Half-Assing Many Places vs. Whole-Assing One Place

James Walpole/ July 24, 2020

“Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

John moved a lot as a kid. He leaves home at 18 to go to college in another state, then moves to New York City for his first job. After a few years, he gets a job in Chicago and moves there. Then he moves to the suburbs with his kids, at least until his promotion lets him buy a bigger house. When he retires, he will move to The Villages in Florida.

Jim was born on a four-generation farm in West Virginia. He’s done a little bit of traveling but has otherwise stayed put. His grandparents are buried on the land, and he figures he will be, too.

Which life is better?

John is, in the words of Ron Swanson, “half-assing” many places. He is living the now-typical American life. His lifestyle allows him to accumulate many social ties over the course of his life, as well as experiences in different places. But he loses touch with friends each time he moves, sees his parents a couple of times a year (at holidays), and doesn’t know or care about the land on which his suburb is built. His kids won’t, either.

Jim is “whole-assing” his place. He knows fewer people and places, to be sure, and he is almost certainly less cultured and less aware of the outside world. But unlike Jim, he probably still sees his parents, siblings, cousins, and childhood friends on a regular basis. He probably has strong relationships with his neighbors, his fellow church members, and other farmers. He has stories with his place. And he probably knows his history (and the history of others with that place) very very well.

I wouldn’t yet say it is a categorical good to stay put in one place – that certainly isn’t true, and won’t be my own path. But I do think everybody needs to have *a* place that they put their backs into.

The more you whole-ass one place, the more you get to see the things which only accrue to natives: a tie to history, an easy familiarity with directions, a neighborly trust with the inhabitants. Get yourself some of those.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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