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Bathed in Light

30 May, 2008 (00:49) | Travelogue

You have to know the past to understand the present.
-Dr. Carl Sagan

I cried tonight. I’m sure no one noticed the few tears that raced down my cheeks to find safe harbor among the bristles on my chin. I couldn’t quite focus on my reflection in the bus window. Instead, I watched the sun softly caress the Flatirons, leaving an indelible image of beauty as my final picture of Boulder.

With that serene landscape slowly fading beneath the sunset and Beirut playing their gentle, melancholy lullabies through my headphones, I found those rare salty streaks pooling upon my chin.

I stand on the precipice of the next phase of my life. And though the next six months will be a whirlwind tour of the world, a grand adventure, and perhaps the most interesting voyage I’ve ever embarked on, it’s the last six months I can’t help but dwell on.

When I first came to Boulder, I was unimpressed. It was small (comparative to Boston and San Francisco), lonely (I went through friends like they were cigarettes and I was a 3 pack a day man), and drab (very little besides bar hopping as far as nightlife). I contemplated transferring to UMass after my freshman year, but I felt as though that would be too easy.

Being a Bostonian, I had plenty of friends and classmates at UMass. 86 students from my graduating class of 400 plus attended. If I transfered, it would just be coming home; it would be an admission of failure and that’s something I simply could not have.

That first summer I crawled back to Boston for a job at a summer camp. It didn’t matter that I had spent nine months in Boulder, Boston was still home. When I went back to school in the fall, it wasn’t leaving Boston; it was merely going to boarding school.

But something changed over the course of the next few years. Slowly, though Boston was still my home town, Boulder became my home. Most of my friends were here. My job and my possessions were situated in Boulder. And ultimately, nearly everything that mattered to me besides my family was located right here. I had become a Boulderite as well as a Bostonian.

Listening to native Boulderites talk about the city would leave you thinking it’s the last place on Earth anyone would want to be. They dream of the day when they can leave for parts unknown and find a home that isn’t the small town of Boulder. Having lived here all their lives and having the beauty and wonder of Boulder a constant from birth perhaps leaves them jaded.

I can’t really blame them. In my nearly eight years living in Boulder, I’ve attempted to escape the monotony of Boulder. I’ve run off to Louisiana with izzzyy for a three day jaunt in Hammond just to change things up. I’ve tried to lose myself in the glorified cow town of Denver just to feel like I’m in the city again. I’ve even spent a few nights couch surfing just across town simply because I needed a change of pace.

No matter how great a place is, everyone needs something different.

As October rolled around last year and I realized I had been at Barnes and Noble for a year without any serious change in my life, I began to question where my life was going. Sure, I had some good friends and a wonderful house with great roommates. But I was barely scraping by financially, completely ignoring my student load debt, and wallowing in a strange repetitive routine that left me feeling listless and bored with life.

I needed a change. And not a temporary stay across town (as helpful as that was). I resolved that no matter what, I would leave Boulder and find a new place to be, both physically and mentally, when my lease was up in June.

My plans were never solid. It’s rare that they are. As my father always said, “I’m a go-along, get-along guy.”

And then my grandmother died.

Her death wasn’t really a major event for me. It didn’t crush me or spur me to do something different. The inheritance I’m using to fund my travels isn’t even from her (her money went to my grandfather, as it should’ve). But in that mourning period when my mom came to visit, it was her words that blew my mind and sent me packing, literally.

Perhaps my life is simply a series of great events that fall prey to bad timing. My longest relationship lasted nearly two months, but ended when I returned to college after a wonderful summer. Whenever I meet that girl who’s perfect for me in just the right ways, it ends up a catastrophe of timing. “You’re the kind of guy I’d settle down with, but I’m not ready to settle down yet,” I was told once. I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if it ran on clockwork instead of a constantly changing heart rate that’s prone to violent palpitations at all the worst moments.

And here I was, preparing to launch myself around the globe in the most literal fashion when I began to find some of the most wonderful, interesting, and worthwhile people I’ve ever met.

It could be that I never truly appreciated what Boulder had to offer, or maybe I simply had never quite found the right groove to live in. Whatever the reasons, as soon as I had chosen to flee the confines of my self-proclaimed malaise, I found my ever shrinking cell had become a lush VIP room full of the greatest people I could ever hope to know.

Everything suddenly seemed to go right: my job schedule allowed for a social life; I found traveling companions for the vast majority of my trip; I found myself enamored with a beautiful woman; I found intellectual stimulation from friends, trivia, and games. It was perfect. Even when it went wrong, it only granted me better opportunities and brought me closer to people I care deeply for and appreciate all the more for it.

I probably haven’t been as thankful or talkative about how blessed I’ve felt over the last six months, but there’s no denying that I will miss Boulder and the people I’ve come to know and love here more than I can put into words.

As the Carl Sagan quote at the beginning of this piece says, “you have to know the past to understand the present.”

Presently, I await my flight to the Philippine Islands. It’s the technical first leg of my journey onwards. To me, however, the journey began with that bus ride down. And as I sat on the bus, realizing—perhaps for the first time—the reality of my journey and the finality of my exit from Boulder, it was all this that rushed through my mind, culminating in those viscous emissions flowing down my face.

When those few choice tears fell during that lonely ride down, I smiled. No matter what joys and experiences I have on this grand adventure, every one of them will be bathed in the light of my friends in Boulder.