait to get to know all of you this semester! 





2 thoughts to “Briana Johnson: A Summary”

  1. Honestly thanks for sharing and opening up right away. I feel like making yourself vulnerable will help everyone feel like that’s ok to do in this space, which seems really important (though I’m still kinda hazy on what exactly this blog will be, but whatever). Looking forward to hearing more about you and your life.

    Also, yeah, you set the standard for visuals in this post, so it seems we all need to catch up to your level going forward.

  2. My roommate is the EXACT same as you and your mom – every single time we leave the house, she runs into someone. As someone who enjoys long walks across the diag with my headphones, podcast, and absolutely nothing else, do you ever leave the house hoping that you don’t see anyone that day? I know there are days where I leave the house hoping I can disappear into the crowd and go about my daily tasks without (what sometimes feels like a) burden of social interaction. I consider myself an extroverted introvert, who gets exhausted by extroversion quickly, so I am very curious about your take on this.

    I can FULLY relate to your feeling of a tendency to overshare. I have always been extremely open to my friends, to a fault. I wish that I had the ability to keep my mouth shut sometimes, and keep things to myself, but I always crave my friend’s opinions, or I just talk to fill the empty space in a conversation. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. How do you find the balance of exactly how much to share and how much to keep to yourself?

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