If you would have asked me four years ago on this day where I saw myself today I think I would have told you I’d be happily kicking it with Rosa Parks and Gilda Radner “on the other side” munching on some fancy cheese dips and trading gossip about which dead celebs were hitting on us at the pearly gates of heaven.
My head was pretty screwed up by that point and I was making all kinds of dark jokes.
I had also just started doing something to distract me from all the brain bleeding nonsense.
I had just started writing a book.
Exactly four years ago I was sitting on my parent’s couch plopping my busted fingers down on a fresh word document.
“This sentence took me five minutes to write” were the very first words I wrote.
It actually took me longer than that because I could only use one hand.
Is it fate that this book would get published exactly four years later?
I don’t know about fate, okay. And *SPOILER ALERT* if I’m being completely honest with you that same sentence got cut from the final copy. But I’ll tell you this much, I never expected any of this to happen.
I never expected to be getting an email from a publisher on Sept 25, 2017 asking to publish my manuscript.
I wasn’t planning on delegating a cover design or hiring an attorney to negotiate contract terms.
I didn’t anticipate seeing actual ratings for my book posted online by people I’ve never met before.
And I definitely didn’t think a box of books could make me cry.
The truth is, I started writing a book because I thought I was dying. And I thought maybe I should start saying something important before I couldn’t say anything at all. Behind the LOLs and selfies of me at my keyboard typing away there was real, unfiltered fear.
This could be it. This could be the last thing you ever say.
Part of me was really upset that I wasn’t Anne Frank. That I wasn’t a pure and radiant soul documenting life-shattering thoughts on the page. I’m just some brain damaged chick sitting here watching Netflix waiting to die, I thought.
This was not a fun idea to entertain.
So I sat there on September 18, 2014 and began typing with my right hand. I got a few more sentences down, mostly about how I thought I was dying and that I thought it was really funny and weird to be writing a book in such a condition. I finished a page or two and then took a break to watch six straight episodes of How I Met Your Mother.
I think the next day might have been similar. Get up, take brain pills, eat food I can’t taste, write book, Netflix, nap, Netflix, nap, friend takes me on a walk, Netflix, bed.
I started writing a book because honestly what else was I doing?
When I thought about note-worthy dramas in movies and TV, the dying person always gets to go do something they’ve always wanted to do. They get to see a sunset in Italy or eat some exotic food or do something reckless and bad-ass on a rooftop or some shit.
Nope. Not me. I’m just gonna sit here and watch Barney tell us for the millionth time that it’s going to be legen….WAIT FOR IT…DARY.
What’s legendary about not showering for a whole week and finding Cheese Doodles in your hair?
I started writing a book because I was depressed and sad and thought I was dying and needed therapy.
Not what you expected? Yeah, I know. Me neither.
I guess it’s not our fault. I think society pushes the idea that authors are poised, literary robots who recite quotes from The Classics and spend hours in dimly lit cafes channeling their genius into every word, sentence, and paragraph.
Yeah, what a load of shit right there.
I mean maybe that’s the case for one or two of us. The few and far between; the privileged authors who have plenty of therapy and quiet space and money to create said genius works.
I hated writing in college. I was a History major so I had to write a lot of 20-page dissertations on feminism during WWII and all I could gather was that I was really bad at it.
“Write more academically.”
“Stop using puns.”
“Quit dropping the F-Bomb.”
It never occurred to me then that it was the beginning of the end for me. And I’m not talking about the whole brain bleeding thing anymore, but that it was the beginning of what would become a never-ending need to write.
An itch that I would forever need to scratch.
I continued writing a book because it felt good. It felt good to release what I think was probably better suited for a therapist’s couch but came out on a page in the privacy of my computer screen instead.
I began saying whatever I wanted and whatever I felt. I typed with that one hand every chance I got (when I wasn’t watching Netflix, that is).
All of my emotions and dark contemplation’s about death and heartbreak just kind of oozed out of me. Kind of like the blood in my brain. I couldn’t control it. I wrote about a guy possibly dying next to me in the ICU, finding a catheter in my you-know-where, and temporarily having the vision of somebody on some seriously dope LSD.
And also like my brain I really needed to clean it up.
By the time I healed up and got back into the classroom I’d written about half of a manuscript. Approximately 40,000 words of utter nonsense about being really scared that my last meal was about to be a frozen burrito.
The fear continued to sit on my chest throughout student teaching, where I learned just how hard teaching would become for me with my newly patched-up brain.
Grading and lesson planning replaced book writing for a while. I could use my left hand again, but it was busy typing out emails to parents about So-And-So smacking another kid with a ruler in 4th period.
I took a two-week long nap after my first school year and then dusted off my word document and began again. This sentence is going to take me five years to publish at this rate, I thought as I reviewed the utter shitshow-condition of my manuscript.
And you know what, it pretty much did.
I spent the next three years rewriting and rereading my trauma.
And honestly, it was really fucking painful.
Just picture the worst moments of your life and analyzing them from every emotional angle for four whole years. Sounds fun right?! Wrong.
But like I said. I couldn’t go back. My body was extracting toxins into paper and I was just a slave to it after a certain point. Grade papers, teach, grade, nap, write, grade, nap, write, teach, eat a cube of cheese to keep from passing out.
It was the new normal.
And I need you to know that it was not glamorous.
Today and probably in the foreseeable future, you’re going to see a lot of pictures of me and other people holding my beautiful book, beaming with joy.
And that joy is real.
It’s the realest thing I’ve ever felt. So when I tell you that I cried in my rental car last night when this song came on the radio you kind of get where I’m coming from.
It’s very fun having people surround you with something you created. I imagine it’s how new moms must feel when everybody circles around and coo’s at you and your beautiful baby.
But it’s also scary. It’s scary that this thing I created out of fear of dying is now alive and well and in the hands of any Joe Blow who happens to see it on a bookshelf.
It’s terrifying that my alternative to therapy is now in the hands of my mother, my father, and probably a few curious guys I dated long ago before any of this existed.
How am I really feeling the day my first book comes out?
A lot of things.
Pride. Excitement. Fear. Uncertainty. Shock. Probably a couple of emotions that won’t be discovered by scientists until 2025.
I don’t know if these emotions will ever wear off. Not fully anyway. It’s a very strange experience when your conversations shift from “how are you doing in New York?” to “Wow, that thing you said on page 17 nearly made me piss my pants.”
My Auntie said she cried at a chapter that I didn’t even know could make someone cry.
It occurs to me now that I was pretty stealthy about the whole being terrified of dying thing. To the point that even the people closest to me are coming to me now with some very big emotional reactions to my I-really-should-have-been-in-therapy memoir.
To my credit, I was in therapy. Just of a different kind. Learning how to walk again seemed a bit more of a priority than my bottled up emotions at the time.
But here I am, sitting on my parents couch yet again letting some of those emotions leak out onto the page. It’s not perfect. It’s sometimes scattered and messy and painful. But it’s a necessary thing I do now because, again, I really should be in therapy.
Don’t worry about me though, really.
I’ve got great friends. My family is rock solid. I live in the coolest city in the world.
As the cover of my book would say, I’ll be OK.
I’ll be better than OK, actually, I’ll be fucking fantastic.
Feel free to congratulate me, pat me on the back, and take selfies with my book.
I hope you buy it, read it, and enjoy it.
I hope you laugh and I also hope you have a box of tissues at the ready.
I hope that some brain-injured chick out there on her parent’s couch finds it, reads it, and feels a little less alone.
And more than anything, I hope that I continue to chase this dream no matter what happens.
Now go out there* and get your copy!
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn't make a killing
Didn't have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn't know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes