Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s free spirit shines bright in her 2012 memoir Wild. Wild is a beautiful story of a woman who needs to get a little lost in order to find herself on her solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl’s courageous disposition inspires and moves the reader in such a way that they will be changed, in however a small or large way, as she opens one’s eyes to help see life’s big picture.
At the age of 23, Cheryl loses her mother due to a sudden and horrible battle with lung cancer. The death of her mother completely unravels Cheryl; she falls into a deep depression and heavy grief that swallows her whole. Her account of the time leading up to and after her mother’s death is heart-breaking. The reader just may ache for her, cry with her; the pain is tangible. On a downward spiral, she resorts to sleeping around, doing various drugs such as heroine, and eventually ends up getting a divorce with her then-husband. Cheryl even decides to legally change her last name from Nyland to Strayed, the definition of which is “to wander from a direct course or at random,” and “to move about aimlessly or without any destination,” and “to lose clarity or turn aside.”
Strayed writes with such clarity and eloquence; her words flow beautifully off the pages. Her voice is very poetic and her imagery is vivid enough to grab your attention and keep you both interested and invested in her long journey. Each page you turn, you are walking each mile with Cheryl, feeling her pain as she conquers another leg of the trail, as she battles her thirst and hunger, and loses each of her toenails to her infamous hiking boots which are showcased on the cover of her book.
Cheryl learns a great deal about forgiveness and bravery during her time spent on the trail. Before starting her journey, she was filled with such anger and resentment towards the world, her mother, her family, and the universe. By the time she reaches its end, she realizes, “What if I forgave myself? What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done?”
This was my first read by Strayed. She is quite the inspiration and everyone should read her story. She showcases how to take nothing for granted, to never give up, and that one can still be triumphant even when terrible things happen. She inspires bravery and to face problems head on. “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
I feel as though I am not even conveying just how lovely this book is; if you are or have ever gone through any sort of hard time, this book is the best kind of therapy I can imagine. Strayed’s words really resonated with me and I hope they resonate with you. Thinking about picking up the book? Go. Go now.