Recently, I read John Krakauer’s , “Into the Wild.” The true story of a young man named Chris McCandless who was found dead in the Alaskan wilderness. I had seen the film based on the book years ago, and I have to say it has never left me. The story of a young man figuring out this world. What it means to be alive and how to go about that in this often sterile world.
This story touched me so deeply because I identified with the struggle. I too ran away from everything and everyone I knew. When I was nineteen, blundering my way through my first semester of community college I decided to move to Phoenix, Az. I had no connections there, no plans. I just wanted to get out of Miami. All I knew was that I felt suffocated and something had to change.
The differences between Chris and I are rather evident. All I wanted was to leave and figure out my life. While Chris seemingly desired to cut all ties to his past. Afterall he did not tell his parents of his plans, burned the cash he had with him, leaving his car behind when he could no longer drive it.My family knew where I was, I was reachable. I had no notion to simply wander as Chris did. We were both wandering though, I was still sleepwalking in my life. Wandering in my own way.
Where we were similar was the search. The desire for an authentic life. The need to get away from it all. I hid from the world by immersing myself with television, Chris immersed himself in nature.
For me, it was a search for God. As if I were challenging Him to follow me out there or to meet me out there in the desert. But what I had not known was that God was with me all along. In the end, it was I who would journey back to the place I had left in the first place.
The thing about running away, is that no matter where I had gone, I could never run from myself. I had to meet God in his terms and not my own. My time in Arizona lead me back to Him. First returning to the church of my childhood, the Catholic church. Then attending services from time to time with my roommate at her familes’ place of worship. Planting seeds for this journey of faith. Seeds that would grow to fruition upon my return to Miami.
Chris’ journey ended in the Alaskan wilderness, dying slowly after unknowingly injesting moldy potato seeds which caused his body to reject any form of nutrition *. An unforseen tragedy. We will never know where Chris was in his spiritual journey. If perhaps he was ready to come out of hiding, to stop running.
I too died, though mine is a spiritual death. As I had to in order to become new. Chris McCandless’ story will always have a place in my heart. A reminder of the cost and reward such journeys can pay out.
*From page 192, ebook version of Into The Wild.
Photo Credit: Erica Rodriguez of Mua Loa Photography Inc. @mualoaphotog on Twitter.