2022 in Review: Pure (And I Cannot Stress This Enough) Michigan
It was a big, heavy year, but I can't in good faith say that it was trash (see 2021, 2020).
I'm stepping out of 2022 feeling proud, happy, hopeful, and loved, which is a major improvement on how I felt one year ago.
Big Life Changes
At the end of 2021, I was heartbroken, out-of-place in a place that I had accidentally made home, and miserable in a job that had broken my spirit. Something had to give.
After lots of therapy and tears, I accepted that I needed to move back home. I had been away since seventeen, so the prospect was entirely unnerving, and yet it was my best option.
Please enjoy the poem I wrote about it.
I'm on the edge of something. It feels a lot like seventeen. It feels nothing like seventeen. I bent myself backwards in order to reach, but I can't bend space or time. Going back isn't going back at all—I was never there.
I take a step and something dies, stay put and my feet march me into a tangled fog of departed dreams. There's decay in every direction, so I choose the web that is my own. I'll live so many lives once I'm through with this one. With the next one waiting in the wings,
I begin again.
It took several months to make arrangements to leave Texas, but in March I packed up my car and drove from Texas back home to Northern Michigan.
I completed the trip in two days, knocking out 1,000+ miles on the first day, a large portion of it through what I can only describe as a monsoon. Day two was somehow worse. I blame Illinois and its potholes.
Home has not historically been a place of refuge for me, so my first few months back were marked by paranoia and fear. To cope, I found refuge in the woods, the water, and the golf course. You heard that right. I golf now.
I could write an essay about what golf has done for me. Hauling a bag full of clubs from hole to hole provided an outlet for my boundless energy. The challenging nature of the game forced me to reckon with my unrelenting self-criticism. I've made new friends and I think maybe even a nemesis. It's a silly little game that has made me cry more than I care to admit. I can't imagine life without it.
I spent a lot of time in the woods this year. At first, it was an escape from my feelings and responsibilities. It wasn't long until running to the woods no longer felt like running away, but running to—to solitude and wonder, to friends, and to adventures that yielded mushrooms, berries, and cherished memories.
I grew up with these woods, but my memories of them are tarnished by childhood traumas. Learning to see the beauty of my home through clear eyes was transformative, and I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the healing they provided.
I hunted a lot this year—turkey, whitetail, geese, grouse, and woodcock. It was an important part of me reconnecting with home and reclaiming parts of my childhood that were lost.
I have a lot of great memories from hunting this year, but here are a few worth writing down.
The first animal I took this season (and ever, somehow) was a goose. I wrote about it in my post Honk.
Public Land Doe
I shot my first deer on a picturesque fall day on public land, then spent three subsequent days tracking it through a miserable and wet snowstorm. I had spot and stalked a doe and two fawns, made the shot at 25 yards, all while a cow elk watched from ~30 yards. It was one of those "did that just happen?" moments. Rain started as soon as I drew back, so the blood trail was gone within an hour. After three days of grid searching I had to give up. I was devastated to lose her, but I'll never forget the experience.
My First Bird
I shot my first woodcock over Sako, a bird-crazy lab with a wicked nose. She is not a "proper" bird dog, so shooting a bird over her requires a certain ability to haul ass through the woods with a shotgun in hand. If you can do that, she will find birds for you. She and I put up a lot of birds this fall, but it wasn't until the last day of woodcock season that I finally connected. It was a special moment. I cried.
I saw a lot of elk this year. I easily had triple the shots on elk in bow range than I did on whitetail. Having grown up down the street from where Michigan's elk herd was re-introduced in 1918, these animals distinctly represent home to me, and being able to observe them in close quarters ignited something between awe and terror.
I quit my job and started my own business, Northwoods Digital. I had been miserable working in tech for a long time, and this year it finally reached a breaking point. I can't say that I'll never go back, but I don't expect I'll work full-time in tech for a while.
It's still too early to say if quitting a cushy salary job was foolish or wise, but I'm feeling incredibly optimistic about the future of my business. At the very least, I'm much happier now that I'm not tied to a desk and stuck in video calls all day long.
Poems, I Guess
I wrote a bunch of mediocre poems and even got one of them published.
To The Moon
I'm shooting for the moon
because I think there's still a chance
it's made of cheese
Long Way Home
is the long way home
when you don't
know where your heart is
I wasn’t out of place until I heard how quiet this land is under my feet. Every step whispering secrets I already know.
This sun barely shines, and why should it? The air itself holds me in my own warmth.
I guess every breed has its climate.
The berries are fruiting.
Somehow that feels like solidarity.
A sweet and tiny morsel
to contend with the pit in my gut.
I tried to write this poem,
but the words got
screwed up in my head.
It was a big year for dogs. I finally got my own dog after years of wanting one. Her name is Maven and I love her.