I haven’t gone far in life.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 18, 2011
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Geographic Discursiveness.

I grew up in __________. 37 years later, I still/once again live in ____________. Sure, I moved to _________, then ____________—but I came back to my hometown 12 years ago, and wound up appreciating it anew, and staying.

That’s a rarity, these days. For much of human history, it was unusual to travel even 50 miles, ever, outside of one’s hometown.

But in an age of interstate highways and affordable air travel—where you can take for granted the act of sitting in a chair while flying in the sky!, as Louis CK put it—my generation chooses where to live much the same way we shop. I like that style, or that color, we say, perusing a J.Crew Catalog (something most of us haven’t done, in paper form, since the 90s). Nowadays, my friends and I say I’m gonna bike across Africa, then live in Portland. Portland’s too rainy, I’m gonna move to Berkeley. Berkeley’s too white, I’m going to Willy. Willy’s over, I’m moving to…say, Boulder.

And Boulder’s where I live. The other day, walking with a friend on our “Mapleton Hill”—a street, the cheap side of which I grew up on, we passed my old elementary school. “Our class photo was taken on those steps, right there,” I pointed out to my friend. “It’s funny to think that 31 years ago I was running around these grounds with a dorky haircut and striped velour shirts and bellbottom handmedown corduroys.”

And then, this week, an ol’classmate I’ve been out of touch with for…well, 31 years…messaged me on facebook about that very same class photo. Put it on FB!, I urged her, would be amazing to see it!

She scanned it, and tagged a bunch of our old (young) friends:

“I love that I still have this photo! The carefree days of first grade at Mapleton, when fashion and nice hair really weren’t a concern. Those are my “buckle shoes” and they were pretty much awesome.” ~ Tara G.


I rest my head on a pillow on the college hill. 37 years ago, I was born at the Boulder Community Hospital, not two miles away, on the third floor. I still know the doctor lady whose hands delivered me.

I have memories that go back 30 years, in this town.

Eating at Fred’s. Getting a baseball hit into my leg at Whittier. Learning to swim at Spruce Pool. Walking my dog at NCAR. Shopping at Pearl Street Market, and Alfalfa’s. Playing video games on the downtown outdoor mall. French kissing for the first time, on a bus in North Boulder (gross). Getting stuffed in a locker by two girls at Casey. Playing Ferdinand (etc) up at the Flagstaff Mountain red rock amphitheater, built by FDR’s boys, 80 years ago. Getting a Tintin book from a Buddhist teacher at the original Boulder Bookstore. Etcetera.

Perhaps, to those of you 40 and up, having deep rooted old memories of the town you still live in is NBD.

But to kids these days, it’s a revelation. One of my best friends, Merete, who used to be elephant magazine’s editor for 3 years or something, has been itching to move away from Boulder ever since she graduated. She’s moving to Brooklyn in a few months. Another one of our best friends moved to Tucson a few months back (she had a good excuse: love). My best buddy in the world moved to Canada years ago. We’re nearly out of touch. Another best buddy moved to Israel a few months ago. Another best buddy is a momma in Minneapolis. And so it is. Modern friendships are like firecrackers, that ignite and soar and fall, silent and dark.

These days, we can reinvent ourselves every few years—convenient, if we happen to be insane and malevolent and destructive—but for those of us (mentally) on planet earth, it’s a sad thing, too.

Who in your immediate everyday experience has known you for one, two, three, four or five decades? Who when they look at you sees that silly, happy, bowl-cut headed boy or buckle-shoed girl they first met, so many moons ago? In my case, being a “native,” many people. Family friends, peers and friends and colleagues of my mom, and a few of my friends…I see many of them, casually, every week around town. And every time I do, for a moment, I see who they were when I first got to know them, and they likely see little me.

But such societal roots are withering, more and more. In their place is a wanderlust—the joy and privilege of being able to travel and open one’s mind and heart to new places and ways of life. For many of us, these days, if we settle in Amsterdam or Seattle or Austin or Hawaii, it’s because we’ve found our tribe. But it’s sad to have to make that choice, between roots and adventure.

In my case, loving my hometown, I’m fortunate to have both—even if I hadn’t been born here, I would have been happy to move here.

Still, every time I bike past that hospital, I look at that third floor with a little nostalgic smirk. Like most of those children in that 1st Grade photo, I was born here in little old Boulder.

Unlike most of those cute children, who’ve moved to every corner of our great nation, I’ve come home, again.


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.


17 Responses to “I haven’t gone far in life.”

  1. agurvey says:

    I love it, Waylon!

  2. Beautiful, bittersweet and true.

  3. melissa says:

    In my experience over the past 2 years, I have cultivated some of the most amazing friendships of my lifetime.

    Yes, I still have friends from way back:
    1. still a pen pall with a girl who moved away to Colorado when we were in the fourth grade. real pen pals. the snail mail kind. we're not even Facebook friends. just the real deal.
    2. still keep up with only a hand full of high school friends… and recently reconnected with my first high school boy friend… as a friend- men and women, perhaps, can be friends after all.
    3. my pot luck roommate in college- 20 years later, is still my best friend. I would do anything for her. she's the real deal.

    Someone recently said that i collect friends. maybe that's true. If someone sticks in my heart, I can't let go of them that easily.

    2 years ago, I was in the darkest place I can remember. and no one. not one friend (old or new) remembered, called, came forward that day….that day changed my life forever. I realized I no longer wanted to be alone. I began to shout from the roof tops when I needed help. When it was my birthday. Or when I just needed to talk or sing about my day.

    And, I think, I became a better friend to my friends. that old saying, you have to be a friend to keep/make a friend. it's truth. effort / work / communication is required for all relationships so that…modern friendships do not end like firecrackers. so they don't "fall, silent and dark."

    Here's to hoping we all can find those kinds of friendships.. they are rare, valuable and worth every effort.



  4. Janette says:

    This post was absolutely poignant and hit a nerve with me. I was the one who never left! I was born and raised in the small town of Whitby, Ontario and have had a number of life-long friends who have moved far away.

    For 27 years, I lived in the same house (that my uncle built) with my parents, got married and moved down the street to live in the house that my husband already owned and lived in. I tease my girlfriend Tracy regularly by telling her (and everyone who will listen) that she is the reason I have to buy address books! She retorts by telling me to use "pencil" only because she is constantly on the move.

    If you can find not only contentment but in this case, an overwhelming sense of belonging, respect and wonder (we've got a lifetime of perspectives on this place, right) – then that's a beautiful thing.

  5. pamela says:

    this is a topic that comes up in my life often. I realized at the age of 9 when my parents divorced, my dad moved to MI for a job and my mom started her new life while staying in Dallas, that any hope of having a "home base" was gone. I believe it gave me a freedom that some of my friends who are tied to their hometowns don't have. I live where I want to live not where the highest concentration of people I know or am related to are. But there is certainly a bittersweetness to it all. I would love to have my kids growing up down the road from their grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins…but life had a different route for us. I love where we live, we have made wonderful, lifelong friends; but of course, especially around the holidays, it can be difficult to be far from "home."

  6. Andréa Balt says:

    I feel like I’m at the opposite end but don’t want to be anymore. I haven’t gone close in life, and I’m tired. Having a home and being rooted somewhere sounds comforting to say the least – but I still think some travelling would do you good. 🙂

  7. iloveginger says:

    love!!! well, true..but you are talking about Boulder- ive lived all over the US and Boulder is my top 3..its not really that better anywhere else in the states!! (ha except santa barbara/ventura) i think that is so rad that you still are there, born raised and loving your community. what an amazing spot too. i perhaps will get a midwife job at that hospital when im done school 🙂

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Come settle down in Boulder, serve as elephant's editor, and I'll hit the road. Deal?

  9. Andréa Balt says:

    Ok! Deal. (but only if I can have Dog)

  10. catnipkiss says:

    Awesome comments, Melissa. I wonder why it takes so long to realize how to pull people around us for comfort and try to keep the important ones close? I love Facebook because it helps us reconnect, and even if it's just "liking" someone's status, it keeps that little spark of connection going. But, yes, you have to work at friendships just like you work at romantic relationships, and people don't often realize that. – Alexa M.

  11. catnipkiss says:

    at 48, I find myself in a similar situation – moving back to the place I grew up (although I SWORE I never would!) – not Boulder, but Longmont, very close….. does that count? I love Boulder – my memories include Rocky Horror at the Regency, working at the Underworld on the mall, hanging out at Trade-a -Tape on the Hill, seeing the Stranglers at the Blue Note when i was 17 (and more I won't talk about here – I was a "mature" 17, or so thought the bass player 🙂 I love Boulder, but I could not afford to buy a house there. And now, it's the same place but it is SO not the same place! Don't you find that? And lots of my "old" friends have scattered to the winds, I'm sure, but I feel sorrier in a way for those who never have. I used to say that Colorado was a nice place to be from! Now I am seeing it in a new light, but rather than reconnecting with the old friends, I'm ready to make new ones there. I'll have a Hell of a housewarming party when I get done with my next trip and move in; Waylon, you are definitely invited!! – Alexa

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  13. Meredith says:

    Good stuff. I have lived all over and traveled all during college- China, Spain, Costa Rica, Africa. I live in Boston, then Western Mass., and moved to San Francisco. While in SF I had a strong urge to move back to the mountains where I grew up, and went to live in Montana where family is. Part of it was wanting nature, part was because my mom had passed away and I felt a need to connect with my family in a new way. There was something wonderful about going back to what I grew up with in a new context and with new meaning.
    Now in Boulder, I don't know how long I will stay. It's still close to family and friends in Montana, and I notice after 6 months I am beginning to sprout friendships here that remind me of home.

  14. Hillary says:

    Good to have known you more than a decade in our native place. Keep up your great work. 🙂

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Don't worry, I only took a few out, I still treasure alllll those books. There's all in my living room, 15 feet from me, right now.

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