15/07/2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed



I've just graduated. I'm in that awkward stage of graduate limbo land, not knowing what to do now, or where I want to go. Everyone's asking me if I've got a job yet, what I've been applying for, what I want to do. And I really don't know.  It's tough. At the moment I don't feel like I want a 'proper' job, a 9-5, taxes, bills, rent, day in day out, a totally normal humdrum existence...

The life that I want is a big one. I don't really know what I mean by that. I just want it to be full: bursting at the seams with colour, places, sights, sounds, smells, people, thoughts, dreams, mishaps, love, regret, anger, tears, laughter, experience, adventure... life.

Still, I sit, drinking tea and reading books and my big as-yet-still-empty sack of life rolls by little by little. One of my recent reads was Wild by Cheryl Strayed.



Strayed has some serious ovaries.

In Wild she tells the story of when she hiked 1100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. She had lost her mother, dabbled with heroin, divorced her husband, changed her name and was up to her eyeballs in student debt for a degree she never finished. She was lost.

She decided to go on a three month long solo hike. To save herself.

It sounds clichéd; redemptive nature-travel tales are hardly new, but I think the mere fact that stories of the healing power of the wilderness are so numerous proves that there is definitely something to the idea. Anyway, Strayed's story is fascinating and emotional. It's more of a journey through the landscape of her mind and her past, set to a magnificent backdrop of the mountains of the PCT. There are ups and downs, bears, drugs, death, sex, a diminishing number of toenails, and more than anything, a sense of self-discovery as she pushes both her body and mind to its limits, all alone in the American wilderness.

It's a book that somehow managed to both quench and spark my thirst for adventure and for that type of journey of self-discovery. By that I don't mean that stereotyped gap yah notion of going abroad to "find myself" whatever that means, I just want to discover my limits. I have had a very easy, charmed life thus far, for which of course I am incredibly grateful, but what can I withstand? How far can I go? What's beyond my cosy little comfort zone? What can I do? What can I learn about the world? What can the world teach me about myself? What's out there?

Sometimes it's so hard to see beyond the banal path laid out for a twenty first century graduate that you almost forget the monstrous size of the world and all the landscapes, people, chances, opportunities and lives it could offer. I know that one day, that spark of adventure will dim, and I'll find myself conforming and fulfilling all of society's expectations, but I'd like to postpone that as long as possible.

It's by reading books like Wild that I keep these ideas burning.

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