The Rear End

THE REAR END: 2022 – The Little Things

what stands out in a year doesn’t necessary stand tall

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |

Well, here we are. Again. Smack dab in the middle of the Reflection Zone. It’s one of the rare times we actually allow ourselves a little look back over the past year. To take stock. To chart new directions. To generate that sweet, sweet social media engagement. 

As our ancestors sagely advised, “Nostalgia is great for the clicks, babeeee.”

It’s a time for lists. The 10 best this’s and the 10 worst that’s. Songs and movies. Pop culture moments. Red carpet guffaws. Supreme Court surprises. The 12 hottest geopolitical catastrophes of 2022.   

And what of our little lives here in the Chippewa Valley? What defined the past year for us? Building developments? Music fest headliners? New restaurants? All that stuff is great, but … probably not. 

If you’re ever able to just sit down and shut up for five minutes, and really reflect, all those bar graphs charting last year’s most memorable happenings just kind of fall apart. 

 But if you don’t stop to think about it, you’re just vaguely aware that things are … different. There’s a dissonance there, as we try to square our (mostly) pandemic-free lives with the people we’ve suddenly become.


Looking back at 2022, you’ll probably notice how the tent poles holding up the fabric of your lives are made of more personal stuff. Sure, you watched a lot of great TV and discussed a lot of local news, but what stands tallest? 

Deaths. Births. Jobs. Friends. Family. Lack thereof. 

My own Top Whatevers of the Past Year have always been small things. The things that stand tall for me usually didn’t seem like a huge deal when they happened. Just a part of life. But they had big meaning nonetheless. 

A European Vacation

Last summer my daughter, my oldest child, was lucky enough to take a two-week trip to Europe. That was a big deal. Until she got on the airplane, she’d barely left the state of Wisconsin. We spent months getting her ready for the trip, and she saved and saved up all her money to help fund it. It was the longest stretch of time we’d been apart. We learned the time differences and checked in every day to make sure her group hadn’t been swept up into some crazy international espionage plot to weaponize the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or whatever it is Europeans worry about. 

And she’d text us the occasional photo. Of a random French cat.* Or a weird rock in Spain. Or a funny billboard in a different language. Yes, she took tons of photos of more, like, historical stuff, but focusing on tiny, little quirky stuff kept us connected. It made us feel like she was just a few miles away, hanging out with friends. It kept us close. 

Holes of Mini Golf

Last year I had not one, but two opportunities to play the sport of kings: Miniature Golf. One time was in a weird warehouse in Minnesota. The entire course was designed by artists. The other time was just over a wooded hillside from the world’s largest freshwater lake. And both times, I didn’t really expect to like it. Sure, I expected to have fun with my family, the knuckleheads that they are. But the actual golf courses? I expected to not care about it at all. But I was wrong. 

I didn’t play very well. But that didn’t stop me from getting competitive. And cheering for my fellow mini-duffers. And each course held crazy surprises. One of them had chickens, goats, and a peacock roaming about. And the other one had a huge swirling model tornado. And everything, from the poultry to the twister, showed me how a goofy pastime that peaked in the 1990s can still leave you smiling for days. All of it reminded me to chill out. You just gotta let the fake, plastic putting greens take you on a journey, you know?

Things Really Aren’t the Same

And also, slowly, over the past 12 months, I’ve realized how much we’ve all changed. I’ve read that the pandemic had this weird effect of cramming about a decade’s worth of personality evolution into just a few years. But if you don’t stop to think about it, you’re just vaguely aware that things are … different. There’s a dissonance there, as we try to square our (mostly) pandemic-free lives with the people we’ve suddenly become. Sometimes this makes things easier, like not sweating the small stuff we used to obsess over. Sometimes this makes us grumpier because things that used to make sense just don’t any more.  

I really can’t say if these subtle little changes are good or bad. Probably both. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, it reminds me to slow down and dig a little deeper. A lot of this life is not what I think it is. And asking what, why, and how is endlessly engaging. 

So there it is. My strange little recap of 2022. Just some odd stuff that stood out. And now it’s done.

*Fun fact: French cats look just like American cats.