My future is very unclear to me, but I am not concerned on account of it. I behave in a similar fashion regarding my past; on the whole, I forget it very quickly, and only changes in and strengthening of character show me, now and then, that I have experienced it. With such a way of life, one becomes surprised by one's own educational progress, without apprehending it; and I do not deny that this has advantages, since the constant consideration and weighing of simple manifestations of character is usually disruptive and seems to stunt its growth slightly. Of course, sometimes it seems to me as if such a conscious continual way of living has just an ostensible or temporarily disruptive effect. Think of the foot soldier who initially fears to forget how to walk at all if he is taught the consciousness of lifting his own foot, and in the process keeps track of his mistakes. It only depends on his conforming to a second nature; then he walks just as freely as before. It is very easy to find the moral of this fable and the following pages will show that I have discovered it. I want to reflect upon myself, and in order not to have to begin abruptly with just the "present," I want to mention something about the course of the last two years. Two years! At this age! How do young creatures not absorb everything then, what paws do not leave an impression in the soft clay!
I left Bonn like a fugitive. Around midnight, as my friend Mushacke1 accompanied me to the banks of the Rhine where we awaited the steamer's arrival from Köln, there were no melancholy feelings in me, to have to leave such a beautiful place and such a prosperous land, to depart from a troop of young comrades. Rather, it was precisely the latter who were driving me away. I no longer want to be unjust to these kind people, as I often was in the past. But my nature found no satisfaction [....]