By Julia Andresakis ’18
As I watched my school workload pile up steadily over the past few weeks and felt my stress levels increasing, I decided I needed to take a step back and allow myself some time to breathe. For the past week, I cleared my mind by picking up a book that I had lying around in my room for quite some time. I never had the time or motivation to read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The novel depicts Thoreau ‘s adventure as he spent two years living amongst nature, supported by no one but himself. As I spent my train rides to and from school, free class periods, and free time at home reading Walden, I gained a profound sense of living an entirely different lifestyle than my own. The novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century, and so differences in societal norms and commonly accepted behaviors are expected of such an aged work of literature. However, despite the time period difference, I was pleasantly surprised that I could find some commonality. I was also able to understand the value and meaning of Thoreau’s piece. For example, he describes a simple life he lived; one in which he built his cabin with his own two hands, and took the time to appreciate the environment in Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. In this literature, his temporary lifestyle is still one that daring Americans are seeking to attain.
As a young person who has spent the entirety of my life in the city and who has grown to rely on technological devices for daily use, the serenity and lessons I learned from Walden are what I someday wish to achieve. The ways in which Thoreau observes animal behaviors and his surroundings throughout the novel stem from a philosophical perspective, and he is able to find his own peace in doing so. The simplicity of Thoreau’s experiment is admirable–to still feel connected to civilization and society while still being completely detached from social interactions for such a long duration of time is quite a feat. There is a part of me that constantly wonders how time away from technology and human contact would change my lifestyle, or make me see the world in a different, more profound way.
Though my school work and responsibilities are not going to disappear anytime soon, the closest I have to living such a simplistic existence this year has been reading Walden. Because of my recent readings, I implore and encourage everyone to read a work of literature that is written from an entirely different perspective. Perhaps, in doing so, one can find meaning within it. It is important that we, students, take time to learn about lifestyles that differ from our own. In doing so, we will grow to better understand ourselves and our aspirations.
Inspirational Quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau