Looking back at 2012: Finding the good in an awful year

Jan 02

No matter how bad things are, sometimes you have to sit back, realize it’s a blessing to be alive and smile.

This post definitely will have its ups and downs.

Last year when I did a look back at the year, I was in the same situation I am now — unemployed. But I still was optimistic. I had taken advantage of the year by being able to see things as I did my job search.

But as those months continued into 2012, it got worse.

I didn’t go see things as much. I canceled — understandably so — a trip to GeoWoodstock X (to be fair, it sounds like canning the trip wasn’t the worst thing. I hope to get back to GeoWoodstock some time in the future). I also didn’t do several things I had hoped to do, such as do a repeat trip to my Aunt’s house on the Jersey Shore.

Still, I’ve tried to remain as upbeat and as positive as I can. Despite knowing the end is near (or done if nothing has happened) to unemployment benefits, I realize I’m not even close to many others. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and family and friends who care enough about me to try and help or get my mind off things, if even just getting together for a slice of pizza or a beer.

That doesn’t take away from the negative thoughts I have in my head. I look at others who are successful and happy in life and wonder if I’ll reach that. I realize I chose a bad career path — or at least it seems — and I need to figure out something to do.

Hopefully, 2013 will be that year.

That being said, 2012 wasn’t a total wash. The reality is, I try and do whatever I can to try keep an upbeat attitude, if even just for a day or two. The lack of finances has made me look for more affordable things to do, especially in the local area. From photography to community events, I’ve seen a lot more of the area, which is a positive thing.

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One of the biggest — and brightest spots of my year was Rattling Chains, a blog I created to cover the sport of disc golf. This was done as a hobby during my spare time as I wanted to see if a niche blog like that could work. Disc golf is an extremely fast growing sport, so maybe something like this could take off.

And, compared to my hopes, it did.

I had a fun year in disc golf, but would have liked to played more!

Since launching the blog in early March, the site has received more than 115,000 views. That’s not shabby for a small crew (there are 3-5 of us who write on a regular basis) and with no financial backing or gain. We’ve put out some quality content and that’s been something I’ve really been proud of.

At times, it’s been hard to continue. And there’s no guarantee we’ll make it. Who knows what life brings. But for now, we’re doing well and have a loyal group following us.

In other parts of disc golf, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked this year. Unfortunately the drive to get a local course failed, so that made it harder for me to play. Driving 1 1/2 hours to play a round isn’t smart in regard to time or finances.

That meant I also only played in five tournaments this year — two PDGA-sanctioned tournaments (I reached my goal of hitting 700 as a rating), two doubles tournaments (we cashed in one!) and one Ace Race.

I’ve also played a bunch of casual rounds — including one with 2010 world champion Eric McCabe. So, in the end, I think I improved quite a bit, which is something I wanted to do.

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During this year, besides seeking a job, I was also seeking something else — peace.

The reality is, I have a lot of hate when it comes to some things in my life. I’m coming to terms with much of it and, I think, by the end of this job hunt, I’ll have come to total peace.

In fact, I really think I’ll face it head-to-head when I know my life is taking a better turn.

In the meantime, as I tried to shake it — I wanted to find some sort of peace. Kind of finding that place where I knew I could get away and just relax and not worry about anything else.

For those of you who know one of my closest friends Darren, you know he’s got his hands into so many things. That usually means when I get the chance to hang out with him, there’s going to be something different.

Finding kayaking was an important part of my year.

Kayaking was one of them.

Though I had always wanted to learn to kayak, I had never done it until this year. The first couple of times I went was with Darren. I used one of his kayaks and we paddled the local river. However, the kayak wasn’t truly good for me.

The next several times I went, I rented at a local kayak place. The owner was extremely helpful every time I went, helping me find the right kayak and showing me what I needed to do. The first time or two I went, I had to get the feel of it. From then on out, I got the “feel” of it within the first five minutes and I was all over it.

I still can’t do like others — have the legs out while chilling — but I’m sure that will come in time. I also need to figure out how to kayak for a couple of hours without back pain!

The one thing I truly found with kayaking?

Peace.

There is something to be said about being on the water with not many around and just coast, soak up some sun and listen to nature. It’s peaceful. You can get into a great place when out there.

I also held our area’s first water-based geocaching event. We had more than 30 people come out on a warm fall day, paddle a mile and a half to the event and enjoy everything.

Way too cool.

I don’t set resolutions or anything like that, but I’m really hoping to be able to afford a kayak and a roof rack this year. I can definitely see me going kayaking a whole heap more, especially if I don’t have to rent every time I go.

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Speaking of geocaching, I had a decent year with that hobby.

According to my statistics, I found 539 caches this year, which is my highest total since finding 1,030 in 2009. Since then, I’ve founf 491 (2010) and 396 (2011).

I finished a monumental challenge in completing the New York State DeLorme Challenge, which is something I’ve worked on for several years. Two big one-day road trips helped me get to the final point, which was awesome. I was excited to share the moment with some friends and it was nice to know I completed the challenge.

It’s been fun finding caches and doing some DeLorme road trips this year.

The challenge final was also my 3,000th find.

I’ve also completed the New York County Challenge, but I have yet to go find the final.

During the year, I had the chance to hit up 13 events, including the first New England mega event, which was held in Massachusetts  We made it a one-day trip (it was only a few hours from me) and had a good time, despite the crazy heat.

Including the seven events I hosted this year, I have launched 16 new caches in 2012. One of those was also my 50th hide (I now have 59). I think I’m most proudest of that, because it’s always nice to put out new caches.

It hasn’t been all great, though. We had a geocache attack this year, stealing upward of 10 ammo cans. A good bulk of them were mine or one other persons. I wondered if it was somebody local or somebody coming through the area and stealing them. The worst part was when my golden ammo can was replaced (it was done by someone else), it was stolen a second time — and one of her caches that was nearby was also close. I don’t know if it’s somebody local, but I won’t lie when I say I think it has to be someone with some sort of a vendetta. Since then, however, it seems to have ceased. So we can hope, anyway.

In the end, it was a good year for caching. I had the chance to go on some really fun caching days and got to meet new people. Though I had to cancel two trips to mega events I wanted to hit for financial reasons, I still enjoyed the year of caching. In the end, it did what it normally does — gave me an out to forget things for a while and took me to some places I likely never would have found without the game.

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This has been an interesting year when it comes to photography, which is why I’ll be breaking that down into more than one category.

First, professional wrestling. I’ve blogged about this before, but when it comes to photography, I’ve really found a lot of fun in shooting wrestling. Especially independent federations. First, it’s cheap entertainment (usually, tickets are $10-$15 for about three hours of action). Second, you can get some great images, be it action, close-ups or even the fans.

One of my favorite images this year in regard to wrestling — Brodie Lee. He’s since been signed by WWE and is wrestling under the name Luke Harper.

I have to say, I’m kind of shocked at how many events I went to this year. I took photos at 16 wrestling events and attended at least one other where I didn’t take any images. That’s quite a few. But I’ve loved the images I’ve taken. I also had the chance to tag along with a couple of indy wrestlers to a training seminar.

You get quite the variety of quality, too. Some is bad, some is good, some is awesome.

Either way, it’s a slice of variety that makes it fun to take photos.

I’ve also had the chance to get to know some of the personalities and am working on some writing projects with a few of them. In the end, I hope to talk to several others and make this one massive project — possibly a book.

After all, the photos only tell half the stories.

Though many people look own upon this sport, these guys (and gals) who do this really have some interesting stories to tell. Some are wild, some are good and some are bad. Some are downright tragic.

I am happy I’ve been able to shoot this sport. I’ve grown up a wrestling fan, so being able to capture these images has been awesome. That being said, one thing the training session taught me is being able to take photos at ringside is way better than being back in the crowd. Maybe in 2013, I’ll get that chance to get up close and personal to shoot the sport in a different light. I’ll look to rent a lens beforehand if that opportunity comes.

I didn’t use my favorite wrestling shot of the year in this post because it’s graphic and I want people to make their own choice if they want to see it. Note it’s bloody. If you want to see it, click here.

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This year hasn’t always been the best for photography.

I started out the year with a bang being involved in the second year of the HooHaa 52 and taking part in the 366 Project.

Some of you may remember I completed the 365 Project in 2010. The project is where you take a photo every day for a full year. I finished in in 2010 and swore I’d never do it again.

My Feb. 28 shot for the failed 366 Project.

However, 2012 was a leap year, so …

Needless to say, I didn’t make it. I sputtered throughout the summer and forced myself to keep going. Once the fall hit, I really hit a wall. No job equaled fewer opportunities to travel around and taking photos in my immediate area was becoming a bore.

So, after about 250 days, I called it quits.

I realize I only had three months or so remaining, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. So I had two decisions — push as long as I could, or end it there. I decided to end it there, knowing I’d really get mad if I made it to December or something and then slipped.

Also, I think knowing I had completed this project in 2010 made it easier for me to call it quite.

The HooHaa 52 was also a failure. I was about 10 weeks shy of finishing. The reason there is the majority of people who joined this challenge had faltered. And others were using older photos or logging too many in a row. So I got frustrated and gave up.

That being said, Year 3 of the HooHaa 52 is starting this week and I’m more excited than I have been in the past for this challenge. I think we have a good group of people and have tweaked the rules to make it easier. Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be telling you all about how I finished the project and how proud I am of the group and everything that got done.

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Travel this year was limited. I hit up the Lancaster area early in the year for a couple days of disc golf. Same with a short weekend trip to Philly in November, where I also got to stay with relatives and see some relatives I hadn’t seen in a while.

The Cooperstown Winter Festival was one of the local events I checked out this year.

There were also the two days of 22-plus hours of travel and caching to fill the DeLorme squares. And I ventured a few places to play disc golf, usually day trips.

But things I had hoped to do this year — a couple of geocaching trips, a trip to the Vibram Open — it just wasn’t in the cards this year.

And I’m OK with that. I realize my time needed to be spent (and still does) applying and searching for employment. It’s part of this crazy part of my life I’m in. Throwing money out for big trips just isn’t justifiable, when I’m trying to keep my head above water with bills.

That being said…

What this year taught me was to find more things locally. Things such as area fairs or festivals that are low cost (or free) and things put on for the community. I had the chance to see different things in a different light.

I also explored more of the local area, through geocaching and photography, to try and get out and visit local parks and such. There are a few I missed and I look forward to checking in 2013. There are also many awesome state parks within a couple hours from here. They offer many things and after receiving an Empire Pass for Christmas this year, I plan on trying to visit as many as possible this year.

I got involved with helping people looking for photos of headstones via Find A Grave and did some personal photography challenges. I worked on geocaching things in the local area. There really are so many things in people’s local areas they don’t know about. It’s unfortunate it took me this long to realize it. I look forward to looking at things like this in the future though.

It truly is amazing how you look at things differently when you have to find more cheap and inexpensive means of entertainment.

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In the end, the year featured more than I can put in this post.

It definitely had its ups and downs. Though a lot of the downs outweighed some things, the reality is I still am here on Earth, have good family and friends and am better off than so many others.

I also do believe things happen for a reason.

What the reason is that I’m going through all of this right now? No idea. But hopefully it will show its face in 2013.

Thanks to everyone who has visited the site through this year and I hope to have many more things to post about in the upcoming year!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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6 comments

  1. I really find it so hard to believe that nobody out there has the need to employ an intelligent, articulate, hardworking bloke like yourself – it makes no sense :( I sincerely hope that life turns itself around for you in 2013 – early in 2013 at that.

    You’ve done so well to keep yourself motivated and active during this difficult time, when many would use it as an excuse to withdraw from the world, the kayaking in particular sounds wonderful, and I’m glad it’s giving you some of the peace you crave

    All the very best to you, PJ, and here’s to onward and upward!
    Sarah recently posted..Rocking Your World Friday – wrapping up 2012My Profile

    • The problem is there are many people of all ages and experience going for a lot of these jobs. I’ve even been passed over for everyday “blah” jobs, as some may call them. Overqualified they say. I don’t know what’s happening. It really stinks. I hope it gets better and I find something, because if it’s not soon, unfortunately 2013 will start off even worse than 2012, if that’s possible.

  2. PS that wrestling pic – brutal but excellent!
    Sarah (Flo) recently posted..Rocking Your World Friday – wrapping up 2012My Profile

  3. Congratulations on completing the New York State DeLorme challenge. I still have a way to go on all three California DeLorme challenges. It’s a challenging undertaking no matter how you slice it for any state.

    Glad to see you didn’t drop me. ;-)
    Paul Myers recently posted..Ray – The Stranger that got awayMy Profile

    • Thanks, Paul. The NY Challenge was quite the challenge. It took me several years and two massive trips this year to do it. I blogged about it at some point. The California ones look crazy. I couldn’t imagine completing those!

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