“Today is a day that will live in infamy.” -FDR
On this* day in 1941, Japanese kamikaze planes filled the sky over the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, dropping bombs all over the damn place and officially bringing the United States into World War II.
On this day in 2016, I might have been teaching on this very subject to a room full of rowdy, adorable, and you’re-really-testing-my-damn-patience 16-year-olds.
My memory alludes me, so I can’t remember my pacing guide exactly (and honestly looking back at my lesson plans tends to bring back a tiny surge of PTSD…Post-Teacher Stress Disorder), but I’m pretty sure I’d be on WWII by now.
Today, as I sit in my laundry-ridden room in my coliving house in Brooklyn (aka NOT a commune) sipping on tea and spilling cereal on my lap, I’m planning out the day in my head:
Finish this blog post, go to the coffee shop for my interview for the coffee shop, stay at coffee shop and write out my set for tonight, quietly practice set to myself and try not to speak too loudly or draw attention to the fact that I look like I’m talking to myself, write a few hundred words of one of my incomplete manuscripts, maybe the novel but probably just another to-do list, go to comedy show, slay comedy show, hopefully book another show by the end of the night because I slayed, come home, post this blog*, fall asleep while swiping left on Tinder because I’m bored and tired and maybe there’s a guy cool enough for me out there but probably not.
Oh, well. I’m too busy being awesome anyway to make room for a boyfran. #iaintneednoman
The truth is, today really will live in infamy. Because today is the day I start calling myself an author.
Okay, okay, okay. Let’s back up a second.
An author? Capital A-U-T-H-O-R, Author? Wow, that word sounds weird when you spell it out and say it a bunch of times, try it: authorauthorauthorauthorauthor.
Yes, the secret’s out, everybody. It’s true. Mimi Hayes is an author now.
I know you’re like, “pfff whatever, you’ve only been writing for a few years and you get some book deal and now you’re an author?! AS IF.”
Actually, I know you’re not saying that because that’s a really rude trash-human thing to say.
Actually, you’re probably being really nice to me. Because you supported me this whole time and didn’t laugh me out of the coffee shop the first time I told you I was writing a book and trying to become an author.
But let’s back up again. I never had any intent or desire to become an author.
That’s actually the very LAST profession I ever considered. And like I said, I never considered it.
Up until today, I've done a variety of jobs: barista, camp counselor, nanny, teacher, college football team videographer and equipment manager, barista again, improv instructor, watering the neighbor’s plants when they were away, that one time I worked at a Bubble Tea place for 3 days.
And I really wasn’t any of these things. Not truly.
Teaching, well that’s kind of in my bloodstream. It’s like some family gene, we’re all teachers and we all put on our special teacher voices at parties when people can’t settle the fuck down. That doesn’t really count.
I’m talking about who I am.
On online dating profiles, to strangers on airplanes, and at the bottom of my email signature, I tell people who I am.
I am an author.
Getting a book published helped (validate me), but it did not make me an author.
I became an author the minute my best friend Shannon told me on a very sad walk around the block that I had a story inside of me that others might benefit to hear. I didn’t really believe it, but I went home that night anyway, opened a blank word document, and began typing:
“Writing this sentence took five minutes. Or is it 5 minutes? I’m not a writer, how am I supposed to know? I’m not entirely sure if you are supposed to single or double space after every sentence. Geaz, I hope I don’t have to go back and double space all this when I’m done. Google is my go-to source for grammar tips. Is anyone still reading this? It will get better…I promise? But in all seriousness, typing this paragraph is a Christmas miracle in more ways than one. In two ways, actually.”
Those were legitimately the very first words I wrote in my first memoir. It really did take me five minutes because my head was bleeding and my fingers typed slow AF. Isn’t that adorable? This is awful! So awful, you guys. I mean like cute, but like when a kid is practicing an instrument for the first time, like awwwww this is painful!
I even denied my own existence: “I’m not a writer…”
My, my, my, how the tables have turned.
It’s almost like I was trying to talk myself OUT of being an author. Like I knew I was getting into something that had the capacity to change my whole life, I just wasn’t sure if I was really ready for it.
I wasn’t by the way.
I’m still not.
Somewhere in the first few months of writing this book my dear friend Kristen Jorden (hay gurl) told me she was writing a book too, and that she’d been looking for publication like since I was born, which made me extremely jealous of her but also love her as my friend and mentor even more.
We decided to play a game.
When someone got a rejection letter from a publisher or an agent (or in person from a certain meanie pants author who shall remain nameless *COUGH COUGH RHYMES WITH SHBLEEVE SHMALMOND*), we’d owe that person one dollar in a piggy bank. Once one of us got published, the other would buy us dinner using the rejection piggy bank.
K-Dawg was definitely in the lead, sending out her work with confidence and getting rejections back like it was no big deal. I think I owe her about a thousand dollars right now. That's like five really nice steak dinners (here we are above at my publication dinner, which was fancy french fondue)
“This agent said they didn’t like the beginning, this publisher only takes science fiction it turns out, this one…” it went on and on. She was (and is) a rock star.
And I was pretty lame.
Now don’t worry, I’m about to get less lame in a second here. But I was pretty lame back then.
“Back then” when I was trashing myself on a blank word document and simultaneously allowing 16-year-olds to make me cry in the teacher’s lounge after school. I was a teacher. Authoring was just something I did at random increments of stolen creativity and time spent sitting with Kristen in coffee shops wondering if I could muster enough energy to write a lesson plan much less a book that people would buy if they saw it on a shelf.
People always used to tell me that being a teacher was a noble profession. But people used to also talk to me like I had cancer.
"Wow, the bravery."
"Oh, I could never be a teacher."
"Bless your heart."
"I had no idea, oh, I am so sorry."
"Let me pour you some more wine."
Noble? Fuck that, I don’t want to be noble. You know who’s noble? Spartan war generals. And I’m pretty sure they’re like all dead right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I really loved teaching.
And more importantly, I love my kids. Notice how that’s not past tense. I can still love them even if I’m not locked in a windowless classroom with them anymore. I can still impact their lives as an author, probably even more so.
Hey there past students of mine reading this, y’all want some required reading?! Don’t worry, this will be on the test. The YOU’RE AWESOME AT LIFE test.
What you call yourself is really important, whether you realize it or not.
It’s taken me several years to own up to being an author, an artist, and a comedian.
What do I do during the daytime, you ask? I take care of small children.
Not mine, obviously.
I push strollers and make popsicle stick crafts and try not to laugh every time the two-year-old calls animal crackers “animal fuckers.” It’s putting some money in my pocket for the time being, as do other small jobs I do like freelance write about how to winterize plumbing and being a house mom for the big house I live in that is not a commune.
But what am I?
I am an author.
I write words on pages not because I chose this life for myself, but because my damn brain won’t shut off until I do. I write about what I know and what I think I know and then I come to the conclusion that I know absolutely nothing.
When I tell people what I am now, they don’t treat me like I have cancer.
They actually treat me like I’m a fancy celebrity.
More guys want to go on dates with me now because they hear I have a book coming out and they “want a chance before I get big” (their words, not mine).
I don’t really know how to feel about this quasi-attention right now, other than it’s nicer than when people treat you like they can see the knives sticking out of your heart from all the dreams you’ve let die by being a high school teacher instead of the author you really are.
Being an author is not easy, people.
Like any profession or state of being, it comes with its ultimate highs and crashing lows. It’s a lot of years of bleeding on a page, asking yourself the hard questions, and restraining yourself from setting the whole book on fire when you get stuck or discouraged but likely both.
Writing a book is like running a marathon that you haven't trained for, that you may have not even wanted to do in the first place because your friends signed you up for it, and you're in a heavy spacesuit, and you can't even tell where the finish line is because it doesn't really exist and did I mention you have a spacesuit on like what the fuck is that about that's heavy as fuck like are you okay in there can you breathe, would you like some water-OH, SORRY. Your book has been rejected by an agent for the millionth time because you don't have enough Twitter followers so NO WATER FOR YOU, SPACEPERSON.
Writing a book that is a memoir is like pointing a high-definition mirror at yourself and being like, "oh shit, is that really me in there? Oh, God, that's DISGUSTING. Nope. I'm not doing this. Don't like this mirror, put it away. I can't put it away because this is my life? Break the mirror. BREAK THIS FUCKING MIRROR THIS WAS A HORRIBLE IDEA WHO EVEN AM I ANYMORE."
Don’t even get me started on how much money and time I’ve poured into this whole being an author business. Not to mention the gallons of coffee I’ve consumed in the process.
But alas, I have no choice. This is who I am now.
I am an author. And I fucking love it.
*Editor's note: This post was originally drafted on December 7th, for all you History nerds that think I messed up the date of Pearl Harbor. Nah, I just got home at 3 a.m. last night from my comedy show and didn't post this until today.