Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
My sister read this book during her junior year of high school and thought that I would like it as much as she did. Turns out, a handful of people that I know watched the movie also (I didn’t even know that there was one). I loved the book, I related to the main character in a lot of ways and thought that the author did an incredible job compiling data and learning all he could to create an accurate-as-possible telling of his life. Here are the things that most stood out to me:
This part of the book shared someone’s reflection of Chris. I think that this is what I aspire to always resemble. I’m a naturally curious person and I love to understand how things work and why people think the things that they do. Along with that, living out my beliefs and staying true to my values are both things that are very important to me.
Pg. 67, Everything I said, he’d demand to know more about what I meant, about why I thought this way or that. He was hungry to learn about things. Unlike most of us, he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs.
His father, Walt, shared all that Chris did and stood for, even as a child. He was remembered as someone who was a high achiever and didn’t think the odds applied to him. I have always felt the same way about myself (as my sister shared also). I’ve never studied as much as people around me, I’ve never spent as much time as others mastering things, they just came to me. In the same way, or as a result, I assumed that the odds didn’t apply in job search either and that I would just manage to get a great position right away, but that didn’t happen.
Pg. 109, Walt grows quiet, staring absently into the distance. “Chris was fearless even when he was little,” he says after a long pause. “He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.” Chris was a high achiever in almost everything that caught his fancy.
I like this, I work the same way often. Commit, and then make it happen. I like to go all in, get it done, and move on to the next thing. But, of course… that doesn’t always work as well as I hope it would.
Pg. 111, Nuance, strategy, and anything beyond the rudimentaries of technique were wasted on Chris. The only way he cared to tackle a challenge was head-on, right now, applying the full brunt of his extraordinary energy. And he was often frustrated as a consequence.
Same here. No matter what it is, same. I like winning. Most do. But, I know how to win, I know what it takes and when I don’t win, it’s 100% my fault. Actually… it’s 1000% my fault. Everything Chris did after a bad race or even a bad time trial during practice I relate to, I do the same. Everything that others expect of me pales in comparison to what I expect out of myself.
Pg. 112, But running wasn’t exclusively an affair of the spirit; it was a competitive undertaking as well. When McCandless ran, he ran to win.
After a bad race or even a bad time trial during practice, he could be really hard on himself. And he wouldn’t want to talk about it. If I tried to console him, he’d act annoyed and brush me off. He internalized the disappointment. He’d go off alone somewhere and beat himself up.
There were two things that stood out from this page, both noted below. First, Chris’s open mind about race and the things that people experience that he didn’t. He truly empathized, and I love and value that. I never say that I do the same, I would only be gracious if someone else said the same about me. Secondly, the focus on execution and getting it done no matter what. I feel that. I believe that. And, I live that. ANYTHING is possible.
Pg. 113, “I’m black and I could never figure out why everyone made such a big deal about race. Chris would talk to me about that kind of thing. He understood. He was always questioning stuff in the same way. I liked him a lot. He was a really good guy.”
Hathaway recalls, “Chris didn’t like going through channels, working within the system, waiting his turn. He’d say, ‘Come on, Eric, we can raise enough money to go to South Africa on our own, right now. It’s just a matter of deciding to do it.’”
I laughed and laughed and laughed when I read this. I have also been good at almost everything I ever tried. I don’t regret anything but I think back and think about how good I truly could have been at a few things had I truly worked at them. It’s crazy. But, it’s past and I’m focused on working hard for each and every goal of the future now.
While I greatly value the opinions of others, the things that people say are not always well-intended and could very well be driven by their own fears or insecurities. I’m not about to change my course simply because of what someone tried in the past failed, that’s absurd. What I will do though is question, question, and question some more. If someone doesn’t think I should do something, I need to understand why as best I can. But then… yes… I will simply nod politely and do exactly what I wanted all along.
Pg. 118, “Chris was good at almost everything he ever tried,” Walt reflects, “which made him supremely overconfident. If you attempted to talk him out of something, he wouldn’t argue. He’d just nod politely and then do exactly what he wanted.”
I see myself in this area also. Is it a bad thing? I guess that depends who the judge is. I’m often quite aware of the balance here. I’m obsessed with a few things in life, winning, helping others, and being who God created me to be. I love giving, I love being generous, I love caring for others. At the same time though… I really do love going all in on certain things and can totally become absorbed in them, especially depending on how I’m keeping score.
Pg. 120, Many aspects of Chris’s personality baffled his parents. He could be generous and caring to a fault, but he had a darker side as well, characterized by monomania, impatience, and unwavering self-absorption, qualities that seemed to intensify through his college years.
Social life at Emory revolved around fraternities and sororities, something Chris wanted no part of. He didn’t seem interested in the money so much as the fact that he was good at making it. It was like a game, and the money was a way of keeping score.
I did this. I’ve done this in the past and have worked on this actively. I used to see things in black and white for a long long time. It’s either true or it’s not. My parents were married and then they weren’t, there was no gray area. I was a child and then I grew up, there was no gray area. I did not let there be a gray area. I either won or I lost, period. Now, there’s more of a gray area but I do maintain my rigorous moral code, it’s important to who I am and who I want to be. I think that observation here by Carine was super important for us to understand who Chris was throughout his whole life.
Pg. 122, Carine observes, “If something bothered him, he wouldn’t come right out and say it. He’d keep it to himself, harboring his resentment, letting the bad feelings build and build.” That seems to be what happened following the discoveries he made in El Segundo. More even than most teens, he tended to see things in black and white. He measured himself and those around him by an impossibly rigorous moral code.
I love my sister in much the same way, I think of my sister in the same way. I love making fun of her and teasing her or making her laugh. Yet, I am her biggest fan and she knows it. She gets me like most cannot. We experienced life together for years and years and years and shared many experiences; while many can empathize with my emotions, only Julia can truly empathize with what I’ve been through — she went through it too.
Pg. 129, His criticism of his sister never went beyond good-natured ribbing, however; Chris and Carine were uncommonly close. In a letter delineating his quarrels with Walt and Billie, Chris once wrote to her, “Anyway, I like to talk to you about this because you are the only person in the world who could possibly understand what I’m saying.”
I cried. I imagined my sister’s response. I imagined watching her react. Every life, every single life is the most important life to someone and cutting our life short is not God’s design. God has created each of us for incredibly grand things and this is a reminder to me to keep on living, to keep on pushing, and to keep on glorifying God.
Pg. 130, “It’s your brother,” Fish had said. “They found him. He’s dead.” Sam, Walt’s oldest child, had called Fish at work and given him the news.
Carine’s eyes blurred and she felt the onset of tunnel vision. Involuntarily, she started shaking her head back and forth, back and forth. “No,” she corrected him, “Chris isn’t dead.” Then she began to scream. Her keening was so loud and continuous that Fish worried the neighbors were going to think he was harming her and call the police.
Carine curled up on the couch in a fetal position, wailing without pause. When Fish tried to comfort her, she pushed him away and shrieked at him to leave her alone. She remained hysterical for the next five hours, but by eleven o’clock she had calmed sufficiently to throw some clothes into a bag, get into the car with Fish, and let him drive her to Walt and Billie’s house in Chesapeake Beach, a four-hour trip north.
I agree. I do not believe that Chris McCandless went to Alaska hoping to die. Everything that the author shared and everything that I related to, I do not believe that he desired to die.
Pg. 156, In my case — and, I believe, in the case of Chris McCandless — that was a very different thing from wanting to die.
Wow, rereading the things that impacted me initially hit me from a different angle this time. It reminded me of my weaknesses, the areas I have grown over the years and the areas I still desire to grow more in. Beyond that, I was reminded that God created each of us for an incredible purpose and living life is what God wants for us to do. Life is worth living, it always will be, no matter what.
I gave this book a 4/5