New Year, New Me: Lessons from Cheryl Strayed’s WILD
As 2018 rolled around the corner, I finished Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild. In it, Strayed chronicles the emotional turmoil she felt while backpacking over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her momentous goal of hiking the trail to reclaim a sense of control and order in her life reminds me of the difficulty of achieving New Year’s Resolutions. Both resolutions and Strayed’s journey are an attempt to improve one’s self. Wild describes a rather extreme journey, but there are lessons from it that can be applied to achieving one’s resolution.
Lesson One: Commit to the Goal and Accept that change will be difficult
There are two categorizes for people during New Year’s Eve: those who make resolutions and those who are strongly against them. One reason people may opt to not make resolutions is because they believe that they will give up on them. Strayed described her idea to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as “an idea, vague and outlandish, full of promise and mystery” (4).
For many, this is also how they would describe their new year’s resolutions. It is difficult for us to imagine ourselves in a different circumstance or with a different mindset than our current one. However, like Strayed demonstrated, sometimes the best option is simply to start. Strayed’s plan for her life was altered after her mother passed away from cancer at a young age. She fell into a spiral of grief and despair that led to her making choices she eventually regretted. The feat of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was a physical manifestation of Strayed’s emotional journey to deal with the choices she made while grieving her mother’s death. Like with many resolutions, Strayed was in battle with herself.
Lesson Two: Endure through the challenges
A battle with one’s self is difficult because it requires overcoming how we perceive our self. Strayed battled with her emotions, the heavy bag filled with her supplies, and the hiking boots that damaged her feet. She learned to pump water and survive alone in the wilderness. There were moments when she thought she could not achieve her goal, but she chose to endure the difficulty. Her motivation to endure originated from her belief that she had hit rock bottom. Maybe the secret to achieving a resolution is to find the underlying reason behind the goal. This will allow us to persevere during adversity.
Changing a habit is difficult. Hopefully these lessons from Wild can help us achieve our resolutions. Strayed hiked over 1,000 miles to develop peace with the current state of her life, and hopefully, during the next 352 days, we will achieve our goals for 2018.