I’m now starting to truly understand the essence of Strayed’s journey. I believe she’s already made immense strides in her emotional journey. I take this to be her ultimate prize. However, she also appears to be setting herself back. Strayed has become close with those she’s come across on the PCT. Her friends represent the new chapter of her life. Yet she doesn’t view her companions as permanent. She seems perfectly at peace as she says goodbye to Doug and Tom, not knowing if the farewell is “forever or for fifteen minutes” (Strayed 119). It appears as if she’s still quick to distance herself from others. On the one hand, her ability to let go is remarkable. She’s still her own person outside of her small, developing hiking group. This feeling completely contrasts the earlier Strayed we were introduced to in the beginning of the book. She has struggled with the difficulty in finding herself. Yet here, she knows the parting of ways is inevitable. Rather than dreading the breaking of a cultivating bond, she cherishes the moments they each spent together on the PCT. It’s quite beautiful, in my opinion. However, Strayed goes on to describe her sense of aloneness: “Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world” (119). Prior to her hike, I think Strayed felt trapped. She had either been stuck in her childhood town, where her mother no longer resided, or she was confined within her marriage, despite moving from one city to another. She didn’t have a chance to change for herself; everything and everyone around her pressured her into remaining the same person as she had been before her mother’s death. Now, she paradoxically finds comfort in the “whole wide world.” Every move she makes is judgement free; she’s choosing her own path, without really knowing that which will lies ahead for her. Again, in these moments, Strayed uncovers her courage and strength. I figured, it could only be up-hill for her.
Nonetheless, Strayed encounters personal obstacles. She time and again questions faith—whether she has any and exactly what faith signifies in the grand scheme of things. She’s at first unsure if she’ll ever reach the Sierra Nevada area: “I thought how far I had yet to go that I lost faith that I would get there” (Strayed 120). Just a few sentences after, she mentions her lost Trojan condoms. With the two instances in relatively the same thought process, I fear Strayed is far too often returning back to her old self. I think it’s safe to say, Strayed was borderline depressed after her mother’s passing. Rather than applauding herself for making it three weeks thus far on the PCT, she questions her ability to continue. She’s already surpassed any barriers she assumes harbor within her. She’s unable to see her worth. This becomes astonishingly clear as she brings up the situation with her stolen condoms, suggesting she would once more turn back to her previous, destructive ways—the Cheryl which took company wherever she could find it, without even the presence of a connection. Yet, for me, one of the most evident moments of her habitual state of mental cloudiness comes as Strayed debates hiking through the snow. My analysis starts on page 121, with the paragraph beginning, “I didn’t look at the bank of boulders…,” and ending on the first paragraph of the next page. Strayed uses the words me, alone, or solo six times. She’s overcome with her supposed shortcomings. She is reeling from her sense of aloneness in the world. Nature is a constant reminder of her mother, and moments inevitably come about in which she reminisces over why she needed the journey in the first place. When Doug and Tom invited her to continue through the trail with them, Strayed replies, “(sic) the point of my trip is that I’m out here to do it alone” (122). Even as she makes the given statement, I think she finds the absurdity in her need to continue by herself when the chance for company sits right at her feet.
Strayed embarked on the hike to find herself. However, she must also uncover how she now fits into the world as an individual. What’s her identity within society? She’ll never understand her individuality if she doesn’t embrace the possibility of friendship and relationships other than those of a sexual manner. She’s far too ready to settle for an intimacy which will barely last her until the next day. She only wants “someone to press [her] body against” (123). Ironically, she doesn’t want “someone to love” (123). It’s almost as if she’s forever questioning loves existence, seeing as the one person who cared for her most in this world left in such a tragic fashion. She wasn’t able to officially say goodbye, which I believe has haunted her all along.
Though Strayed feels blessed to be on this journey, I honestly believe she wishes it wasn’t such a necessity. Perhaps if her hike was just a simple, vacation-type adventure her attitude towards the PCT would be different. This is evident as she speaks with Greg and remarks on his backstory: “His life, it was clear, was an ordered and considered thing. It seemed both boring and astounding to me” (Strayed 125).
Strayed is an excellent companion herself. Despite her constant sway of emotions, she knows how to be someone else’s partner. She could have walked away from Greg as they try to hitch a ride to Sierra City. However, she chooses to stay with him. Perhaps it’s because, as she mentions time and again, she has a sexual attraction to him. However, I think it’s more than that. Greg relied on Cheryl for help and this was appealing to her: “But we were together for now, so together we stayed…” (128).
I’m excited to continue on with Wild! It’s such an easy, yet insightful read!