“We do not believe there is any force in to-day to rival or recreate that beautiful yesterday.”
I found this inside one of the last paragraphs of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Compensation the other day.
If you’re looking for a self-help book that’s not actually a self-help book, look into one of the thousands of anthologies of his essays. They’re full of wisdom from a guy who seemed to have a pretty good grasp on the purpose and practice of life.
Compensation is one of his most famous works. And I think it is incredibly relevant to our lives as freshman because of the passage I mentioned above.
Everything is new. Classes, football games, midterms, the food—we’ve never experienced this stuff before. Most of us probably feel that we’ve settled into a routine by now, and that’s great, because it’s comfortable. But some may be in a little pain, dreaming of a past life (high school) that was even more comfortable, with even more familiar faces.
Maybe you’re missing a specific person, or an activity, or a place. Maybe you were a big fish in a small pond and miss the feeling of being on top. Whatever it is, it’s there, it’s palpable, and everyone is feeling it in some capacity.
My friends and I often joke that our former classmates are “stuck in high school” because they visit our alma mater as soon as they return home from college. But each of us knows that we will do the same thing. We were happy there. It’s familiar, and I’m sure many of us would do it again.
But we can’t even afford to miss it too much. People must continue to grow, as Emerson writes, because that is the only thing nature encourages and accepts. Living in the memories of that home and only wishing to go back only sets a person up for disappointment. Instead, everyone must force themselves to move forward, to see the possibilities that lie ahead.
Of course, this is not to say that remembering hours spent in comfort and at home is a waste of time or detrimental for future growth. Memories are precious and should be looked back upon with a smile when possible. But when we fixate on these memories, when we long for them and they become the sole object of our thoughts, our attention is diverted from our present lives and we cannot grow. As with everything, it has to do with finding balance.
I’ve realized, in an intensely cliché way, that I need to move on. Leave the unnecessary people and the life I once lived behind in favor of something completely new on a bigger scale. There is always more happiness to be found and fun to be had as long as you continue to look for it.
If you’re in the same situation as I was, constantly looking back and replaying those “beautiful yesterdays,” I encourage you to put it behind you and keep moving forward. There is happiness of a higher level to be found in front of you.