Every so often, a book falls into my lap that I know I was meant to read. As if forces bigger than myself allowed it to happen. Since I am spending this week blogging about women, I thought it would be a particularly great time to speak of the book that changed how I saw the little world around me and inspired me to do bigger and better things.
Before ringing 2016, I finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I remember because this was a particularly low point in my life. I was pathetically job hunting with little to no luck, frustrated with my sense of purpose and finding it difficult to love myself. I was making poor choices in an attempt to mentally numb myself, but that was only making things worse.
One afternoon, as I skimmed the shelves of my library, I picked up Wild. I’m not sure if it was the orange binding that drew my attention or something more, but I decided to check it out.
I read the book in three sittings, devouring page after page as if it were a hearty meal instead of a 300-page novel. I firmly believed that I was supposed to read this book at THAT exact moment in my life.
For those that don’t know, Wild is an autobiographical account of Cheryl Strayed’s 3-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to escape her reality and in a way shed her old self. After loss and self-abuse, Strayed decided to embark on this epic hike from California and Oregon to the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. Through the journey, the book contains flashback of her life and struggles that inspired her to leave her old life and literally climb her way through self-discovery.
She lived minimally and her only purpose was to survive from day to day. To have water, food and her tent for shelter. Money was only an issue sometimes when she arrived at her resupply station, other than that she didn’t really need it. She sold everything she had and used her last dollars to hike the PCT, confident enough in herself that when it was all over she would figure out a way to live in Oregon. As intense as her physical and mental struggles were, she had to live completely in each moment and problem solves with what was right in front of her.
How free I felt just reading it. To live so simply, so minimally sounded like heaven to me. It made me realize then that there wasn’t much that I truly want. There are plenty of “things” that I think I want, money, clothes, great hair, but if I were Cheryl, hiking for hundred of miles, none of that would matter.
I couldn’t image a world where my physical appearance, my professionalism, my career path, my social media post… would mean absolutely nothing.
Now, over a year later, I wonder if my somewhat spontaneous plan to uproot my life in Massachusetts and create a new life for myself and my boyfriend in California, had anything to do with this novel. When I first read this book, I was so desperate for change, for a purpose. I wanted to pack my bags and hike across America too! Anything to get away from myself and my old habits and ways of thinking.
The problem with trying to run away from yourself is that it’s impossible. Along with my journey, I still had to face my insecurities, inaccuracies and practice self-love, daily. I still am!
But I believe that this piece of literature inspired me in ways that actually changed my life. To see a woman push through fear to accomplish her goal inspired me more than I can express. If I look at where I was then in 2016 and where I am now, I feel like a completely different person. Cheryl Strayed encouraged me and challenged me to fight for the life I wanted.
That is a sign of true inspiration and literary courage. Strayed poured her heart into that book. Fearlessly.
And I think it changed my life.
I would love to know what books have inspired you. Let me know in the comments below!