Wild Book: What Do You Plan To Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life?

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I’ve been catching up on some memoirs and recently finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed. (I haven’t seen the movie.) I mention it here because the author did a “Big Awesome Thing” in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I think achieving financial freedom is also a “Big Awesome Thing”. I thought – What makes a person able to accomplish a “Big Awesome Thing”?

First, instead of rehashing another plot summary for the book, I’ll steal the blurb from Amazon:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Cheryl Strayed father also left her when she was young. An excerpt from the book:

The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.

In my opinion, the lack of a strong father figure and the early death of her mother left her without the support or belief that she had power over her own life. But by pushing herself to do this seemingly random but difficult task and overcoming many obstacles along the way, she discovered that she did have that power inside. Perhaps each person is drawn to a different “Big Awesome Thing” that can be the first stepping stone to a life lived consciously. Hers was being free in the wild:

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.

After that, Strayed could attain happiness and fulfillment because she had the belief that she could change her own circumstances. Her actions mattered. It was worth trying, taking that risk to make your life better. I fear that many others have lost that self-belief and thus don’t even try.

I enjoyed the following excerpt from a poem that was included in the book – “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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  1. Interesting. It seems that some of life’s greatest struggles bring about the greatest rewards. Although it’s of a different magnitude, this evokes thoughts of the many people who lose a job and ultimately determine that experience to be a gift.

  2. Why can’t a mother teach children how to be warriors? Sen. Tammy Duckworth was a combat helicopter pilot who lost her leg the Iraq war – but for her daughter to learn to be a warrior, she’ll have to pick that up from her dad? I haven’t read the book, so anyone who has can correct me if the author has good answers to those questions, but I’m guessing MMB picked that quote because it was representative of the book and not an anomaly of her view on the role of parents.

    • For me, it has really helped to investigate and to think of it in terms of the “archetypal qualities” of mothering and fathering, irregardless of what mix of these qualities come from the actual mothers and fathers.

      Even though Im a strong feminist, it still helps me to explore what archetypal fathering (and mothering) qualities I missed out in my home with an absent father and a mother who tried to provide the full range of roles, so I can get clear on what I need to give to myself as an adult.

      I think it’s unhealthy that we should expect that parents are going to be able to provide completely the full range of what’s needed and instead expect that adults are going to have to identify and learn how to give needed qualities to ourselves.

      • I don’t think anyone was saying parents are going to provide the full range of what’s needed – so we agree there. I just don’t think it’s healthy or accurate to say biological sex determines what values you are able to teach children or that teaching qualities associated with a “warrior” is a man’s role, as the excerpt says.

  3. Absolutely loved this post.

    I have been a Jonathan reader since he started and loved and gain so much from his and his family’s willingness to be vulnerable in sharing their journey.

  4. The Frugal Millionaire says

    I’m not sure I’m getting the message here. A long hike is a one time, finite event with a beginning and an end, while achieving financial independence is a lifelong trip/process. It takes lots of effort to get there, and every bit as much effort to stay there.
    Also, there’s something about “living your wild life” (being impulsive?) that seems to be in direct opposition to the long, slow, and often laborious process needed to achieve major financial goals.
    Financial independence is achieved by choosing long term goals over short term ones…right?

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