I am not (contrary to popular opinion) a trustafarian.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 26, 2009
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Eco-minded Boulder Boys and Girls? Just Patchouli-wearing Dilettante Trustafarians pretending to be Poor and Interesting.

Saw this at Illegal Pete’s the other night, after our party at Laughing Goat.

“Seriously, you can really make a lot of money off these patchouli-covered trust-fund burnouts.”


I know it’s supposed to be funny; I ain’t daft.

But I didn’t find it funny. It’s a rather toxic stereotype of Boulderites—indeed, of all eco-minded boys and girls. Care about fair-trade coffee, wear Birkenstocks (or, these days, TOMS), forgo chemical laboratory-manufactured cologne or perfume and opt instead for Bay Rum (or patchouli, back in the day)…and folks think you must be hiding out from Mom and Dad back East, pretending to be poor and interesting.

I asked myself, “How many trustafarians do I know?” None, is the answer. I think I’ve known one in my life who answered to the above description, and that was 10 years ago, in the Buddhist community, and he was indeed pretending to be poor and interesting.

All the other rich folk I know aren’t shy about it—they wear their perfect Patagucci, go skiing all the time, fly hither and thither, take on noble, ill-paid jobs as artists or teachers in public schools (imagine)…but one thing they don’t do is pretend to be poor, or interesting. They’re just who they are, and they’re fine with that.

Last night I was at Mountain Sun: total bill for two: $22…and as my pal and I left a friend came up and asked me about how ele was doing, I assured her it was doing great traffic-wise, but not paying me yet, so I was giving it another few months before getting a real job (she didn’t believe me). We talked for a long time, at one point she mentioned that most folks had no idea I was having a hard time, they just assumed, me being a white (more like a mutt: I’m a Norman Norwegian Eastern European English Scottish German French half-Jewish American Buddhist) male (guilty) who lives in Boulder and runs a, from the outside, impressive-lo0king business (their words, not mine, I work on the inside of elephant and know how barebones-shoestring-overwhelmed-and-vulnerable we are)…she said that folks just assume I’m a trustafarian. And that, if I want folks to support elephant (by reading, subscribing free, following on facebook or twitter, or becoming members or advertising) I’d better be clear that we need help, and have but a month to live before I pull the plug.

I don’t think anyone really thinks I’m a trustafarian; I don’t think people care or have really thought about me all that much. But I promised her I would write something up. So get this: I’m not a patchouli-covered trust fund burnout. I’ve worked one or two jobs all my life since I was sixteen. I got through a pricey college on nearly full scholarships. Before that, I got through a pricey high school on full scholarships. I didn’t own a car until I was 25, and that thing was a piece of shizzle. My second car, I owned for 8 years before I gave it away. Now I ride a bike, and love it. I work night and day, and love what I do, even if I’m bored of explaining ad discounts to people after 7.5 years, it’s a really fulfilling job.

I want to change the world for the better, and learn to be a kinder, more genuine person along the way. I want to be able to pay my mortgage, and have children in a few years (and, yeah, a wife who’ll have me). My mom is dirt poor but happy—she’s living proof that money and happiness aren’t inextricably intertwined. That’s about it.


waylon lewis linda mom

Am I privileged? Hell yes. I look like a cardboard cutout of conventional straight white Middle American male. In Boulder, that’s a strike against you—we much prefer diversity here, having so little of it—but generally I know that it gives me a leg up, and that’s sad. Mainly, however, I’m privileged in having had a loving mom and an intellectually rich childhood, if not a material one.

And yes, life in Boulder for just about anyone is rich—we’ve got clean, safe streets, lots of green everywhere, parks, mountains, and you can bike every day if you don’t mind freezing once in awhile.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


18 Responses to “I am not (contrary to popular opinion) a trustafarian.”

  1. arinewman says:

    Waylon, great post. I'm glad I did not miss this expression of your reality. Your transparency continues to inspire me.

  2. Waylon – my unaddressed offer to assist – documented elsewhere on ele http://ow.ly/qyQk & http://ow.ly/qyQA – suggests that you really need to get out of your own way and commit to letting fresh, informed and aligned influence in.

    i care about ele – i don't just knock out blog posts and pro bono offers to anyone – and it concerns me that with all of the support being thrown your way, you continue to adhere – bloody-mindedly – to the stereotypical entrepreneurial model of doing it all yourself.

    you're not alone. you're not without support, and the world would be a dimmer and less interesting place without ele

    the website is awesome, the posts are stimulating (although perhaps a little too boulder-centric, especially of late), and the traffic is continuing to spike. if the business is not making money it's because what you think is best is not what's best.

    do you really think people would notice if you took two days off to work on your business and only made 5 posts each day instead of ten? Do you really need to go to a yoga conference and blog about it? really? what happens if it's the last trip, the last conference you cover?

    this dialog frustrates me – because if you'd gone through a process similar to what we discussed a month ago there is no question that your entire landscape would have changed for the better.

    clearly you need to do something different – because what you're doing isn't working.

    hopefully this is received in the manner it's intended – it's loving but fierce; we need to make sure that projects like ele don't just survive, but thrive

  3. Elaine says:

    Just wanted to give props to your mom and to you. I hope my sons have the same flair, intelligence, drive, ability to think out of the box and bravery to wear short shorts and colorful socks as you do. People like you inspire me to let my children grow into beautiful beings…

  4. Sierra says:

    I love Elephant Journal and would be heartbroken if you stopped. I agree with Cameron that the site has been too focused on Boulder lately. There is tons of great stuff but its harder for those of us not in Boulder to relate to.

    I gently and lovingly offer that if you want to draw in a wider audience, go with the themes up on the masthead: yoga.organics.active citizenship.sustainability,adventure, conscious consumerism, non new-agey spirituality, the arts, and wellness – from all over the world.

    Blessings and Oms,


  5. Love it. Agree with you for most part. That said, my 10 blogs instead of 5 help traffic, which has increased from 60 to 80+ thousand this month. That said, that's not enough—you're right, we need to grow smarter, not just fast.

    The talk show series will be good, if I can pay for it. We've added four ads in the last month—that said, once again, I'm losing money every month and, if you worked alongside me and my small staff, you'd see how overwhelmed and behind I am.

    I'm genuinely appreciative of your offer to cover the process and donate your excellent services–I'm just overwhelmed. If I were a trustafarian, I'd have more than the three dinners I "offered" to treat you to, meet in the evenings instead of during work.

    The Yoga Journal conference has been one of our few major sponsors. There's lots of content, and it's not Boulder-centric–folks are from all over the world and I'm not paying a dime, volunteering in return for lodging. It's what I can do.

    Look forward to powwowing–I know I need to get my head out of the work and into the vision a bit more.

  6. If you'd like to write from wherever you are, you'll help our small group of contributors from around the world and the US add diverse content! For now, I'm stuck in Boulder, as covered above don't have dough to go anywhere.

  7. Best of luck, Way. Honestly I thought you were a trustafarian! lol Thanks for clearing up my prejudices. 🙂

    Keep on rockin' Ele. If you can make it a little longer, I bet you'll be thriving once the economy turns a bit more upward.

  8. gwenbell says:

    The three of us can make this happen when you're back from YJConf. Have a wicked good time. And in the meantime, get the donation button up so we can support you. Also, licking v dressing wounds. Just something to think about. Big love to you & Redford.


  9. sandja says:

    Way, thanks for being you – your straightforward wit, wearing your heart on your sleeve, living and breathing what you believe in! Please, do not ever loose that! At the same token, I think you should take Cam up on his offer – take a step back for a second, look at teh bigger picture. You have a tremendous opportunity right in front of your nose, but I think that you are missing as you are emerged in it. A few steps back/a few breaths. Trust it. Let the 'yoga' do you …

  10. Chris in Texas says:

    Hey Waylon, I can totally relate to the whole "people assuming you are a trustafarian" thing. Anyone who assumes that has obviously not read your work…there is too much depth in there to come from someone who lives an unexamined life of entitlement.

    I just started contributing articles recently – thanks for the chance to help the cause!

    Chris C.

    PS: One of these days I need to figure out how to get a proper account.

  11. if you blog weekly or monthly for ele, steadily, and promise not to flake off, just email [email protected], and she'll set you up and we'll train you. Pretty simple, but some details.

  12. Mariana says:

    Waylon, I was in Boulder about a year ago, and I got the last paper issue of ele. I love it, and since then , I've been following your work in the net, here in Argentina. I send ele articles to all my friends who are english-readers, and translated the interview you made to Paul Ray for others who are not. I really support your way of seeing the world, and wish strongly you can go forward in your way, because it is really stimulating for many of us. A big hug to all eles!!!!

  13. Am I embodying undeservability? That's interesting, if so!

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  16. Zelma Caskey says:

    Great tips from Joost. I like the point he made about becoming an expert in a specific area. This has worked for me. I’m currently unemployed, but picking up a fair amount of contract work. Thanks for posting the interview. Joost is one of the best when it comes to SEO/Wordpress.

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