At times I've described 2009 as a difficult year for me and in many ways it was, but this post is all about the good times of 2009 and the top 10 moments of the year. These are personal moments, accomplishments, and all around good times.
10. Being named one of four finalists for The Ledge's Chapbook Contest. Back in February I was contacted by The Ledge and told I was one of four finalists for their annual chapbook contest. They wanted to know if my manuscript was still available and said they would let me know the winner in a few days. I anxiously waited through those days, and in the end I didn't win, but this was a huge boost to my confidence and marked the beginning of a great year for getting published. I've gotten more poems published this year than any other year and for that I'm very thankful to 2009.
9. Orlando PRIDE 2009. Orlando's PRIDE this year provided one of the best nights out of the year. Dustin and I had a blast dancing away at P-House with hundreds of sweaty men. I think we each danced with seven or eight different guys throughout the night. The spirit of PRIDE was everywhere and nothing says PRIDE like rubbing some stranger's ass or making out with a cute guy you just met.
8. My 27th Birthday. It is still very hard for me to believe I just turned 27, not because I think it's old, but because time has passed so quickly. Regardless, it was a great celebration weekend. I spent the weekend with my man and my friends going to both Parliament House and Disney. The highlight was getting a free birthday shot from my favorite drag queen, Armani.
7. Earning enough money to pay for an Atlantis All-Gay Cruise for Dustin and I to go on in January. One of the hardest parts of the past year has been my job situation. It's been stressful and has provided me with plenty of anxiety. Due to the high number of students I've been teaching, the last six months, I've been making some extra money and was able to, just last week, book a cruise for Dustin and me. We set sail on January 17th and we can't wait. We went on an Atlantis cruise nearly two years ago and loved it. Atlantis rents out some of the top ships in the world from different cruise lines and completely takes them over. They do about five or six different cruises every year. The January one is always the largest. They set their own rules for the ship, provide completely different entertainment, including huge parties that go all night, but the best part is being with 2,000 gay men for seven days. It's like a utopia and you don't want to leave. It is the most relaxing and fun vacation a gay person can go on, especially when you are a couple. You never have to worry about holding hands or being affectionate in public, or having some negative experience. I'm sure I will write plenty about it after it happens, so look forward to those posts.
6. Starting this blog. In May I jumped onto the blogging scene knowing very little of what would become of Joe's Jacket. I had toyed with the idea for months, maybe even a year or two, but had always stopped myself and, in many ways, I'm glad I did. I think I needed to start this blog when I did and not any sooner. I'm proud I have kept it up and haven't let it fall along the roadside of the past year. It has helped me meet other writers and it has kept me writing and thinking, which is always a good thing. I've also been pleased that I've gotten to share my thoughts on various topics including gay rights, sex tapes, and good poetry books. I hope, if you are reading this now, that you have enjoyed some part of this blog over last six months.
5. Getting to see Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in RENT twice! I've been a huge RENT fan since Dustin introduced me to the show the first month we were together (back in 2003). In 2009 the Broadway tour welcomed Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal from the original production and I was lucky enough to get to see it twice. I saw it in Tampa in July and here in Orlando a few days ago. Getting to see two original cast members in the front row (because we always rush for tickets) was an amazing experience. The show means a lot to me as a gay person and is very much tied to my relationship with Dustin, because it has always been something I've experienced with him.
4. Gay Days 2009. Gays Days is always a fantastic time here in Orlando, but this year was particularly great, especially the Saturday night I spent at Parliament House. I got to participate in my first ever foam party. The day at Magic Kingdom is also always a powerful experience.
3. Getting my poem "Mistaken Identity" published in The Antioch Review and getting paid for it. Money and poetry don't often go together, so I was thrilled when I got a poem accepted in The Antioch Review and actually got paid for the work. The magazine is a good one and the 30 bucks I got from the poem bought me a new pair of underwear.
2. Twitter. I'm counting this as one moment, when in reality it has been a series of tiny moments. I'm not a huge tech person. I don't get excited by fancy cell phones or computers, but this past year I fell in love with a website. Twitter has been one of the best online experiences I've ever had. I created an account last December, but didn't really start using is full force until May of 2009, and the rest is history. What I've loved about Twitter is all the people I ever met. I've found it to be a great tool for networking and learning about poetry publications, contests, and projects. It seems the poetry world has very much embraced Twitter. I've also used it to promote myself, which hopefully is working. It's the compression of the site that really gets me and keeps me engaged. I love that it's just these little messages (tweets) and nothing else. Most social networking sites have become too much. Twitter is just right. I'm just praying they don't fuck it up.
And the number 1 moment of 2009: Celebrating six years with Dustin. Of all the things I've done in my life, the one thing I know for sure is I picked the right guy. Does that mean our lives are perfect? No, but Dustin and I have grown and changed together and are constantly there for each other. I know he would do anything for me and I for him. Six years is a long time when you are young, like we are, and when you live in a society that seems to not value long term relationships. For me this was the best moment of the year and my proudest accomplishment.
-Stephen (Here's to 2010 and 10 more great moments)