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See first half of Chapter 1 below. I hope you’re hooked!
The Scenic Route
Copyright © 2018 Rossa Forbes
IN SEPTEMBER 2002, on the morning Chris was due to leave home to begin life as an undergraduate at Trinity College, University of Toronto, he still had not packed his bags. Clothes were strewn all over his bedroom; his suitcases were empty. He sat on the edge of his bed, dazed.
“Get packing,” I yelled. “The taxi is arriving in half an hour!”
Chris remained motionless, so I threw all of his clothes and necessities into two suitcases and slammed them shut, wondering how he was going to survive on his own if he couldn’t even pack a suitcase.
Half an hour later, I watched from the window as Chris and his father loaded the luggage into the taxi and headed for the airport to catch their flight. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Something was terribly wrong. My firstborn had gone from being a dedicated, organized, and intellectually ambitious student to a confused young man who needed constant prodding to complete his work.
What happened? I wondered. In his last year of high school, my son had lost his edge. His final exam results in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at the International School of Geneva had fallen short of his teachers’ (and his parents’) expectations.
We’d had a crazy and exhausting year. My husband and I had gotten far too caught up in the college application process, endlessly discussing with Chris the merits of one university over another. Chris had applied to a number of top-notch schools in Europe and North America and had been accepted into most of them. He had his heart set on going to a particular Ivy League school—and got in—but, financially, it was too much of a stretch for us. (We thought a broader, more egalitarian experience could be obtained at a good public university. Save the Ivies for graduate school, we reasoned.)
Chris wasn’t enthusiastic about any of the other universities. Ian and I convinced him that Trinity was his best option. Academically, the University of Toronto was one of the most highly ranked schools in Canada, we pointed out. In Toronto, he would be close to extended family that he could visit on breaks or call on in an emergency.
My son’s lack of enthusiasm concerned me. Did it stem from ambivalence, I wondered, or apathy? Apathy describes a lack of interest or energy and an unwillingness to take action, even over an important matter. Ambivalence describes uncertainty and is characterized by contradictory feelings.
I turned away from the window, recalling the events of the past year that had caused me so much worry. Chris didn’t just have a bad case of senioritis, as I’d initially thought.
The autumn of Chris’s last year of high school seemed particularly gloomy, even for Geneva. The chill Bise came whistling through every nook and cranny of our apartment, making the tea lights on our dinner table flicker like votive candles. I gamely tried to keep dinner conversation going, but eventually gave up. Chris sat silently with his hands in his lap, his head bowed, as if in silent prayer. Alex and Taylor, his younger brothers, were subdued, and my husband, Ian, was more intent on eating than talking. Sometimes when I spoke, Chris looked up in my direction and put his fingers to his lips to hush me. The tea lights were a mistake, I reckoned; they only emphasized the gloom.
Chris had applied to Cambridge University for a place in chemistry and was granted an interview. In early December, I flew with him to England, but the interview didn’t go well. Chris wasn’t particularly interested in career paths like engineering, computer science, or medicine. He had done well in math and chemistry, but his scholarly leanings were more theoretical than practical. (His chemistry teacher once told me he’d make an excellent theoretical chemist.)
In his application to Cambridge, Chris had expressed a vague interest in studying the essence of matter. I considered that a tad presumptuous and a bit strange—more like the musings of an ancient alchemist than a modern chemist. Had I known more at that time about alchemy, I might have realized that Chris’s interests held clues that he was about to set foot on a spiritual path.1
____________________ end of first half
1. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesized the mind-altering chemical compound lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), decided to study chemistry because of “mystical experiences” he’d had in his childhood. He believed the field of chemistry might afford him insights into the essence of the material world. See Albert Hofmann, “LSD: Completely Personal” (speech delivered to the 1996 Worlds of Consciousness Conference in Heidelberg, Germany), Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 6, no. 3 (1996), MAPS/Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies website, www.maps.org/news-letters/v06n3/06346hof.html
The Scenic Route
Copyright © 2018 Rossa Forbes
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part (except for brief quotations embodied in articles, social media or reviews), without written permission from the author.
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