Author Spotlight: Cheryl Strayed
I thought I would add a little bit more to my literary posts and do an author spotlight every now and then, maybe once a month? Still trying to decide on that, so I won’t make any promises yet! However, for today I’ve decided to talk about an author that I highly admire: Cheryl Strayed.
Cheryl Strayed is probably most popular for her book, WILD. If you haven’t read it or heard of it, you’ve probably heard/seen the movie which starred Reese Witherspoon in 2014. The movie catapulted Cheryl Strayed into the spotlight, along with the star of her book— the Pacific Crest Trail. After the movie came out more than a thousand people went to hike the PCT in ode to WILD, and that number has continued to rise.
Here’s a great article that describes “the WILD effect” on the Pacific Crest Trail…
With all that being said, I didn’t discover Cheryl Strayed through WILD, instead it was from a little advice column where she went by the name, “Dear Sugar” from The Rumpus, an online journal where pop-culture, literature, art, essays, music, and more come together. Cheryl Strayed had an ongoing column with The Rumpus and somehow I found her through that.
Check out The Rumpus!
These Dear Sugar columns were incredible, brutal, heartbreaking, witty, raw, poignant, emotional, and more. After awhile, Dear Sugar published Tiny Beautiful Things which was a collection of Dear Sugar columns all in one book.
Tiny Beautiful Things changed my life.
“Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
I had already had a taste of Cheryl Strayed through the few Dear Sugar pieces I had read, but nothing was to prepare for what Tiny Beautiful Things offered. In a word it was transformable.
Tiny Beautiful Things gave advice from the heart, with a breathtakingly raw edge that left you feeling like simultaneously crying on the bathroom floor and throwing your arms out on top of a mountain lookout feeling utterly satisfied.
She wrote about death. She wrote about addiction. She wrote about heartbreak. She wrote about love. She wrote about family. She wrote about missed connections. She wrote about wasting time. She wrote about passion. She wrote about the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and to her, it was all one.
“Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting,everlasing, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepen by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened BY generosity, nourished by humor, and ‘loaded with promises and commitments’ that we may or may not want to keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.”
Some of the columns were more lighthearted than others, but all of them had that same Sugar vibe which is what we were all after. We wanted Sugar’s words, her wisdom, her experiences— everything.
I read her book in a couple days and it completely re-freshed my outlook not only on my own life, but also on how I viewed this crazy world we are living in in general. Cheryl Strayed helped me not give a f*ck about what I was meant to do, or be, or act, or feel and just let it all go and experience this life that we have been given.
“I can’t say when you’ll get love or how you’ll find it or even promise you that you will. I can only say you are worthy of it and that it’s never too much to ask for it and that it’s not crazy to fear you’ll never have it again, even though your fears are probably wrong. Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.”
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
“Not a single one of us knows what the future holds. The unexpected happens even when we;ve got everything mapped out… What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. pay no mind to the vision the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks.”
I have passed Tiny Beautiful Things along to several friends in times of need. I want to share Sugar’s words with others because I think no matter what you are going through, or where you have been (or haven’t), Sugar has something for us all. She touches on so many topics of wide-ranging issues, that I believe everyone will have the ability to relate too. In addition, she opens up many of her readers to other topics that might never experience, which is so critical to self-development and growth.
I’ve been a bit of a self-help, self-care, self-aware, self-whatever person for awhile. It all started when I was in middle school and found myself struggling tremendously with life. I did therapy for a couple years and in high school really discovered how treating myself well was the only way I was going to survive. I had to be self-aware, I had to put myself first, I had to figure out what was going to make me better or worse, etc. I had to do all of this in order to keep making it through each day.
Now, here I am a decade later and I don’t have it all figured out, and I know I never will, but what I do have is a lot of inspiration and tools in my backpack to help me get through when I need it. One of my tools is this book, Tiny Beautiful Things and one of my inspirations is Cheryl Strayed, because her writing moves me and her story helps me keep pushing on.
WILD was an incredible story. I know I didn’t touch on it much, mainly because I feel like everyone was writing about WILD for a long time. Also with the movie and the book and all the hype, I feel like most people know about it. I loved WILD, and it inspired me as well, but Tiny Beautiful Things really changed me and my outlook, and is a book that I keep reaching for and going back to in times of both struggle & happiness, and the adventures into the unknown.
I chose to write about Cheryl Strayed as my first author spotlight because I think she is an extraordinary example of how you can take control of your life and make it what you want. She is a feminist, mother, activist, author, and so much more. She has an incredible powerful voice that makes you feel. She reminds us all to find our inner wild and embrace it. She has proven to be an inspiration to me on more than one occasion and I look forward to reading more of what Sugar has to offer, no matter form that takes.
Cheers and stay chic!