by Chris Clemens
This past month in particular, there’s been a lot of discussion in my social media channels about how 2016 has been terrible. I know there have been some difficult events this year. We lived through one of the most emotionally charged Presidential elections I’ve been alive to witness. We’ve had to grieve the loss of some beloved celebrities. (Like, a whole bunch, actually.) Some of us have once again been let down by Buffalo’s favorite NFL team. I know people who have been ‘unfriended’ or ‘unfollowed’ on social media platforms because discussions about topics were just too emotionally charged. I know. It’s been a tough year.
But, IT WASN’T ALL BAD!!!!!
In fact, I bet if we each think about it, we could come up with a decent list of great things that happened to us. My list is what I’m choosing to focus on these last few hours before my calendar clicks over to 2017.
It’s About People
When I was interviewed by I Heart ROC (a local website out of Rochester) earlier this year, one of the questions was “How do you survive the winter months?” I shared that one of the most important strategies for me was connecting with people face to face rather than just online. The more I’ve thought about that answer, the more I realize how important it is for me during all seasons.
Now, my close friends are reading this with a furrowed brow, because they know that I spend plenty of time alone. It’s not uncommon for me to get in a car and traipse off somewhere for a day or three by myself. It’s true, I think alone time for me is key to maintaining whatever level of balance I am able to achieve in life. But, one of the greatest things about having Exploring Upstate is the people I encounter when I’m doing that traipsing. The opportunity to know you guys is what makes this project so fulfilling.
I could’ve visited the Nellis Tavern on my own during regular hours, but then I might not have met a sixth-generation Nellis family member who shared with me her passion for preserving history in the Mohawk Valley. Sure, my friend Chris Lindstrom and I could’ve quietly gone to Bella Regina in Utica and eaten chicken riggies and left. But, the waitress was having such a good time talking with us, the owner insisted on leaving the kitchen to find out who these guys from Rochester were and why her waitstaff were making a fuss. Seeing the largest collection of deer antlers east of the Mississippi was cool. But, hearing the story directly from the guy who collected them all made the experience not just about antler collecting, but more about a guy from New York who is passionate about a hobby and wanting to share it with the people around him.
2016 has taken me a lot of places, but best of all, it has introduced me to a lot of great people. I could be writing each week about cool things to see and places to eat and stories of New York’s history, but without the New Yorkers that I meet along the way, or guide me to new spots, or read along each week, Exploring Upstate would not exist.
I’m not a particularly strong writer to begin with, and I have a tendency to overthink everything I type. Then, I think, “Nah, that’s garbage” and delete it. So, these posts that you guys somehow manage to sift through actually take me weeks to string together a trail of words that at least make sense and attempt to convey my experiences.
I’ve been thinking for months about how I could somehow put together a final post for the year and tell you all, “LOOK AT ALL THE COOL STUFF THAT HAPPENED!”. Instead, all I can come up with is to extend my gratitude for those of you preserving history, making food or music, taking photos, creating art, or doing whatever it is you do to leave your mark on the Empire State. Even if you’re not feeling like you doing anything particularly unique, at the very least, you’re engaging with others, which helps promote the narrative that exploring our region is important.
I know 2016 was tough. 2017 might be tough, too. But in between the tough spots, there are the things we experience and the people we encounter to serve as reminders that it’s not all terrible. You guys helped make my 2016 pretty damn cool, and I owe it to you to try and make 2017 even more fun.
So, who’s coming?
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens