What just happened?
The story is the same, year after year.
“I felt like the year had just begun and…now it’s over?”
“Where did the time go?”
“It goes faster the older you get. Trust me I know.” Thanks Dad.– Dad
As per expected, this year was no different. As December loomed and it was time to start thinking about goals for 2020, I looked back on 2019. My gut and inclination first told me this year had been a bit empty. I didn’t complete any long hikes or bike tours. Maybe I hadn’t taken enough pictures. At the end you’ll see my list of goals and understand a bit why I felt this way.
I’m not sure yet why I do this to myself, or why many of us do. Why do we harbor these naturally occurring negative thoughts first and foremost before we acknowledge our victories?
Because once I set that mentality aside and looked at what had actually happened, I was quite pleased with myself.
January – February
The first two months of the year I started off subletting an apartment in NE Minneapolis. While here I enjoyed a social life that I hadn’t had in quite awhile. Coffee in the mornings with my roommate, meeting friends and even dating a bit, I enjoyed the lifestyle of having a temporary place to call home. Then life picked up again.
I have stopped renting anywhere on the basis that I am never in one spot often enough to validate the costs of renting. February exemplified this, as I was gone just over half the days. However it was for exciting things! I treated myself and used up a gift pass for a few nights at Bluefin Bay Resorts so I could snowboard at Lutsen Mountains (#onemanbirthdayparty). I drove to La Crosse, WI and worked my old college job at Viterbo for a touring show. I picked up my brother, a friend in Madison, and we drove to Cleveland for a Magicfest Tournament. After just missing a huge snowstorm, we returned home and I packed for Las Vegas and WPPI, a convention for wedding and portrait photographers.
When I came back I packed my car and made my third move in as many months. Back home.
March – April
March seemed to take place mostly within southeastern Minnesota. I got to catch up with old friends, driving around to see what people were up to. I held new babies in Kasson, played board games in Austin, house sat cats in Rochester, and photographed a wedding in Red Wing.
April was a whirlwind, as the first two weeks were all preparation to go to Norway for six weeks. The calendar filled up completely beforehand so I almost feel I was lucky to make the plane.
I booked a last minute wedding as a videographer, and boogied up to Duluth after an afternoon of photographing school sports teams. Then I headed west to St. Cloud the next day for a couple full days of event videography before coming home, swapping things around to turn and burn to La Crosse for headshots & dropping off a purchased art print and wedding prints to two other old college friends.
Somehow I made it on the plane, on time, and soon found myself in Oslo with a dear friend just in time to celebrate her birthday.
April – May (Norway)
As 2020 goes on I’ll be writing about this experience in more detail so watch for those posts.
This was a jam-packed six weeks. It all started by meeting up with a good friend in Oslo for her birthday, photo shoots with friends of friends of friends, and trying out Oslo’s breweries. Once my friends left, I took to the woods (Nordmarka) in Oslo to do what I should have done thirteen years ago. I studied abroad there in 2006.
Returning to the city I picked up a vehicle and hit the road for a few weeks. Aspirations had been high but reality set in pretty quickly. April is not the time of easily accessible roads, anywhere of any elevation still had snow and many places were closed. However, I accomplished some goals of climbing hills around Bergen, playing in a Magic The Gathering tournament, exploring the fjords, and actually finding the region our family had come from.
When it was time to return the car, it was also the right time to celebrate Norway’s independence and the signing of their constitution in 1814. Having studied in Norway during fall semester, it was a big regret I missed this celebration. Thankfully it only took me thirteen years to get back. And it was totally worth it.
With all of the celebrations and travel winding down, my full hard drive and I returned home. However there was no time for slowing down, as I went straight into photographing three weddings in eight days. Plus celebrating my Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding anniversary!
June – July
June brought wild storms and I found myself on the set of a small film being done in Owatonna, MN. We had to cancel the first day because of insane looking skies, and silly me thinking I was only going to be acting that day I didn’t bring my real camera. Once that was over I took to writing the wedding ceremony of a good friend of mine. She had asked me to officiate, so that was a brand new experience. It was very strange being up front with the two of them, as typically her and I are the wedding photographers!
Once my nerves abated it was back to house sitting more cats, flying to Seattle for another Magic Fest, and assisting the setup for my hometown’s annual summer art show. Meadowfest is just around the corner again, put it on your calendars everyone!
The 4th of July found me swatting mosquitos in the woods with a friend who used to be my boss in college. When we weren’t bleeding from bug wounds or getting soaked by rain, we tried to grab a few photos for Enlightened Equipment, with whom I’d been a Brand Ambassador for. The rest of July was then the month of hair cut modeling and family photo shoots. The month trickled away waiting for the results of a nail-biting, years-in-the-making contest.
August – September
The big news in August came at the fairs. Along with submitting photos, I even tried my hand at a pen and ink drawing, getting first place at the Mower County Fair!
After years of submitting photography, a miracle happened. I was walking around on opening day in the Fine Arts Building, you know, just to see. Watching the images go by I was keeping track of what ribbons and places I was seeing. “Oh, there’s 3rd Place” & “Wow, 1st Place is amazing!” Then I ran into a friend, who quickly said, “Hey, have you seen yours? It has some kind of award on it.
My heart refused to feel. You know, that preservation technique to keep yourself from getting let down? I meandered over, trying to stay calm. Passing the other included artworks, and the photographs that had been vetted against over eleven hundred other submissions, was my image on the wall.
With 2nd Place.
Outside of that, little changed as I continued to shoot weddings on the weekends and drive back and forth between Minneapolis, Grand Meadow, and Mankato. I had driven to Mankato a few times this summer to exchange photography for massage services, in an attempt to heal from a fall incurred during the aforementioned snowboarding trip. While there, I called around and found some surprises at a greenhouse.
In addition to travel and moving around, one goal this year was to put a few roots down and ground myself. Puns aside, I purchased some honeyberries, a tiny orchard that will arrive in 2020, and built a hugelkultur. I also brought home some prickly pear cactus…did you know they were native to Minnesota? Me neither, but apparently they are and I’m on a kick grow more food around here and they’re edible as well, as are all my other plant endeavors. I’m ready for winter to be done already so I can get started!
September found me following through on a trip I’d been hoping to do myself for years and years.
I simply drove north along the coast of Lake Superior by myself, to chase fall colors. Now the funny thing about it is I never really found them, but I found a great many other beautiful things and wonderful people along the way. Living out of my car for the next twelve days I stopped at breweries, woke up for almost every sunrise, encountered fox & moose in the wild, got a cold, NORTHERN LIGHTS, went to the International Wolf Center in Ely, hiked in many state parks, and made pancakes in a parking lot. The pièce de résistance, was finally seeing Split Rock Lighthouse at sunrise and capturing perhaps my favorite image of the entire trip, as one of my last images. You can find that right here.
October – December
Then for the rest of the year, nothing happened.
I became a part-time portrait painting model. There’s definitely an art or a skill or insanity to sit still for three hours at a time. But painters need to practice. Listening to their dialogue every time makes me want to be on the their side trying it out. I also attended a friend’s wedding in Madison.
As a guest.
The full day, with no job whatsoever. I don’t even know how many years it had been since I’d done that.
Life did slow down though. I had been all amped up to land a really big medical research study. If you don’t know much about what that means, check out my story on those here. This would have been my biggest one, a $10,000 payout with 40 days in lockdown (living on site). However, my initial bloodwork came back with a low white blood cell count. I was told I could not participate and that I should see my regular doctor right away.
Off handedly the study doctor said it could be from a recent illness or something, which made me think of my cold from the North Shore trip. A week later I’d done bloodwork again and…it all came back fine. I called and was potentially back in, I’d just have to go back to Minneapolis and do the tests on site one more time. But there was a problem.
I never get the flu shot. Maybe never will again. My doctor and nurse both recommended it while I was getting that second opinion bloodwork done. Can you guess what one of the disqualifications were for the research study?
No drugs of any kind for at least thirty days prior to the start. Flu shots included.
Instead of filling that time set aside for the study, I opted to use it to continue work on this blog. And have family photos done. I spent the rest of November into early December at my computer, editing, typing, getting a little distracted, and cycling back.
One distraction took me through Iowa City, Madison, and Chicago to visit friends. The main purpose, was to track down an inspirational photographer, David Yarrow. He released a new book, and I was fortunate enough to accompany him and the crew to dinner after the gallery closed. Just meeting him has been motivating me to work harder going into 2020.
December flew by. Two weeks at home, a week in Minneapolis with my Santa family, back home for Christmas, back to the Twin Cities for my nephew’s first birthday party, it was finally off to the quiet solitude of the Wisconsin Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to ring in the New Year. We cross country skied, played board games, ate, and yelled obscenities in Polish. Then shortly after midnight that flu came around and…
…well that’s for 2020’s Year In Review.
As my mentor says every year, it is wise to acknowledge your successes and shortcomings from the goals you set each year. In 2019 I had set out to:
- Write more consistently for the blog!!!
- Get to the 7th Continent (South America)
- Return to Antarctica
- Become FAA drone certified
- Go snowboarding
- Big roadtrip (loose definition)
- New photography outlet – think techniques or film formats
- Kayak tour (Lake Superior?)
- State Parks Passport Program
- The true finish of the Superior Hiking Trail (What do you mean?!?)
- Learning to winter camp
- The Last Continent
- My Minnesota Passport Project (This Has To Be Attempted!!!)
That’s almost hard to look at. Granted these are all pretty large goals so not accomplishing all of them was absolutely the reality. However I feel that I should have been able to check off a few more, and my personal list of goals suffered a similar fate. I wouldn’t say it was for lack of trying though, as I did write more consistently throughout the year. My journals both digitally and paper wise are much more full, just not translated to blog posts. I’ve debated about the drone certification, as to whether I’d use it or not. I did a shorter bike trip than Ragbrai, it’s hard to get a full week free. I slept outside in the winter…but wouldn’t consider it ‘learning to winter camp’. Also, I did apply for over half a dozen Antarctica jobs, I just wasn’t what they were looking for this year.
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, let’s start 2020 off with another insane list of goals.
- Final continent (South America)
- Learn to sail
- Learn to ride horses
- Win, not 2nd, a photo contest
- Meet the business & blogging goals I’ve set for myself (did I actually make a business plan for 2020? Oh yes I did!)
- One long distance, human powered trip. Bicycle, kayak, hike.
- Plant the orchard, hugelkulture, and make a wine or other deliciousness from home harvested goods.
- Read at least 10 books.
- Try a new form of artistic expression. Painting, drawing, other photographic process
- Truly finish the Superior Hiking Trail (I got this)
- The Minnesota State Parks Passport and Hiking Trail Program Project (This is the year, just wait and see!)
If you’ve made it to the end, Thank You. You are a saint. This is a pretty exhaustive post and I could have filled it with more memories, more pictures, and more specifically, more people’s names. I just want to lastly, Thank Everyone that I was fortunate enough to spend time with throughout the course of the year. Everyone that I was able to work with. Everyone that allowed me to visit. I can’t thank you all enough.