A couple of years ago, I submitted an essay to a local writing competition. The winners would be included in an anthology based upon the topic of “Journeys.” The topic of “Journeys” was based upon the upcoming appearance of Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild.”
My essays had been in several anthologies before, but this was local. And, the book “Wild” was soon to become a movie by the same title, starring Reese Witherspoon.
I knew in advance what a wonderful opportunity this might be. I knew a lot about Strayed from my friend and writing mentor, Christina Katz.
I was thrilled that my essay was selected.
Along with others, I read from my essay on the topic of “Journeys” one evening at our local bookstore with my oldest daughter by my side. I had Eva (then, 7) stand with me at the podium so she could experience the joy of work. Of performance, experience, and memory. Art.
I had written my particular essay knowing that the journey I wrote about was likely about to take a serious left turn. I did not want the journey to end, but I could see the end was coming.
The wonderful thing was that I was published again, I got to read, I had friends and family in the audience, and my oldest daughter stand with me at the podium.
Flash forward two years. I recently had the opportunity this weekend to actually watch the movie, Wild.
I am now a total fan of Cheryl Strayed. She is brave, honest, authentic, and unashamed. She wrote about things I would never have been brave enough to broach.
She has helped me “come out of the woods.” There are so many things I have felt ashamed about, wondered about, even sometimes hated myself about.
That’s what writers do; help others feel less alone. They encourage and validate, in writing and in life.
“There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another.
What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die, or take another course.
What if I forgive myself? What if I was sorry? But if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently…but if all those things I did were the things that got me here…
What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
After I lost myself in the wilderness and my grief, I found my own way out of the woods.
And I didn’t even know where I was going until I got there. Thank you, I thought, for everything the trail had taught me. And everything I couldn’t yet know…
My life. Like all lives: Mysterious, irrevocable, and sacred.
So very close. So very present. So very belonging to me. How wild it was,
To let it be.”
–Some of the final lines from Wild, the movie