2023: Year of Dreams
I had no expectations for 2023. When December 2022 came to a close, I had no major goals written down or action items that I must accomplish. I mean, I had the normal yearly goals.
- Make money.
- Lose weight.
But those happen every year. They last for as long as I can hold steady and slowly fade into the madness of the day to day life.
I guess I had lingering goals from years past. Many in which were pipe dreams…
But somehow, someway, these pipe dreams decided 2023 was the year to come true. Unbeknownst to me…
365 of Disney: Dumb Social Experiment
I started my year (and actually ended the year) with a pretty silly experiment that brought me a little bit of joy each day.
For years, I’ve been asked “when’s your next Disney trip?”. We take several trips per year, which is most than about 99% of people. So even 2 or 3 trips makes it seem like we are there all of the time.
So on January 1st, I decided to post a picture of my family at Walt Disney World and pose the question – Am I at Walt Disney World today? I did this once a day, for the entire year.
The first few weeks actually had people believing we took a very long trip. Others, Disney regulars, would point out reasons why we weren’t in the parks (old Magicbands or retired signs in the background). It was obviously when my children showed up in pictures – one day as a 3-year-old and the next at age 6.
Here’s the thing – I wanted to test my ability to post for 365 days. I also wanted to see what people reacted to.
- Pictures of me – a few likes
- Pictures of my family – several likes
- Pictures of attractions – one like
It was also interesting to see who would like everyday. I was also curious on how engagement would drop throughout the year. Thirty likes would turn into 3 by the time we crossed the finish line.
One thing was for sure, I branded myself with this tactic. It was weekly that I had at least one Facebook friend say “you’re not at Disney” when I encountered them in the real world.
And it took 365 days to hit the punchline of my January 1, 2024 post…..
Growing the Company: Natalie and Jenny
When I signed up for my LLC in 2019, I never dreamed I would take it beyond a one-man operation. I remember talking with Zach Abraham (AlignHR) during a networking session and I told him that my business was not a growth business, just a lifestyle business. A business that was just happy to make enough money to get by. Four years later, I’m talking with Zach each month as he mentored me on how to hire and onboard my first employee.
An origin story that deserves its own blog, enter Natalie Jeffers as a full-time employee on January 1, 2023. Natalie was the emergency contact my company needed to keep things progressing and me from overworking myself into the ground. Natalie and I clicked from the start and over the year, had become my trusted right-hand that excels at many tasks that I’m just “okay” at.
And as Natalie started taking over more and more, business continued to pick up. Another crazy story and circumstance lead us to bring Jenny Snyder onboard before the holiday season. New into her venture, Jenny has adapted to this industry like no other freelancer or contractor I’ve worked with before.
And like that, Eric Hersey Web Design is a team….and we have some big announcements to make in the coming months.
Becoming a Jake: Disney YouTube
So there was one thing I wrote down that could have been looked at as a goal…kind of.
Last year, I wrote a blog about my fantasy of being a Disney YouTuber. Known in my house as Jake’s, these faux Disney historians post long form videos reviewing history, facts, and commentary on all things Disney. I finished the blog by teasing the idea that I would like to give it a try.
Honestly, there was like a 5% chance I was going to follow through. I literally wrote that blog to coin the term Jake as a YouTuber. It was a silly thing I just wanted to write. But in some odd way, I feel that blog opened up the universe and something deep in my brain that I could be a video editor.
Earlier in the year, I worked with a client and dabbled with video for the first time in a decade. Those few days had me dig into Adobe Premiere and After Effects and I dusted off some of my old skills. I still had ability.
Fast forward to mid-summer – I’m working with entertainment writer Jim Hill on his website. This giant task of formatting and migrating these 5000 articles had us having several back and forth emails. There was an overlap in one of our WDW trips and I met him at a Panera for coffee. The family came along and Lauren did her Lauren thing and asked him a million questions. Jim, Lauren, and I all buddied up and next thing you know, Jim’s talking about his latest project with veteran Imagineer Jim Shull.
Initially wanting some opinions and help with rollout and marketing, Lauren and I ended up being part of the team – handling social and more. Lauren and I both created sizzle videos to hype the launch and this “lost weekend” officially made us video editors.
Soon, I was helping edit full episodes of their hour-long Disney history videos…They launched their Patreon channel in September and my fingerprints are all over the final product. And guess what, their videos are on YouTube….
My First NDA: Big Time Project
As the heading implies, I will be very vague and nondescript.
Let’s just say I got to do some SEO work for something really cool.
38 to 39: Injuries Just Because (and Grays)
Since 2009, I’ve felt 25. This is how old I liked to think my body was. Mentally, I’ve grown a lot since 2009. But even though my metabolism stopped working and my shirt sizes increased, in my mind I felt like I could anything 25-year-old Eric Hersey could do.
….and then one day I picked up a toy box.
38 is forever the age that I found myself realizing that I was actually 38.
After moving couches around at the request of wife, I decided to move a toy box and immediately went down to injury. The next three months had me visiting a chiropractor on a weekly basis in an attempt to get me upright and walking.
A few months later (now 39) doing absolutely nothing, my neck/arm required attention. A few months later and many visits to the chiropractor, I only occasionally lose feeling in my hand…
Oh, I have some gray hair coming in.
The Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland
Since 2014 (or roundabout) I’ve been obsessed with Disney Theme Parks. And Disney Theme Parks all started in 1955 with the OG: Disneyland.
Even though I’m more of a 1971 Opening Day Walt Disney World guy, I found myself watching a ton of documentaries over the year about Walt’s theme park. I watched, but I was never fully invested. I mean, I’ve never been to Southern California and why did I need to go – I have an annual pass at WDW.
Finally our day came. It started with the family talking about doing a cross-country road trip in the van. Now that never came to be, but it was enough to get Lauren and I excited about Disneyland. Enough so that we booked ourselves a trip. And not just any trip. This would be a “once-in-a-lifetime” style trip. No expenses spared.
In October, we put the kids on a plane (the first trip for most) and headed to Anaheim. Both Lauren and I were excited to venture into new theme parks, but we were also really excited to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. Yes, the on-property hotel that was around just as long as the park itself.
I can’t sum up in a few paragraphs how much we really enjoyed Disneyland. Everyone asked me – “WDW or DL?”…and I just couldn’t answer. The best analogy I could give is that it’s like comparing your children – you love them both, but for different reasons.
Disneyland was so convenient and quaint. Their was so much history – which I just completely eat up.
It was honestly a trip of a lifetime…but one that we want to take yearly.
When my son finally said he was done doing piano lessons, I had to take the opportunity to take his spot. I’ve been toying with the idea since my kids started five (or so) years ago. Just because I’m nearing my 40s wasn’t a good enough reason for me to NOT give it a try. We’re not talking drums here. People play piano for their entire life.
The fact that I have a music blog was another reason why I wanted to learn how to play piano – or more importantly – how to read music. Sure, I could learn how to do this on YouTube, but I needed an accountability buddy.
So the later half of 2023 had me playing a “two finger legato” and ending with “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.
2024 Goal: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”
More Disney: Vero and Hilton Head (and lots of WDW)
If Disneyland wasn’t enough, The Herseys hit up two of our other favorite non-WDW resorts. I really dislike the beach, but I love Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. It’s all of the magic and charm of the Disney Resorts but put on a remote beach one-hour south of Orlando. See, Lauren sits on the beach and I just enjoy the Disney atmosphere of the hotel and pool. We’ve been there multiple times and visited once in 2023.
But on our way home, we finally spent a few days at the other stateside remote Disney Resort: Disney’s Hilton Head Beach Resort. It’s a small resort with very limited inventory, so when we saw an opening we took it. Oh…and we fell in love. This resort had a totally different vibe and was less “beachy” – but also had a beach. I’ll leave it to Lauren and her blog to rant and rave, but let’s just say I wouldn’t mind buying some DVC points for this location.
And just to add a period to the end of our Disney sentence – we hit up four total times this year….ending with a trip during the Christmas season (which is my favorite time to be at WDW).
A Boyhood Dream: Wrestling Ring
Anyone that’s known me since I was 16-years-old can appreciate the final accomplishment in 2023. I’ve been pretty vocal about this during my lifetime and it’s warranted many “crazy-looks” from friends, family, co-workers, and random “joes’s”. Ever since I was a teenage backyard wrestler, I told people I would own a professional wrestling ring. A few days after my 39th birthday, I became the proud owner of a 16 foot by 16 foot professional wrestling ring.
It’s quite funny how this came about and how I possibly wished this into the universe. Maybe a year earlier, I was just ready to bite the bullet. I needed to cross this off of my list. Not because I wanted to be a professional wrestler or wanted to create a new wrestling federation…but because it was a goal that I said (to many people) I was going to accomplish.
This wasn’t some type of goal that was super far fetched. It’s not like I said “I want to be a WWE superstar”, “participate in the olympics”, or “become a millionaire”. All I needed to do was buy something. Something that I had enough balance on a credit card to go out and purchase at any time.
But I just could never pull the trigger. It just wasn’t a sound financial decision. It didn’t make sense to load up a credit card with debt and have a wrestling ring sitting in my basement. For that reason, I put this off time and time again.
But I was turning 40 soon. Even though I wasn’t going to be a wrestler, I still wanted to jump around and take a few flat back bumps (falls). I had to make a decision. If I was going to do it, I needed to decide. So, I looked up prices. I actually purchased a “how to build a wrestling ring” book. I even talked to some friends to see if they could help weld posts. I was debating on if I should just buy the $10k ring they had listed on the internet and have it delivered for my birthday. It’s very possible that I was going to do that before the end of the year.
But instead, I saw a post on Facebook.
Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with a few local wrestlers. One being a local promoter in the Wheeling area. Through a mutual friend, I saw a Facebook post that indicating he was selling a full-sized wrestling ring. I was several days late on this, but I quickly sent our mutual friend a message. Long-story-short, he still had it and was willing to sell to me. Like a crazy person, I walked down to the living room and told my wife “I just bought a wrestling ring”.
The next day, we showed up to his gym and loaded up a rental van and delivered to my house. What made this experience even better was that my daughter had become a big wrestling fan. She owns over 25 AEW (All Elite Wrestling) t-shirts and we frequently watch wrestling on Wednesday nights. My youngest started collecting and playing with the AEW action figures. My oldest, he enjoys going to the events with us. The entire family (minus Lauren) was going to enjoy this new “toy”.
Hunter (17-year-old) and I rushed to get the ring setup in my basement garage. My daughter was away on a school field trip and would be returning later that night. As planned, I told her to retrieve something from the garage (having Lauren staged in the area with a camera rolling). Her shocked face was worth the struggle to get this ring put together in such a short period of time.
I made the announcement of my ring a few weeks later and had a showering of support, congratulations, and acknowledgements from friends and family that’s heard pipe dream for years. I finally did it. I am the owner of a professional wrestling ring.
Again, I didn’t write down a ton of goals I want to accomplish. I have new habits I want to start and processes that I want to follow, but there is not a definitive list of “must accomplish” goals.
I have some big announcements to make. We also have some pending projects that I’m real excited about. I’m really excited about the year and know that my year-end-recap will also be an enjoyable reflection.
One thing is for sure, when I’m writing my 2024 recap and I compare 2023 to 2024 – if I said 2024 was better, I’m in for one hell of a good year.
Thanks for reading everyone and here’s hope you get your wrestling ring this year.