Original Link : https://medium.com/the-ascent/being-present-3e574a8d46ce

How I learned to let go of stress by being present to the world.

Last year I spent fall break in a small Minnesota town that dusts the Canadian border. Nestled between pine trees and cornfields, Warroad, Minnesota makes the stereotypical saying “Minnesota nice” so true. With friendly inhabitants, a quirky thrift store or two, and a small taco shop, Warroad is a gem in Minnesota’s rural north. And it was a haven during my last semester of college.

I spent my time in Warroad with my best friend’s family. They live in a beautiful house surrounded by fields and a vast expanse of skyline. Every evening, brilliant orange ignites Warroad’s horizon, and while we were there, a light snowfall powdered the sparse oaks of mid-October.

Living in a bustling metropolitan city, I rarely experience the gentle lifestyle of Warroad. My world is filled with the noise of city living, and last year it was filled with plenty of college stress. From homework to events to job and apartment hunting, nothing stops. And it’s stressful.

Where the stress comes from…

Part of my stress last year came from the carpal tunnel I developed in both hands over the summer. I used my hands too much by juggling writing and a 40-hour office job, and it cost me. An arthritic throb in my hand muscles, the pain was ever-present when I wrote too much on a keyboard, and the creak of too-weak fingers slowed my pace when writing or editing my novels. It’s terrifying when you can’t do the thing you love most without experiencing excruciating pain.

The other part of my stress came from graduation. I graduated from college last December, and the fear of post-grad life that October was debilitating. Questions burned unanswered — Where will I live? Where will I work? — with only possibilities on the horizon. I tried to believe everything would be okay, but it was the unknown that trapped me. The great “what-ifs” of college that many a senior faces.

But my time in Warroad taught me to let go of that stress.

Away from the packed classrooms, the late-night homework sprints, and the full days of class and work, I rested. I made pizza with a wonderful family and friends, carved pumpkins for Halloween, and watched movies like Nacho Libre and Penelope. All in my own time, without the stress of a schedule to bind me. For me, time was enjoyed rather than spent.

It is moments like these that remind me I need to be present and enjoy my time with others. The lifestyle I live in the city is that of a marathon runner, always trying to reach some goal, some achievement, some deadline. Always squeezing my days into a schedule, dividing it up into hour-by-hour bullet points. And for my writing projects, I set goal after goal after goal. I get so caught up with my goals that I spend all my time worrying about completing them. And if I don’t meet my self-established quotas, I ride the guilt trip train and stress out about all the things I haven’t done. I never rest. I’m never present. I’m always living in my own world of deadlines.

Last fall break, I let go of my stress. I didn’t write. I didn’t think about the things I needed to finish. I merely observed the world and everything around me. I rested in the glory of a pine-scented backyard and a sunset of embers.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes it’s when I’m not writing — when I’m present to the world around me — that I feel most like a writer. To experience the glory of this world and watch others experience it as well is often my greatest inspiration. Warroad taught me that. Being present in the world and truly noticing things as they are made me a better writer, a better friend, and a better person.

With summer almost upon us, I hope you can take the time out of your day to be present. Go outside and breathe a little. Take a walk. Bask in the sunlight from your window. Notice things. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to be present in an incredible, living world and remember that stress and time don’t define how we should live.