A Wild Freaking Year

September 12th, 2017
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I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed on various buses throughout Ecuador. I had resisted reading it for over a year, thinking it would simply be a sad middle-age woman with problems and subsequent resolutions boring and annoying to me. However, I was gifted the book by a friend at a hostel and, ya know, read it. And WOW my condescending preconceptions were blown away. How did this massively popular book manage to convey so many of the feelings I have been having this year? I do not know, and I am a little scared that this means the whole world has the same thoughts and fears and processes of healing as me. (It is kinda terrifying to find out that maybe you are not unique.)

I would not have been able to so intimately relate to Wild until after this year when, much like doing a long term solo hike, I was solo a traveler for extended periods of time. Here are some quotes that explain my own year, and the experience of profoundly healing through time spent alone, better than I think I ever could.

 

“And why? What did being alone do?”

“There were so many other amazing things in the world. They opened up inside of me like a river. Like I didn’t know I could take a breath and then I breathed. I laughed with the joy of it, and the next moment I was crying my first tears on the PCT. I cried and cried and I cried. I wasn’t crying because I was happy. I wasn’t crying because I was sad . . . I was crying because I was full.”

“How profoundly the trail would bother shatter and shelter me.”

“I’d only wanted to be alone. Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. The radical aloneness of the PCT had altered that sense. Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.”

“I could feel it unspooling behind me – the old threat I’d lost, the new one I was spinning.”

“To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That is was everything. 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.”

Thank you, I thought over and over again. Thank you. Not just for the long walk, but for everything I could feel finally gathered up inside of me; for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know, though I felt it somehow contained within me.”

“I had arrived. I’d done it. It seemed like such a small thing and such a tremendous thing at once, like a secret I’d always tell myself, though I didn’t know the meaning of it just yet.”

 

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