I was born to talented, hard-working parents in the suburbs of Boston. My father met my mother after the dissolution of his first marriage. They worked together for many years professionally as renowned molecular biologists, and growing up I often was left to my own devices while my father was out of town at conferences, or my mother was up all night writing grant proposals. I didn’t mind; I was a solitary child (until my brother was born eight years later), but I kept to myself well, entertaining myself with books or drawing.
I don’t have any conscious memories of Boston, because we moved when I was two. Instead, my earliest memories are of Portland, Oregon, where we lived until I was eight years old. Here I first went to school; here I first started playing piano. Like my parents I was smart, though not precociously so; I skipped first grade, but struggled through second.
When I was eight years old my parents told me that we were moving to an exotic place called Switzerland, which I had naturally never heard of. I was sad to leave my friends and familiar surroundings, but I was excited to discover a new place, to learn new things and make new friends. I started school in a local, French-speaking district outside of Geneva, armed with my boyish good looks and the phrase, “Je ne parle pas Français.”
Over the course of the next five years, however, I learned French, and made some very close friends. I soon forgot about the United States, about my friends back home, and indeed Switzerland became my home; after all, five years is an eternity to a young child.
But all good things come to an end, and mine came when, at thirteen, my parents once again told me we were moving: this time to England. This time, I was sullen and upset: I didn’t want to leave the life I had built in rural Switzerland. My best friend was there; my first crush was there. Everything I knew about life came from Switzerland, and I desperately didn’t want to let it go.
Sadly, thirteen-year-olds don’t get to make decisions, and so we packed up and moved once again, this time to the industrial steel town of Sheffield in northern England. I was enrolled in a private school (for the best education, you understand), and despite my reservations I was once more adaptable, and soon made new friends—though none were as close as those I had left behind in Switzerland.
But in England I began to realize I was not as special as I thought. In the tiny Swiss villages I was accustomed to, I was the smartest kid in class, the best pianist, the widest read and the most bilingual. Yet here in England I was suddenly surrounded by talent that I had never considered: the boy who played piano better, the kid who was better at math, the one who could write ten pages in the time it took me to write three. My pond was distinctly widened, and I began to feel small.
Perhaps it was the incessant pressure of overbearing parents to succeed; perhaps it was the shock of learning I wasn’t the best at everything; perhaps it was the gloom of the English summer. I really don’t know, but slowly I began to be drawn to dark and evil things, and by the time I was fifteen, I was slowly slipping into the first realms of something I had no words for: a state of being that overwhelmed me with misery and despair.
I became depressed.