At my parents’ cottage a book caught my son’s eye and mine as well. Into the Wild was published in 1996 and is the true story of an American young adult who turned his back on a life of privilege. After attaining his college degree he changed his name from Chris McCandless to Alexander Supertramp and broke off all contact with his parents and siblings. He became a nomad, subsisting on rice and a few other things he could fit in his backpack. His ultimate dream was to live off the land in Alaska from April to July 1992, but conceded in two postcards to friends that his experiment ran the risk of ending in death. In August 1992 his body was found in a rusting city bus. (A construction company attempting to build a permanent road in the area had hauled this bus into the Alaskan wilderness thirty years earlier to serve as living quarters for its crew.)
While this was obviously a sad story, it was much more than that for me.
As I read this thoroughly researched account it caused me to reflect about McCandless’ sojourn and his need for a level of risk in order to find fulfillment. I looked back into my own life to see if there was anything like this in my own young adult years. It came to me like a bit of a jolt to realize that after graduating from a Christian college, I also changed my name (using my middle name) for a year. I attended teacher’s college at a university in Northern Ontario where I somewhat deliberately did not know anyone. It was a test for myself to see who I was and how I would cultivate my faith in God without any of my traditional supports. Would I attend church? Where would I go? What kind of friends would I choose?Unlike McCandless I maintained contact with my family and continue to treasure them. Yet I needed that year to get out of the familiar circles and to discover who I was as an independent adult. By God’s grace I passed the test. As my children will be coming to that point soon enough, these reflections are good preparation for letting them go.