The death of my mother was the thing that made me believe the most deeply in my safety. Nothing bad could happen to me, I thought. The worst thing already had.
For years, I feared this book. I was first introduced to Cheryl Strayed in my college Creative Nonfiction class a few years back. I read her essay The Love of My Life and it gutted me. You see, I had that class one month after my mom passed away. Just like Cheryl Strayed, I was 22 when terminal cancer viciously stole my mom away from my life. Reading her essay brought me to tears, but it also opened a gateway for me to express my mixed emotions about losing my mom, who had also been the love of my life, as well as someone who had deeply wounded me at the age of 5 by leaving me with my grandparents while she moved thousands of miles away. Her essay was magnificent. It was raw and it was beautiful and it was exactly what I needed to read.
I feared that if I read this book, in which Cheryl Strayed goes on an incredible journey to try to face her demons after her mother’s death, I would feel lost. I thought that I would feel tremendously inferior to her because I haven’t done anything significant since my mom died. I graduated college, sure, but I’ve mostly just been battling my mental illnesses ever since that fateful day I saw her die. Reading Wild was difficult. It was impossible to read it without comparing her experience to mine. I kept asking myself: Did I do enough for my mom while she was alive? Because I avoided her during her last few months alive. I lived in denial. And Cheryl Strayed stuck around through the most difficult times. I knew deep down that this wasn’t the book’s intention. I shouldn’t be doing this. But it was practically impossible.
So I read, and I cried, and I wanted nothing more than to turn back time so I could be a better daughter for my dying mom. I know I should really talk about the book. This book isn’t just about Cheryl’s mom dying. It’s about Cheryl’s outstanding strength as she hiked over a thousand miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about her determination through the hardest of times. It’s about the wonderful and terrible people she encountered along the way. It’s about letting go and moving on. That is the beauty of this book. Certain aspects will touch people in different ways. I think there’s something here for everyone. If not a lesson, at least you’ll be entertained by the adventure.
What if I forgave myself?
I loved the way it was written, with the small flashbacks to her life before the PCT. I loved how it was all woven so creatively together. I felt like I was right there with her, every step of the way. I’m glad I was able to pick this up, even though it made me relive things I didn’t want to dig up. But I think it was good in the end. It was worth it.