An Apology To Cheryl Strayed

written by Tiana Kai
Book signing with Tim Ferris and Cheryl Strayed at SXSW

I want to get something off my chest, so what better way than to write a public post so strangers can read it and judge me? It’s also the best way to get my butt to start writing again, so here goes…

Tim Ferris podcast at SXSW with Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed being interviewed by Tim Ferris at SXSW

I was recently in Austin, Texas for SXSW, an interactive/music/film conference. It was amazing! Besides the private events where I met so many incredibly smart people, some of which I’ve known online for many years like Mark Schaefer! and many new inspiring faces, this conference was filled with thought-provoking talks about bots, community, VR, and self empowerment.

That’s where we get to Cheryl. She was being interviewed on Tim Ferriss’s first live podcast at SXSW. I had to be there, as I have a serious biz-crush on Tim.

As for Cheryl, I was familiar with her work — Wild in movie form played by Reese Witherspoon. I’m that person who watches a movie, loves it and is shocked that it was first a book. Her story resonated with me. The heartache Cheryl went through pained me.

My mom has not passed, but I grew up (and still to this day) being petrified by just the thought of her not being around. Who would I connect to like I do my mom? Who would I be able to fully unload my self on to? Who else would always take me back no matter the selfish acts I commit? Who is there to patiently wait years for me to come back around? My mom has a bottomless well of love and patience for me. I feel it and I’ve trashed it a few times.

Also, I once spent a month in the wilderness. At 15, my mom threw an Outward Bound catalog on my desk and simply said “choose.” This catalog, for those who haven’t heard of Outward Bound, was filled with diverse outdoor options like a 5-day river rafting trip across Colorado, a 3-day hike through the canyons of New Mexico, and so on. I chose the shortest option, of course, and went to my mom and said “three days in New Mexico.” She barely looked back and said, “no, choose a month long trip.”

“WHAT?! Fine! Then this one!” I said in the most bratty voice possible and pointed to a 28-day trip that started off in Utah and explored the back country of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. A trip that included rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, summiting, and hiking the many long trails of all four states. No need to get into details, but it was the best trip – proving my strength and fearlessness. Side note- every kid should go on a trip like this.

Those are the two things, crippling love for my mom and a test of will forced upon me by nature, that I guess you can say bonds me to Cheryl’s story. But when I met her, I was so swept away by the fact that Tim Ferriss was by her side signing books at SXSW that I tuned her out. I have been listening to his podcasts for over two years and because of him, I started journaling and have been working on a morning and evening routine. These routines have helped my quality of life and have helped me focus more on books than consuming videos on YouTube until 1am.

Book signing with Tim Ferris and Cheryl Strayed at SXSW

My favorite memory of SXSW was the two minutes before this photo was taken

So, when it was my turn to get my books signed by Tim and Cheryl, I completely ignored her, as if Tim and I were the only ones in the room. While I was enveloped in his smile and shocked that he was talking to ME, I felt a tap on my left hand and a sweet voice that asked if I wanted my other books signed. I looked to the left and there she was. Cheryl was standing there so patient and sweet allowing me time to fall into Tim’s presence. I quickly said yes and thanked her for writing the two books I was having her sign, Wild and Brave Enough. Then I shifted back to Tim with a ridiculous high school grin and shook his hand for a second time thanking him for everything.

Cheryl Strayed Wild

Reading the last few pages of Wild from a raw food restaurant in Ashland, Oregon 20 minutes from my house – which is where Cheryl stayed for two nights during her PCT hike

The kicker is that I started reading Wild the next night and it had me weeping through the first few pages. My tears slid down towards my ears as I laid in bed reading her words that stung me and my love for my mom. The pain she wrote about was more touching than Tim’s podcasts, and yet I gave all my attention to him when in the end her words are what hit me hardest.

Cheryl, if you’re reading this, thank you for writing Wild and for being so bold in this one life we have. I finished Wild in two weeks and the day I read your last word I soon after hiked up Lithia Park in Ashland and contemplated my life and how my time in Southern Oregon may not make sense now, but it will, and when it does I will smile and be thankful for how things turned out.

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