I am happy to report that Christmas was celebrated as scheduled. Just as reliable was the coming of the new year.
For the first time in my life, I celebrated New Year's Eve outside of the PA/NJ area. For those of you who have never experienced this, do try it. This was also, as I found out at the bar (just before midnight), the first "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" to not prominently feature the shell of Dick Clark since the year of his stroke. Additionally, Dick Clark is dead, and has been since April.
Amidst the readying of champagne and mutually recognized obligation to stare wordlessly at the nearest television, the woman who told me all of this, (so I'd have enough context to fully appreciate the"New Year," because you never want to just jump headlong into a new television series without first understanding the complex struggle of its well-rounded cast of characters), mistakenly referred to Ryan Seacrest as Carson Daly. No one else cared enough to correct her, and that's the way it should be.
Shortly thereafter, I spent ten days in an artistic and alternative-academic bubble. I began the second semester of my pursuit of an MFA at the University of Tampa. As with my first semester, I spent ten long days reading, writing, work-shopping, networking, and drinking. You may not have known this, but holy shit, writers can drink. Or maybe I only followed around the ones who drank a lot.
Regardless, my experience during this semester's residency period was significantly better than that of my first semester. It certainly helped that I had friends from the previous residency, as well as a much better idea of what to expect with regards to the program, the school, and the city. It was also nice going into the residency with some semblance of personal direction, artistic "vision," and an apartment to return to when all was said and done. Last semester was the first time I'd ever even been to Tampa, and it was also the first time I realized I had no desire to ever live in Tampa.
Of course, there was a hurricane on the final day of my extended stay (I booked two extra nights in my hotel room for the sake of finding somewhere to live), and it would have made apartment hunting insane, if not impossible. But more importantly, it seemed silly to live three hours away from my girlfriend when it was entirely unnecessary. I wanted to move to a bigger city because I thought I'd find more opportunities to make strangers laugh. While that may or may not be true, I managed to get a job doing that in St. Augustine. Somehow (and by "somehow," I mean most certainly with the love and support of my friends and family, as well as the nifty-looking education on my resume), it worked out. MISSION: ACCOMPLISHED!
Having that anxiety behind me allowed me to focus more on the residency experience itself, which I could write about forever (or I could apply the education that I'd ostensibly be raving about, and revise that shit into something worth reading). Instead, I'll state that my current objective is to maintain the focus and momentum of the residency period throughout the remainder of the semester (officially recognized as the "tutorial" period, but alternatively referred to as the "real writers write at home and have responsibilities beyond academics, so you should too, hot shot" - period).
I still tell people that my ultimate career goal is to become a professional asshole, as I've said since my junior year of undergrad, as a canned response to those who have the nerve to ask. And for those who are not too taken aback to press me for additional details regarding just exactly what kind of asshole I'd like to be, I am finally starting feel as if I have more to say. Most people will continue to not have any fucking clue what I'm talking about. They'll never grasp why I feel I need an MFA to more lucratively make an audience feel ashamed of itself, or why I even bother with that kind of painful endeavor at all.
And that's okay. If nothing else, I'm learning that it's okay that "most people" do not understand what I do or why I desire to do it. It's okay because people who respect the pursuit of art do, in fact, exist, even outside of my grad school bubble. And these particular people, we'll call them "readers," have an insatiable appetite. They are not mere consumers of books, though they are certainly willing to pay money for the words of others. Yes, readers are seekers of books for the buying, but they are also seekers of truth, beauty, and shared experience. If that makes them sound like assholes, again, that's okay. To translate that into business terms, I am targeting my demographic.