Four years after Cheryl Strayed loses her mother to a quick, yet devastating bout with cancer, she has lost her husband to divorce, most of her family have lost touch, she’s gained an affection for heroin and sex with strangers and lost herself in the wake. To find herself, to truly find out who she really is in the midst of all of the mess, she over-packs a huge backpack (that she can barely lift) and hits the trail to hike for her life.
She chooses to walk the Pacific Crest Trail (or the PCT) from the Majove to Washington State. She had never been backpacking before. On this trip, Cheryl will walk 1,100 miles. Alone.
The trip and her account of it is harrowing. She loses toenails, encounters bears, rattlesnakes and some scary men, but overall it gets her to where she needs to be. The beginning of the book had me enraptured. I cried for the loss of her mother (while reading on a plane, it was embarrassing, I blamed my baby). But as the book goes on, the initial excitement of what has become a train wreck of a life, dulls to the steady pace of her heavy steps across the PCT. It becomes a real reflection of life. Not a Hollywood drama, but real life.
There were no major catastrophes -except the toenail thing, that would be a deal breaker for me (I’m a wuss, this is clear)- no near death experiences. But this book taught me an interesting thing about myself. *reason 100001 why I love books, you learn things about YOU!* It taught me that my need for fabricated drama is at an all time high. Obviously brought on by too many hours spent at the movie theatre… I found myself expecting really horrible things to happen to Cheryl and they just really didn’t. I assumed that every time she met a hairy man, every time she hitchhiked with some random guy or family, that she would be hurt. Not met with kindness. And now looking back on the book, after I let it sink in, I’m a little ashamed of myself that I put it down at one point thinking it was boring.
Because it wasn’t.
Life is hard. Emotions run deep and sometimes the shit majorly hits the fan, but this book taught me that there’s a way to find yourself within yourself and sometimes you just have to give yourself the time. Reinforcing the fact that being alone can be an uncompromisingly cathartic experience that should not be taken for granted.
Check out this video of Cheryl talking about her experience: