The “It’s Not What You Might Think” Blog—Part I

By Sabrina Völz

WildAfter hear­ing that the trav­el­ogue Wild by Cheryl Strayed was made into a movie, I thought about pick­ing up a copy of the book and inves­ti­gat­ing why so many peo­ple are wild about Wild: A Jour­ney from Lost to Found. The mem­oir sketch­es Strayed’s strug­gle to over­come the loss of her moth­er to can­cer, a failed mar­riage, and the ensu­ing depres­sion that plunged Strayed into using hero­in recreationally—if that’s possible—and hav­ing sex with strangers. How­ev­er, the major­i­ty of her book describes her 1,110 mile trek on the Pacif­ic Crest Trail and her jour­ney to inner peace. It all sound­ed cheesy, so I was reluc­tant but even­tu­al­ly did buy the book after see­ing a sto­ry on the Night­ly News about the many Amer­i­cans fol­low­ing in Strayed’s footsteps.

Although I teach life writ­ing and am always look­ing for new teach­ing mate­r­i­al, I approached the book as a just-for-fun read. After a few pages, I came across Strayed’s descrip­tion of her­self that plunged me into a strug­gle with some­thing much deep­er. Well, take a look. Is it just me? Or is there some­thing about the fol­low­ing pas­sage both­er­ing you as well?

“I was liv­ing alone in a stu­dio apart­ment in Min­neapo­lis, sep­a­rat­ed from my hus­band, and work­ing as a wait­ress, as low and mixed-up as I’d ever been in my life. Each day I felt as if I were look­ing up from the bot­tom of a deep well. But from that well, I set about becom­ing a solo wilder­ness trekker. And why not? I’d been so many things already. A lov­ing wife and an adul­ter­ess. A beloved daugh­ter who now spent hol­i­days alone. An ambi­tious over­achiev­er and aspir­ing writer who hopped from one mean­ing­less job to the next while dab­bling dan­ger­ous­ly with drugs and sleep­ing with too many men. I was the grand­daugh­ter of a Penn­syl­va­nia coal min­er, the daugh­ter of a steel­work­er turned sales­man. After my par­ents split up, I lived with my moth­er, broth­er, and sis­ter in apart­ment com­plex­es pop­u­lat­ed by sin­gle moth­ers and their kids. As a teen, I lived back-to-the land style in the Min­neso­ta north­woods in a house that did not have an indoor toi­let, elec­tric­i­ty, or run­ning water. In spite of this, I’d become a high school cheer­leader and home­com­ing queen, and then I went off to col­lege and became a left-wing fem­i­nist cam­pus rad­i­cal” [1].

Now think about that for a while. Tune in for part 2 next week.

[1] Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: A Jour­ney from Lost to Found. Lon­don: Atlantic Books, 2012. 4–5.

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