The Ten Best Days of the Year (2019)

Hattie Jean Hayes
9 min readDec 13, 2019

I have not particularly enjoyed the onslaught of “End of the Decade” content that has come across my feeds in the last six weeks or so. It’s mid-December now, two weeks to the finish line, and everyone’s year-in-review pieces are accumulating, coming quicker and heavier every day. The one that bothers me most is a Twitter prompt, which I’ve seen a couple variations of, that poses the root question, “What accomplishment or life circumstance would 2009 You be most proud of?”

This rouses a deep sigh from me because 2009 Hattie would hate me and she would have nothing nice to say about my life. In 2009, I turned 15. That’s the year I started to toy with the idea of being a comedian instead of a doctor, and I began to believe that my physical appearance was both extremely important and extremely wrong, and I had some backwards ideas about the world and the people in it and what they deserved and what they were worth. This is a nice way of saying that 2009 Hattie was a mean, prissy bitch, and if she encountered me today, she would say a lot of cruel things about my bangs and my weight and the fact that I moved to the east coast and the humiliating fact that I do not host my own late-night show on network television yet. She would hate my friends and she would roll her eyes at my clothes and, I cannot emphasize this enough, she would want absolutely nothing to do with my hair.

Since 2009 Hattie was abhorrent (and, in her defense, a child), I don’t feel any need to impress her. But after I realized that, I started thinking about where I was at this point in 2018, and I wondered if 2018 Hattie would be proud of me now.

She would not.

And that’s her right, I guess. 2018 Hattie had high hopes for the year ahead, and most of them did not come to fruition, and so everyone else’s success stories dredge up that well-worn self-loathing from the back of my mind. I spent a lot of this year stuck in a loop, where I became convinced that I didn’t deserve anything good at all, and then I got mad at the people in my life for wasting their time on me, and then I got scared that they would leave me because, as you recall, I deserved it. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve felt “at home” in my brain again. Even then, there are days when I wake up certain that the rug will be pulled out once again. I am in some sort of malevolent funhouse, and as soon as I feel like a real person again, the Property Brothers will emerge from a trapdoor, and reveal that they are actually one person duplicated with advanced camera trickery, and then explain that I am the blighted vessel I had long suspected I’d become, and now it is time for me to host the Antichrist, thank you so much.

That aside, I’m usually a first-class champion at looking on the bright side, but it has been a slog this time. I’ve been looking at victories big and small, intimate and public. I didn’t have a breakthrough in therapy or finally repair a fractured friendship. I didn’t get a book deal or a dream job or a TV spot. And I have not been impressed with the things I did accomplish, because I can attribute their success to someone else, or I did complete them but not to the best of my ability.

What a bad, bad year this has been, I thought. I thought it every time I looked at the calendar, from October 1st until today. What a terrible year. What a series of garbage events. What an utter waste. As I thought about it more, I felt a little guilty characterizing the whole year as a trash heap, because there were really fun parts. There were days when I went to see musicals and nights when I stayed out too late, and there were milkshakes and donuts and salads I was undercharged for and Bud Lite Lime-a-ritas and concerts and movies. There were a lot of books. There were even more short stories. There was a guy walking a pot-bellied pig down the street from Taylor Swift’s house, and there was a woman on the train who was crying until I told her how nice she smelled and she smiled and told me where I, too, could buy Panthere by Cartier.

There was a lot to enjoy this year, and I got really caught up in the fact that none of it was a trophy, a glory. A brag. Spontaneous coffee dates with friends are all well and good, but they do not a TV writing job make. Who gives a shit that you went to an outdoor dance class with your best friend if you’re not Carrie Fisher and your best friend’s not Penny Marshall and this isn’t a candid photograph that someone in 2019 is looking at with nostalgic jealousy?

I’ve been beating myself up about this, really whaling away at my soul, just out of habit, I guess. Then I found myself journaling, taping in some of the mementos that I’ve had scattered around the house for months, meaning to secure in my diary, and I let the soft wash of nostalgia muffle it all. Oh, this ticket from the carousel at Battery Park, I’d forgotten all about it, I thought. Oh, I forgot that my family and I saw four movies in 24 hours during the summer. Oh, I forgot that we got this postcard from the Dirt Room. Over and over, I found myself saying, out loud, with building enthusiasm, “That was a great day!”

There were a ton of great days in 2019, and I have decided that it is fine if those great days came at the expense of enormous wealth and international acclaim. None of these happy days negates the bad ones, but the joyful ones make me glad to look back on, and the bad ones make me glad that they’re over.

I have spent weeks regretting this whole year, but now I just want to wash my hands of it. I spent practically a whole month of this year in bed, but I also finished some of my best writing in years. I finished some of my best writing in years, but I didn’t write a novel. I went out and got shamefully, disgustingly drunk, but I got home. I went to parties and bars and events and social mixers, and made a lot of friends, but I also got shamefully, disgustingly drunk. I thought mean things about myself but I went out of my way to befriend people I was dead-set on hating. I ruined perfectly nice days by thinking mean things about myself. And now, thank goodness, it is over. There is a new year just out of my reach. There is a new person in this body, which is the body that housed both a spiteful 15-year-old and a desperate 24-year-old, and a lot of friends and strangers in between.

This next part sounds like hokey mindfulness fiddle-faddle via Instagram poetry, which I usually believe is horseshit, but I thought of it and it made me feel better, so I’ll tell you it now.

You are not a year. You are not a month or a week or a day. You are not wasted time. You aren’t being ungrateful if you complain about the bad times in the same breath that you reminisce about the highlights. You aren’t worthless if you have a lot of love in your heart, but just can’t believe that you deserve a tiny bit of it. You’re passing through this moment, but you are not the moment, and the shame and the anger and the fear will follow you for a while, but eventually, they will get tired, and you will continue on without them.

There. All of it is said. That’s better, I think. Now, because you have gamely nodded through my interior drama and come out the other side, I would like to tell you about happy things. Please enjoy the following list, The Ten Best Days of 2019.

(See? I knew I’d find them.)

10. December 7, when I recorded part of a Christmas album with my friend Scott, and his friends and family, none of whom I had met before, but all of whom were very generous in their opinions on my parody songwriting

9. September 28, which technically began with karaoke, since I had been doing Birthday Karaoke since 8 PM the night before. We wrapped up around 4 am, went to Wendy’s, and then went home, and the next day, Matt and I went to Coney Island, and played games and walked around, and helped a lost child, and ate 50 kinds of Coney Island food, and walked to L&B Spumoni Gardens.

8. July 3, the day that my family went to see “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” at the drive-in theater. Sometimes the best thing you can do with your family is go to a movie in your Las Vegas hoodies and old yoga pants and watch your mom dance to Vanilla Ice and eat candy and lounge in the back of a truck and make fun of every single live-action Disney remake, except “The Jungle Book,” which you all enjoyed.

7. May 11, one of many days this year I spent with my Infinite Sketch team. I believe the May show is the one where we stole menus from a restaurant to use in a sketch, because we forgot to print our own. This is also the show where I was very sick, so when we walked by Die Antwoord in Herald Square before the show, and no one saw them but me, I thought maybe it was a fever dream.

6. February 19, the day that my friend Cassie, who I have known since high school, went to the Met Cloisters with me. The Cloisters are beautiful and we went in winter which is Not Ideal, but somehow that made it even more special. We took a million photos and then got pizza, then took the bus all the way back downtown and it was cozy and warm and perfect. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I imagine I’m nice and toasty on that bus truckin’ down to the main Met building.

5. October 5, day two of my fourth birthday weekend (I know, I know). This was the day where we sat around a Philadelphia Air BnB in our pajamas, doing karaoke, and eating a bunch, then doing face masks, then going to an Indian buffet and eating some more, and playing games and watching movies. When I am wealthy, I will force all these people to live in my mansion.

4. June 1, Taydar’s live karaoke event, in which a bunch of internet strangers traveled from all over to sing Taylor Swift songs with Sarah and me in person. Now those internet strangers are our real-life friends, and I have video of them all scream-singing “boys and boys and girls and girls” in a key that only I could ever find soothing.

3. September 1, the day that Matt and I decided to walk from 215 Street down to Battery Park. We met up with Gabe and Cailin, and ran into Kristen Kirkley, who has since joined our sketch team. It took all day, and at the end, Rosa took me on the sea glass carousel, which made me glad I wore mermaid leggings. Then, I went to Wendy’s, went to Dunkin’ Donuts, and then saw 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, a terrible and unhinged movie that was the perfect end to an accidentally aquatic day.

2. June 12, when my family and I woke up at the crack of ass in Vegas to go to the Hoover Dam, which was extremely cool. Oh, hot, I mean. We coordinated outfits. This was the same day that a pair of my mom’s underwear got stuck in my shorts, and my dad pulled them out of my waistband in the middle of the MGM Grand (!!!), and this was also the day that we took a nap and then woke up and ordered pizza (?!?), and this is also also the day where we went to the Peppermill Diner, which might be my favorite place on earth. It’s like if the Garden of Eden were a Denny’s.

1. June 26, the last day of Regina Spektor’s Broadway residency, the second time I’d seen her that week, both times by myself. This time, through coincidence, timing and/or miracle, a total stranger ended up giving me his upgraded seat ticket, and that seat happened to be next to Ilya Spektor, who is Regina’s father. I cried a lot, even for me. There is a much longer story about this day, and if you want to hear it, I have the 6,000-word draft ready to go. Hey, maybe it’ll get published somewhere. Maybe that can be the first best day of the next ten years.