As I was socializing with a group of friends today, one of my more academic acquaintances sat pensively with a heavy tome in his lap. “I’m studying for the GRE”, he said. The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, refers to the examination which all students must sit in order to be admitted into a graduate program en route to – in my case – a PhD in their field of interest.
“When are you taking yours?”
I’ve thought about graduate study. For me, it is simple. I market the two most marketable skills that I have – my intellect and my curiosity. A career in research at this point is fairly certain. Most of my peers are either already in a graduate program, or will be applying in the upcoming year.
I am not ready.
I am not ready to plunge into a stressful, overworked 5 – 7 year commitment because, at the end of the day, my mind is not yet quiet. It has never really been to begin with, and yet I do believe it necessary to at least attain some measure of peace before embarking on such a strenuous foray into academic rigor. Currently, I am considering perhaps spending a year or so at a monastery before committing to graduate studies, far away in a place where my demons mean nothing.
In my youth, I struggled with a serious heroin addiction. To this day, I have only shared it with a handful of individuals at most. One of them I have known for almost a decade now, the rest I only told fairly recently. Most people don’t know this about me, and they would never presume it because I seem – as they say – so incredibly high-functioning on a day to day basis. Selective vision is so undeniably prevalent, and one would never assume that such a well-rounded, high-achieving young person would ever seek to destroy their lives in such a manner. Most individuals I know consider me a stable character. Apathetic at times, yes, but graceful under pressure and immune to the stressors of daily life. And this is true, for the most part. I do acknowledge that I come across as impressive to many, but impressions are fallible.
No addict would ever be able to pin down what started them on such a destructive path to oblivion. No addict ever truly “seeks” his own addiction, and yet it always finds him. It finds him as he returns to an empty house, and it finds him as he sits alone for years in the cafeteria. It finds him as his parents manipulate him against each other, and it finds him as his sibling rebukes him for events over which he has no sovereignty. It finds him as his home fills with cries and violent shouts. It finds him when he realizes that God is nothing more than a hope, and his childhood realities are stripped away, feeble and fragile. It finds him when his best friend shoots himself in a vengeance, and it finds him when his father tells him he is worthless and undeserving of life. It finds him huddled in a kitchen corner, desperate and afraid. It finds him as his pre-adolescent hands slip antifreeze into his brother’s drink. It finds him as he grows, upward and onward from childish grief into inexorable rage. It finds him when neighborhood cats turn up mutilated, and it finds him when a local building is found alaze. It finds him when he attempts to shoot his family in their sleep. It finds him every night in the darkness for years, pattering away slowly, aimlessly for hours in his metropolitan city. It finds him on the morning he awakens and realizes that he has lost the ability to care, the capacity for generosity and compassion, the last beacon of civility giving way to a lifetime of misanthropy and ruthlessness. It finds him as his childish fingers cover hamsters with oil and sets them ablaze. It finds him when luxuries – remorse, guilt, conscience – fade away into an indistinguishable, psychopathic haze. It finds him when he discovers that interpersonal warmth leaves his hands cold and frigid. It finds him on the rare nights when he wonders what he is and where he is going, and it finds him when the answers no longer seem to matter.
The thing that all addicts – past and present – realize, is that an addiction is never far behind. It never really abandons you, and somehow the cravings seem to always hit when you most expect it to. They are rarely a surprise, and somehow that makes it all the worse.
I am considering perhaps taking a year to centre myself. To find a reason for…anything. To anchor an unquiet mind, to find a sensation of belonging in a universe whose grand scope and impersonal chill is perpetual. To find a place where I may shed such bonded things; vile thoughts and wicked hands. To seek respite from a transient life that is spiritually and interpersonally nomadic out of necessity.
And if I never return, then perhaps it may be worth it.