The Pressure

I get weird feelings when I go back to places that I used to live. School. Where I grew up. Restaurants I spend lots of time at. Streets I walked down before. It’s always a “oh what a better time” kind of feeling. I was running the dorms after dark, through grassy knolls lit up and empty. I felt really at peace. For a second, I wished I could be back there. Where it was easy and I wasn’t always worried.

Which is totally bullshit. I caught myself. Being there was horrible. There was all kinds of pressure. I was always stressed about this or that, waiting, bored, fighting about something. I had all these deadlines and all this anxiety if I didn’t make them.

What I came away with wasn’t that we tend to idealize the past. I already know that and I don’t think that’s what I was doing. Being back it’s a lot clearer that it didn’t need to be that way. It’s actually a great place – I was the problem. Running through campus at night is one of my favorite things to do. It’s so peaceful. I never once did it when I lived there.

I made all the pressure up. It was a mental creation. An unnecessary torture I inflicted on myself. I am the source and the sufferer of my own anxiety. Idealizing rarely involves adding anything new, it’s mostly about trimming the details – the shit agonized and stewed over. You know, everything you don’t even remember anymore.

I think that driving force is responsible for a lot of the places I’m going. It propels you. But it also eats at you. It’s crushing. Epictetus said “that your son is sick, not that he may die of it.” Doesn’t mean you ignore it and pretend that he’s well. You just opt out of the anguish. Opt out of The Pressure. Or, I guess, you can wait for the past to do it for you.

I’m trying to do that this time around. That’s the nice thing about trying to live in the present – and how brief our piece of it is – you always seem to get another shot.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.