As the credits rolled at the end of Wild, my friend and I were completely silent. This is a movie that neither needs nor asks for applause, yet earns it anyway.
And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack! I’m listening to it as I write this—no joke.
Wild—an idyllic name for this movie.
Cheryl Strayed— a real woman who truly discovered the meaning of suffering and its redemptive quality. A woman who changed her last name to “Strayed” because she had done just that. A woman who reshaped her life, taking it by the overstuffed backpack straps and loudly declaring, “Enough! Time for a change!”
I would never do what Cheryl Strayed did.
I wonder how many people who watched (or read) ‘Wild’ whispered that exact sentiment consolingly to themselves. Betray a loved one? I would never. Do hard drugs? Appalling. Hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail as self-punishment and healing? Ha! Right… maybe in an alternate universe where I’m reincarnated as Bear Grylls.
The movie opens with Cheryl (played by Reese Witherspoon) resting atop a rock, overlooking a breathtakingly gorgeous mountain landscape, and she’s… ripping her toenail off in agony.
I had to turn away for fear of splatter-painting the floor with my dinner.
But, after finishing the movie, I realized in appreciation that it was a flawless metaphor for her voyage. Cheryl was surrounded by the beauty (and sometimes treachery) of nature, all the while purging herself of the pain that she had endured over the span of several years. She had lost her purpose, but instead of curling up into the fetal position or continuing on the self-destructive path she had become so comfortable with taking, Cheryl set out to find herself again.
So she stuffed a gi-freakin’-normous backpack full of every little item that a human could possibly ever need on a solitary hike and lugged it across the diverse terrain of the West Coast: mountains, desserts, and forests. She returned to simplicity, the bare necessities (thanks, Disney, for the accompanying song) to rid herself of the terrible hand life insisted on dealing her.
Take the emotional and relatable journey this real woman experienced and pair it with mountains majesty—innumerable picturesque views of what makes America so beautiful—, and you have ‘Wild.’ You have a fascinating window into the soul of a woman who transformed her life.
Isn’t that what we’re all looking for: a chance to take hold of the reigns and make tangible accomplishments? Maybe we’re not always in control of our fickle lives, but if Cheryl’s story will teach you anything, it’s that it’s never too late to rectify past mistakes and follow your feet onto a new path of personal growth.
“Fearless was my middle name //
But somewhere there I lost my way //
Everyone walks the same // Expecting me to step //
The narrow path they've laid //
They claim to // Walk unafraid //
I'll be clumsy instead”
—First Aid Kit