I read Walden for the first time in college, for a course that turned out to be my favorite class I’ve ever taken: United States Intellectual History. We studied American history through the writing of the country’s brightest and most important authors. We read the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We read James Madison. We read Walden, Tobacco Road, The Bell Jar. It was an excellent course, with a fantastic professor. My copy of Walden is covered in notes – I’ve underlined, starred, circled, annotated. I was surprised by how much I loved it.
What I like about this quote, and Thoreau’s philosophy in general, is that a simple life can still be a successful life. If we can find our joy – in family, in nature, in friendship, in travel, in reading, in doing small kindnesses, in whatever brings us happiness in our days and our nights – that is success. We don’t have to become famous or rich or powerful. We don’t have to achieve the same “milestones” that may or may not bring others happiness. We can lead our own life, find our own joy, and that is success.