A Low Point (part 1 of 2)

From my self-selected posts over the years one might think I’ve lived a charmed life. And while there’s no doubt that I have been very fortunate, part of thinking of yourself as lucky is a matter of how you view things. Lest people begin to think I am the luckiest guy in the world, I thought I’d share one of the valleys I’ve had to traverse while hopping from peak to peak through the years.

About five years ago Josh and I met online, chatted for about an hour, and decided to meet up for a drink after one of my classes. We hung out, had a discussion debating the merits of searching for truth through science vs. through logic, and decided we liked each other. A bunch more meetings over the next few months and suddenly I was in a relationship.

Josh, an accomplished type-a personality, was somewhat of a contrast to my learning-is-fun-and-grades-don’t-matter attitude. When we met he was a college senior studying genetics and trying to figure out which top school to go to for his PhD. His high marks and early accomplishments meant he had his pick of the best schools in the country.

He could have stayed local, but after some soul-searching, decided that his future was in California. We’d been seeing each other for only about five months when he had to make his decision. While I was disappointed, I understood he couldn’t make a decision that was going to affect the rest of his career based on accommodating a five-month-old relationship.

So he had decided around March, and we would keep seeing each other until he had to go off to school in August. He moved out of his dorm room in May and into my apartment for the summer before he would have to leave. At the end of the summer we had a sad, movie-esque, airport good-bye and were agreed that we weren’t sure what the future held for us, if anything.

We kept in close touch and a couple of months later he decided to fly back for a week to visit. Then about six weeks after that I flew out to visit him for a week. And we kept going back and forth like that. He was trying to talk me into going to law school out there the following September, but that would mean giving up my free tuition, I couldn’t do that.

Finally, by the middle of the spring semester, he decided he had made a mistake. He had some complaints about the academic department he was in, and he missed me. So he was going to see about transferring back to a PhD program in Boston. Luckily, after only a few phone calls and some letter-writing, he was set to come back to Boston and start working on his degree during the summer semester.

By April we were living together again and all was well. We were happy and on our way to being a Doctor/Lawyer power couple.

But it turns out, Josh wasn’t just disappointed with the California school he had selected, I think he was questioning his PhD track all-together. Which created this incredible crisis within him, because that had been his goal since he was in middle school. He had put his soul into his work. He not only wanted to be a geneticist, he wanted to be one of the best geneticists in the country, and he was well on his way there. But having reached what was essentially his biggest lifetime goal, I think he was at a bit of a loss when he ultimately found it somehow unsatisfying.

During the summer he started to sleep a lot, and would skip class more often than was prudent. I was still working full-time and going to school full-time myself, so I wasn’t even aware of how troubled he was. It wasn’t unusual for him to go to his lab late at night and stay for hours at a time tending to his experiments, and I would get up early for work. So sometimes I’d go a day or two without even seeing him at all.

Well, one day in September I hadn’t seen him for several days in a row. And he wasn’t answering his phone or responding to text messages. Of course I was beside myself with worry.

He finally strolled in during the afternoon on day 3, all smiles. I gave him the third degree. I wasn’t mad, I don’t get mad. But I was serious. He told me he had been at a party with some friends, stayed late and fell asleep on their couch, then spent the next day at class and in the lab, then went back out with his friends again…  “You couldn’t call me?”

“My phone died. I didn’t realize it had been three days.”

- Apologies, forgiveness, don’t do it again -

I’m trusting, patient and forgiving, maybe to a fault.

Next weekend, he disappears again for a whole night.

This time when he got home I didn’t let him just tell me he fell asleep on a couch. I questioned and pushed him where things didn’t make sense. We had a long exchange. Finally, he breaks down.

This ivy-educated, budding world-class scientist, with all his good looks, charm, personality, and with a blindingly-bright future is standing in front of me. And he tells me, through tears, that he has been using crystal meth for the past six months.

Well, you may as well have run me over with a truck.

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