A series of four panel comics, shaded in pink and blue. Comic one. In the first panel, Emily is seen from the waist-up, looking startled, her shoulders tense and clenched. Huge sound effect bubbles surround her of various explosion noises. She begins in narration: “I don’t remember fireworks bothering me this much when I was younger.” In the second panel, she sits in bed, similarly tense, clutching at her chest with her right hand and holding a book in her left. The explosions sounds grow larger. “There’s an objection to the holiday, of course, especially now. But it’s the sound that really gets me,” she continues. In the third panel, she is now hunched under the covers, with only the top of her head visible, but still quite shaken as the sounds don’t stop. “Maybe my anxiety has just gotten worse since then,” she considers. In the fourth panel, we zoom out, and see silhouettes of buildings in layers of depth. Fireworks are visible in the sky. “Maybe it’s the way they echo off the buildings. It feels claustrophobic, somehow,” she concludes. Comic two. In the first panel, two hands hold a tattered and torn map, riddled with holes and held together with masking tape. The narration begins “I know healing isn’t linear.” In the second panel, Emily, a short-haired woman with glasses, hefts a backpack nearly double her size across the landscape. Mountains and wispy clouds are seen in the background. The narration continues, “But lately the path has felt bumpy, the baggage weighing heavier than usual.” In the third panel, Emily is now seated on the grass, backpack still on, next to a campfire. Mountains are visible in the background. Emily clearly looks exhausted. Her silent narration observes, “And I know that at some point my load will be lighter, the road easier to walk.” In the final panel, a sign on the path points toward the mountain range. “But for now,” she concludes, “there’s just the hard way.” Comic three. In the first panel, Emily stands, looking solemn, holding a simple shield in her outstretched hand. Her narration begins: “You shielded your heart to protect yourself after last time.” In the second panel, we zoom in on the shield as Emily clutches it with both hands. She continues, “This isn’t last time.” In the third panel, a bonfire sits in the center of the panel, with flames high and wild. The shield can be seen in the middle of it, on top of the logs. “And you need to trust the people around you know, despite those who broke that trust before,” she declares. In the fourth panel, Emily sits around the fire surrounded by friends, laughing, some visible, others in silhouette. The night sky is clear above them, with a visible moon and stars. She concludes in narration, “I promise you. You’ll thrive beyond them.” Comic four. In the first panel, Emily stands at a crosswalk, a slight smile on her face. Silhouettes of city buildings dot the background. She begins: “It feels like a Friday today in the way the air moves.” In the second panel, an unseen person hands Emily (now masked) a small box. Vendor stalls can be seen behind her. Emily continues: “I visit the farmer’s market after work and by apple cider donuts.” In the third panel, we zoom in on a hand holding an airpod. Out of it, lyrics to The Slow Parts on Death Metal Albums by the Mountain Goats float out: “in a new universe / trying to find the mask that fits me.” Emily muses, “On the return walk, a song that backed my anxiety of existing in this city is grounded by the pavement under my feet, the weight in my bag.” In the last panel, Emily is centered, framed by buildings, arms raised and crossed behind her head, grinning wide. She concludes “I am alive and I’m here and this is my city, this is home.”

Thanks as always for reading.