2017: A Year In Review

Every December I take a few hours to think back on the year and think back over everything that went on.  I am sure that I missed a lot of things, but here is some of it.

I suppose that the easiest way to start is to explore the big life change events that went on for people around me.  This January my grandmother passed away, it was sad, but she was 89 and had lived a long and fulfilled life so it was easy to celebrate her passing.  I happened to be on a road trip at the time, which made things pretty complicated, but gave me some space and literal distance to process everything.  Unfortunately she wasn’t the only person I lost this year.  A comic from Boston that I knew a little, but liked a lot took his own life this fall.  It was a really rough blow, we had just talked a few weeks earlier and he was coming up to spend a weekend and was going to stay at my place.  He was a great guy, and while we didn’t know each other that well I still felt a big sense of loss, not only for him but for his whole community.  Just a few months later my own personal community took a hit when one of my friends passed away unexpectedly, I have already written a lot about that and don’t feel like I can add more.  I am at the point that these things make me feel bad but unfortunately I have become a bit numb to them.  Maybe it is me trying to be stoic about it, but to be honest my friends have been dying at a pretty high rate since I was in high school, and I have put a defense mechanism in place to carry on.  I know that it sounds like a bullshit “On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” line, but part of caring about a lot of people is being there when they move on, the best I can do is try to my best to stay strong and survive.

On a brighter note I got to be part of two awesome weddings this year.  My friends Dave and Jess got married after 10 years together.  I have a theory that they actually got married several years ago so that he could get a green card, and they just threw a big celebration for our benefit.  I’ll take it, it was a pretty awesome wedding, they had a poutine bar, an entire bar of poutine, what will those crazy Canadians think of next?  And for the record every time I bring up my theory about them being already married they do not deny it.  I also had the pleasure of performing a wedding for my Aunt Carrie and my new Uncle Dale (not to be confused with my previously existing Uncle Dale).  Carrie is definitely one of my top 7 or 8 aunts and it was an honor to share their day.  It was a beautiful fall afternoon at our camp and we were surrounded by family and friends, a good time was had by all.  I wish many happy years to both couples.

I think that this year I spent more time on road trips than any other year since I went cross country back in 2009.  Beyond my normal trip to Gatlinburg I went to Michigan to visit my brother, flew out to Minnesota to rent a car and drive the northern plains, drove to DC for Grand Council with a stop over at the Dogfish brewery, plus the regular trips to Albany and a pair of trips to Portland.  It was good to get on the road, there is something about driving long distances through open spaces that puts me at ease.  It can definitely get old, like chasing a storm from Michigan across Canada and through western NY, but being out there and experiencing America feels so good.  Added to that was the fact that most of these trips included spending time with a lot of my friends and family, which makes any amount of miles worthwhile.

My great plains road trip was the high point of my summer.  I have always had a fascination with wide open spaces, and there is no better place for that than the Dakotas.   I spent most of a week just driving around with no real itinerary.  There were places that I wanted to see and things that I wanted to do, but all I had was a rental car and a camera.  I was able to have some really awesome moments in nature, and see some realy wild places, while also knocking 5 more states off my burrito list.  I do wish that I would have spent more time truly disconnecting from the world and trying to find some inner space.  But in the end it was a truly memorable experience, and has inspired me to spend more time in national parks in the coming years.

One of my great struggles has been finding things that really capture my interest.  I often have a tendency to flit between things, working diligently for a few weeks before moving on to something else.  This year was no different.  I did a good amount of painting, but flirted with learning how to draw and spending time coloring.  I also learned to weld in an attempt to get “man skills” and explored the possibility of making metal sculptures, but in the end that turned out to be time and cost prohibited.  I learned the skill and can someday pick it up again, but after a few sessions I didn’t really have a clear direction so I had to put it on the back burner.

As always reading was a big priority.  I found myself reading a lot more fiction this year.  I tackled big projects like the Harry Potter series, the One Second After books, and Musashi on top of a spattering of classic literature and mystery/war books.  I generally don’t like fiction, or maybe I like it too much and it becomes all consuming, but I have decided to work my way through a backlog of “must reads” that have spanned the test of time, I think 2018 will include the hobbit books.  The rest of what I read was some great non ficiton, not too many memoirs or biographies, but a lot of time and attention management books, and a good amount about religions like Buddhism or improv comedy.  I should probably keep track but I assume that I made it through 60-70 books this year including a bunch by my favorite authors.  Combined with thousands of hours of podcasts it was a very good year for cramming things into my brain.

While I was busy acquiring a lot of knowledge I don’t think that I did great about putting it to good use.  I didn’t write much and a lot of what I wrote I lost interest in and walked away from.  I started writing a book, but I doubt that I will ever finish it, after more than a month I have barely made it past the introduction.  I felt like this year was lacking in silence, I was very scattered.  I didn’t spend enough time meditating and tried to hide that with trips to the isolation tank.  While I do enjoy the floats and they are helpful, going once a month does not make up for having a daily meditation practice.  I don’t think it is helpful to beat myself up for not meditating enough, but I am sure that I can get back on the horse easy enough if I put my mind to it.

Work this year was a disaster.  The bad part is that at least the first few months of 2018 are going to be even worse.  I took this job because I needed something to keep me afloat for a year or two, that was almost three years ago.  I got complacent, and even when things got bad it never hit the pain point where I needed to move on.  I don’t know if the next few months are going to get me to hit that point, but it certainly won’t be pretty.  I guess time will tell.

Comedy went pretty well.  I didn’t do any thing spectacular, missed my goal of 100 times on stage per year, and watched a lot of people who I was close with leave Vermont, but it was still a pretty successful year.  I opened for a few headliners, kept my meadery show going, did my first improv show, and wrote for and performed in the Harry Potter Roast.  I made more money this year than any previous year, played to bigger audiences, and hopefully didn’t piss off too many people along the way.  Plus I like to think that I wrote some pretty good new material and revamped some old stuff.

One of my goals this year was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I think that I easily achieved that.  Almost every morning I took a cold shower, to the point that I actually missed it on the days when I skipped.  I sometimes like to now stand in the snow and feel how cold it is, it makes me feel alive.  I put in bunch of bodywork with various torture devices like acupressure mats, graston scrapers, and golf balls, all of which hurt like hell but were good in the long run.  I also started taking more chances as a comic.  My favorite new joke involves an encore, and the first few times I tried it I was scared shitless because it was very uncomfortable.  But over time I found that it is something that is so different that the audience almost has no choice but to have a reaction to it.  I also spent more time talking to strangers, which is very uncomfortable, but helps to put myself out there.

This year wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either.  I don’t think that it will go down in the record books as a pivotal year, but now that I am in my 30s the pivotal years must be fewer and further between.  I had a bunch of stuff that I wanted to do, some of which I actually accomplished, and I had a pretty good time with some pretty good people along the way.  I swam in the Atlantic, stood on the shores of the great lakes, walked the canyons of the badlands and the hills of the prairie, and in the end I appear to have cheated death once again.

Quick Hits

  • Best Media: Musashi, Dreamland, Parks and Rec, American Vandal, Seu Jorge, Alexa’s Classic Punk music station, Run the Jewels in concert
  • Best Experiences: driving through a buffalo herd in TR National Park, Aunt Carrie’s wedding, Eating at a 2 Michelin star restaurant with one of my oldest friends
  • Best Burrito: Pork Belly at Mad Taco (Waitsfield)
  • Favorite Jokes: the encore bit, two women with mullets
  • Favorite Performances: Harry Potter Roast, Reverse Roast, Grand Council Comedy Show
  • Best Purchases: Paint brushes and canvases, Merrill shoes, roomba
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