Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild: From Lost To Found is a book I’ve been meaning to read for so long… I’d heard a lot about how inspiring and uplifting it was, and when I read it recently I was pleased to find that it was all that and so much more.
For those who haven’t heard of Wild (which I suspect most people will have – it was made into a film with Reese Witherspoon in it several years ago!), it’s about 26 year old Cheryl Strayed’s journey hiking thousands of miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find herself and figure out her life in the wake of her mother’s death and her divorce. On the surface, it may sound kind of cheesy, but when all that soul-searching is mixed in with humorous tales of Cheryl’s lack of hiking experience, it made for a really fun, yet heartwarming read. Not to mention how insanely impressive it is that Cheryl Strayed even did that – there’s no way I’d be able to hike thousands of miles on my own (although this book did make me really want to get out and about in nature more)!
As with Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’, and Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, I felt like there wasn’t much I could really say about the book in a review other than ‘read it now if you haven’t already!’, so I thought more of ‘what I learnt from it’ kind of post was in order.
So here are 6 quotes from Wild by Cheryl Strayed that I found incredibly inspiring, and why:
- ‘[Books] were the world I could lose myself in when the one I was actually living in became too lonely or harsh or difficult to bear.’
It may be obvious why I adored this quote so much… I love books (obviously…you’re reading my book blog!), and they’ve always been a wonderful source of escape for me, and so I could wholeheartedly relate to this quote. I haven’t been through half of the terrible stuff that Cheryl had by that point, but I know how a good story can transport you and offer you relief from the world when you need it, or even just provide you with entertainment when you’re bored, or weary.
I loved how important books were on Cheryl’s journey, so much so that she allowed them to take up valuable space in her pack!
- ‘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.’
Fear is unpleasant, and we all understandably shy away from the things that make us afraid. But one of the things that really came to light in Wild was how fear was necessary to make progress. Cheryl is understandably scared of the huge undertaking that is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but she does it anyway and it changes her life. It allows her to conquer her fears and grow as a person, and I think that’s the case for a lot of the things that scare us.
For example, job interviews are scary, but if you don’t put yourself out there and go, you have no hope of getting that job that you want. Trying something new (like Cheryl with hiking!) can be scary, but how will you learn that new skill or reach your potential if you let fear hold you back?
Fear exists for a reason: it’s our mind’s way of trying to keep us safe. But it can also hold us back, and through Cheryl’s journey I saw the results of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and it really inspired me to try and conquer some of the fears in my own life.
- ‘That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.’
A huge thing that Wild made me see was just how needlessly complicated we have made modern life. We all have so many possessions, and money is so important because we always want more, when all we technically need is the stuff that Cheryl Strayed carried on her back for thousands of miles. And we spend all our time worrying about things that seem like huge deals to us – Twitter, and getting the perfect Instagram picture, and workplace politics – but do they really matter?
No, I’m not exactly going to be abandoning all my stuff and running off to live in a tent in the woods, but this revelation has definitely made me think a lot more about what we actually need, and what’s actually important.
- ‘What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have?’
Something I think we’re all terrible at is forgiving ourselves. In fact, I think it’s so much easier sometimes to forgive someone else for wronging you than it is to stop beating yourself up over every little mistake you’ve ever made.
So one of the things I loved most in Wild was Cheryl’s realization that you just have to forgive yourself sometimes. You can’t change the past, you can’t go back and rewrite your life, so you have to not let it impact your future. You need to let it go, and be kinder to yourself.
- ‘What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done?’
We all make mistakes, it’s just a fact of life. Cheryl makes plenty in Wild: she takes drugs and cheats on her husband, and gets herself into some pretty dangerous situations. But all those mistakes lead her to the life-changing experience that is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail – those mistakes were necessary for her to learn, and for her to grow as a person, and for her to figure out what she had to do.
We can all look back and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that’, or ‘I messed up there’ and beat ourselves up, or we can accept that we made mistakes and just view them as a necessary bump in the road of life that helped us get where we are now. If you learned from those mistakes, then they were necessary, so would you really do anything differently, looking back?
- ‘It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.’
I love the closing words of the book so much! They just felt so fitting, and I loved how they perfectly encapsulated the book’s message: that it’s ok to not know what you’re doing or where you’re going sometimes.
At the age of 24, I sometimes feel like I should have it all figured out by now, so it was nice to be reminded that it’s OK if you don’t know exactly what you want, or where your life is taking you. Sometimes half of the fun is in the not knowing, and the sense of potential your life has: it could take you anywhere. However mundane your own life may seem to you, it’s actually pretty extraordinary, because it’s yours and yours only: it’s your own personal journey, and who knows where you’ll be in five years, or ten years from now?
So have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? What did you think of it? Did you find these quotes as inspiring as I did?