You Can’t Frolic in the Same River Twice

Stephen - Lake Bluff, Illinois
Entered on September 28, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: carpe diem

I believe that happiness is about living in five second experiences, and that nothing stays the same. I’m a senior in high school, and like a stereotypical senior, most of my time is not spent enthusiastically celebrating all that life has given me or counting my blessings. This is a stressful time for all my classmates, and I’ve found the only way to stay sane is to savor the moments that everything fits, everything’s right, and forget that in a second or two the sensation will be over and that I’ll never feel anything exactly the same way again.

Two years ago in English we learned about the transcendentalists. As a project we tried our own transcendentalist ideas. I chose to walk for two hours each day. Unfortunately, Lake Bluff does not have many places to walk. My only choices were whether to go up the bike path to the lake or down the bike path to the tiny prairie behind the water treatment plant. Naturally, a couple days into this I was rather bored of the scenery. I thought to myself, oh great, another walk looking at the same stuff. I looked up at a locust tree and had an epiphany that the tree would never be the same again. The wind gently rustling its leaves, the sun at that angle, the color of the foliage, it was all unique to that moment, and even as I gazed at it, that moment had passed as it continued changing.

Resuming the walk, I realized that nothing stays the same, and that the tree would also be different when I looked at it next because I would have new eyes. Even my memories were changing, as I considered them with a new mindset. It took few steps to understand that while I was still friends with the same people; our friendships were always changing, always evolving, despite our efforts to hold them steady. In fact, our attempts to stay stagnant by reminiscing of good times only reinforce that we have gone on.

It is hard for me to maintain balance in everyday life with all the unstoppable change. Rather than try to paddle up the river, I learned to treasure what’s best in life and let the rest flow past me. For years I thought I was a depressed person, because I am not happy most of the time. It has since dawned on me that those snapshots of joy outweigh the worry and despair.

Yesterday at lunch I was playing catch with my friend, I was embarrassed because I had a tear in my pants, scared of my music theory test that afternoon, and kicking myself for not doing the physics homework. But when he threw a perfect pass and I ran for four or five seconds, reached out my hands, and saw the Frisbee in them, I felt good. It was the simplest thing in the world, and perfect. And because of those few seconds, I count that period, that day, as a happy one. I look forward to what lies ahead, because I believe there will be more seconds like those.