I had a weird few months this last quarter of 2021. Life was moving so incredibly fast. Work piled onto me and the things I was learning weren’t being fully absorbed as they once were. I had the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t keep up; I was effectively drowning under the pressure I had placed upon myself.
Was I going to pull myself to the surface? I had to, but I didn’t know how I would.
My girlfriend came to visit me for a week in New Brunswick at the start of November as I started to wrap up my latest military course. Her arrival at the Moncton airport was a warm reminder of what awaited me at the end of my “training tunnel” which was just out of reach at that point. We visited a few key sights around the province and I got the chance to show off my totally amazing cooking skills. I was still working, but it felt like I was on a vacation.
Even though her presence was great, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of having too much to do with too little time. Time, time – the bane of my existence, ran my mind. We had plans to go visit the Hopewell Rocks; my mind graciously reminded me that was a three-hour drive.
That was three hours when I couldn’t study. That meant I’d lose out on three hours my peers were using to improve themselves. At the time, I couldn’t see that those three hours weren’t what was going to make the difference. Similar thoughts ran through my mind for the initial planning of our other excursions over the week.
She picked me up from work one day. I was excited to see her and to prepare for the movie we were going to see that evening, but the thoughts of my workday lingered in the background, snickering at me as I attempted to enjoy the conversation we were having. As we drove out of Oromocto, she looked over at me and started to tell me about her day. She told me about the book she read, the lunch she made, and how much she was enjoying the AirBnB we had chosen.
One part of her recollection of the day stuck out to me and hit me like a truck: “Did you see that rain today? It was so peaceful! I loved hearing it patter against the window, and the view was so nice.”
I hadn’t noticed the rain. In fact, I didn’t really notice anything that day. Normal Nicholas would hear the pitter-patter of the rain and smile. But, this wasn’t the first time that had happened. For the better part of two months, I’d hardly noticed anything outside of my little bubble of daily tasks. I don’t like living like that. No one likes living like that! This was my wake-up my proper self.
I practice and preach Stoicism, and the attitude I had was causing me to waver from my deep-rooted beliefs. Everyone’s allowed a moment of weakness, where we stray from who we are and what we do. We’re all human. What we’re not allowed (in my opinion), however, is allowing ourselves to remain weak when we’ve become aware of it. We have an obligation to ourselves to aim higher, pull our proverbial bowstring a little tighter, and shoot farther every day.
We also owe it to ourselves to enjoy the life we have in front of us, for everything it has to offer us, rather than worrying about what it will bring for us next. Seneca, one of the great Stoics, puts all of what I’ve just tried to articulate quite simply: “The whole future lies in uncertainty, live immediately” (On the Shortness of Life).
I had spent a fifth of my year worried about the future rather than taking the world one step at a time. It was time to fix that. I started to implement this mindset once again immediately. The next day, I made deliberate attempts to be present in my daily actions. I didn’t let myself fall into the monotony I had previously accepted. I listened intently to what my friends had to say, I took a deep breath in the crisp November air as I walked outside, and I took the time to really learn from my instructors. It required more effort, but I noticed the effects immediately. My teeth weren’t clenched, my breathing was slowed, I felt happier.
At the end of our week together, my girlfriend and I went for a beautiful hike. It was about a 300m elevation change from bottom to top, and I took everything in. The smells. The funny signs along the drive to get there. The slight burning sensation I got in my legs as I climbed some of the more steep parts; and the pleas for me to “please slow down” from the peanut gallery beneath me as I trekked on. When we reached the top, I looked out at the seemingly
endless forest beneath me. I took a deep breath and smiled. I did it. I had broken the cycle I had forced myself into.
I guess what I’m trying to portray here, for all who take the time to read this post, is that even if you think you’ve got it all figured out and that you know exactly what you stand for, life will rear its ugly head into your face and try to break you down. Your best defence is to not let it do that, but that’s not always possible. You might not see it coming until it’s too late! But, you owe it to yourself to put in the work necessary to beat it back down and reclaim yourself as the rightful ruler of your own existence. You’ll be grateful that you did.
Take a moment to look back and read some more of Nicholas’ reflections in these posts: “The Prairies Won Me Over“, or “What I Have Learned as a Runner“. You can also listen to Nicholas on the ‘Choose Your Own After podcast’ here.
“The first thing you should know about me is that I am extremely high energy. You will definitely see that in my writing. I’m from Durham, currently studying Psychology at the Royal Military College. I’d like to use my energy for good through this medium, spreading positive messages and taking the often overlooked approach to things we see in our day to day lives. With that said, most of my writing will also include an element of stoicism, as I use that in addition to my positive mindset daily to deal with the world around me. I welcome feedback as I begin sharing my thoughts.”