The Art of Detachment (From Sadness and Happiness Alike)

What you, me, and the ancient Stoics have in common.

The Art of Detachment (From Sadness and Happiness Alike)
Photo by Максим Степаненко on Unsplash

What you, me, and the ancient Stoics have in common.

In January, I visited my hometown after a decade.

The first thought that struck me was how much the city had changed. 

All the tiny lanes I’d known as a young girl are now paved streets with dividers and traffic lights. The houses with thatched roofs gave way to concrete buildings. The two and three wheelers on the road are replaced by swanky cars.

In my absence, the town underwent a makeover. 

My favourite restaurants from ten years ago are now dilapidated old buildings where nobody ever goes.

The landmarks I used to navigate around the city are ramshackle houses no one’s ever heard of.

This got me into a spiral of wondering about the transcendence of life. 

The last time I lived here, I was in college. I had huge dreams of being a successful civil engineer and making my parents proud. The boy I was in love with, I was convinced he’d be my life partner. The books and music I obsessed over, I felt like no art could ever come close in comparison to how awesome they are.

But now, things are so different, it makes me laugh.

I quit my dream of being a civil engineer to follow my heart. I’m a full-time writer now, and my engineering degree certificates are gathering dust in the closet.

I broke up with the boy I was in love with because he turned out to be a jerk. He’s currently in his own hometown, a place smaller and more remote than my own, living a life of obscurity.

The artists I so vehemently loved back then have stopped creating art ages ago. I’ve moved on, and so have most of their loyal fans. We read newer books now, listen to more modern music. And while I might still tune in to a song of yore every once in a while, it’s been more than a year since I last actively thought about the artist I so admired a decade ago.

In life, the only constant is change.

What you had ten years ago, you probably no longer do. And what you have today, you most certainly won’t have it again ten years down the line.

Happiness and achievements in human life are fleeting.

The key to survive it all? Detachment.

Enjoy what you have today, but don’t expect it to last forever.

The same is true for sadness. It will certainly pass. No matter how convinced you are that you’ll never move on, time will make the wounds hurt less.

Turns out, the Stoics from ancient Rome had figured this out so many centuries ago.

Which brings me to another thought-

If I figured out what Marcus Aurelius had 1800 years ago, maybe someone else had the same thoughts 4000 years ago.

As humans, we lose so much of our history every few years. Every problem we face today, we could learn the lessons from history if we wanted to.

But we’re so wrapped up in our present, it’s hard to look for lessons in the past.

If you resonated with this thought, let me share an article I wrote a few weeks ago, inspired by “The Riyria Revelations” by Michael J Sullivan. 

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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More ramblings on the nature of life here —

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Who’s Stealing Your Time to Think?
Lessons on utilizing my greatest asset — my mind.