Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

"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...I simply did not let myself become afraid." 

I first heard of Wild, Cheryl Strayed, and Dear Sugar from an article on Jezebel Did Vogue Photoshop Sugar From Dear Sugar? (For the record, she was legitimately pissed about it: "I was furious. I didn't get to see the picture until the magazine was on the stands. I was grateful that they ran an excerpt of my book, but I was so incredibly disappointed by what they did to the photograph of me...frankly, I thought these would be the prettiest pictures ever taken of me. But what they did with Photoshop obliterated that.")

I didn't know who Cheryl Strayed was, I was not a Dear Sugar reader, and I had never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, but in 2012 I was just outdoorsy enough to be very annoyed by Vogue's photoshoot. I thought "Hm, I should read that" and then it went on Oprah's List which I actually like fine but pretend to be annoyed by and then it was turned into a movie and I totally watch movies that were books but also pretend to be annoyed by them. So I'm reading this book 3 years late. 

Because it was on Oprah's list and turned into a movie, I assume most people know the basic premise. Cheryl grew up on a crunchy farm, was a high school cheerleader, and lost her mom at age 22. Her life fell apart with everything from a mundane divorce to a heroin addiction. She decided to hike the PCT as a way to figure her life out.

The outdoorsy part of me loved the trail stories. The feminist part of me loved the fact that she was doing it alone when many women are afraid to adventure alone. The nosy part of me that loves memoirs loved that it covers her whole life, not just the trail. Cheryl is a perfect example of one of my favorite quotes: by virtue of being human we are wonderfully imperfect and flawed. She sucks sometimes, but she's honest about it, and it makes for a very moving and satisfying story. Like most women, I have a complicated relationship with my mom, and page 151 made me cry and call my mom for a chat. 

One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret. Small things that stung now: all the times I'd scorned her kindness by rolling my eyes or physically recoiled in response to her touch; the time I'd said, 'Aren't you amazed to see how much more sophisticated than I am at twenty-one than you were?' The thought of my youthful lack of humility made me nauseous now. I had been an arrogant asshole and, in the midst of that, my mother died. Yes, Id' been a loving daughter, and yes, I'd been there fore her when it mattered, but I could have been better.

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