Everything I need to know, I learned from Cheryl Strayed

Though I have had plenty of opportunities before, I finally got to see Cheryl Strayed speak last night. Today is a couple of days after a dear friend’s birthday–a young lady who has truly grown into her feminism over the past year or so. Last night, we got to hear two strong, beautiful, smart women speak on feminism. Nothing could have been greater.

I love being surrounded by women, young and older, new to feminism and experts in the fight for equality. I love everything about being a woman and I am so grateful to have heard one of my heroes speak last night. Because it is a month of being thankful, there is no better time to thank Cheryl Strayed than this specific day.

EINTKILF Cheryl Strayed

Everything leads up to the present

Wild, the book and movie, tells the story of Strayed’s true journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother has passed away and she has hit a very realistic and understandable rock bottom. The PCT is not an easy hike, as most Pacific Northwesterners (like myself) are aware. Strayed learns everything in the world on that hike and truly takes the time to be alone and reflect on her life and losses. While reading Wild, I felt like I was on the journey with her. Though I very luckily still have my mother, I have experienced a lot of the stuff Strayed had gone through at that point. I would never be brave enough to get up and hike such a journey alone, but reading her book, I felt a life cleanse within myself.

Strayed realizes that if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t do anything differently. I truly feel that for my own life as well.

It’s okay to use your mistakes as lessons

Because if you went back in time and fixed everything you know about now, what would you have ever learned? Sure, we all have those nights or moments that we know we would never do again, but we only know that from experiencing them in the first place. Reflecting back on some of the things that made Strayed as strong as she is now, she realized that everything has been a lesson–even the not-so-great stuff.

Don’t beat yourself up—just learn from it.

We’re all in this together

If you have never read Tiny Beautiful Things, please stop reading this right now and go read that instead. (You can come back to this later.) Tiny Beautiful Things changed my life and that is not at all an exaggeration. I have purchased three copies of that book because I keep lending it out to people who need it the most. My friend going through a bender of affairs in which he couldn’t stop cheating on his long distance girlfriend; my friend who got married too young and couldn’t decide whether or not to get divorced; my friend who felt stale in her life post-kids and college–and I am sure my list will go on and on.

Reading Tiny Beautiful Things always reminds me that I am not alone, and that I really do care about humans, and that there is always someone out there who has experienced something similar to you, or something worse, and they have still made it through.

Your weight doesn’t matter

Again, a lesson I am constantly battling with throughout my life—I mean constantly—so it is nice to have these words.

“Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a s&$*?”

I hope I stop worrying about whether I am fat one day. I won’t lie and say that I’ve made it to the point yet, but I will say that that line always makes me smile. I want to believe it. I want to achieve it. I want to have my cake (and champagne) and eat them too without adding it to some kind of calories app. One day, you guys. I believe I’ll get there.

Forgiving yourself is important

Though it can certainly take some time, forgiving yourself is always very necessary. Everyone has done something they should not have done and everyone deserves to be able to forgive themselves. I hold myself highly accountable for everything in my life and one of the greatest, hardest lessons I have learned is to forgive myself. Even when it is 100% your choice, 100% your mistake, or 100% something you shouldn’t have done, you deserve your own forgiveness. Let yourself let it go—whatever it is that you are hanging onto.

You should try to love your life
In one of the many wonderful letters in Tiny Beautiful Things, Strayed advises someone that accepting the life you have chosen is the best you can do for yourself.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am the queen of “what ifs,” or at least I used to be. I constantly think about what life would be like if that one dude and I never broke up, or if I had a baby right now, or if I stayed at the coffee shop, or if I moved to Los Angeles, or if my dad had been around, or if I had forgiven him sooner, or if my stepdad was still alive, or if my family had grown up with money, or if I had never gone to college in the first place.

I think about what my life would be like under a million different circumstances, but guys, there is no other life. This is the one I have, and like Strayed advises, the only thing we can do is salute that ghost ship from the shore and love what we’ve got.

And I do love what I’ve got. I really mean that.

Keep moving forward

Though this doubles up as a lesson from Meet the Robinsons, one of the most important things I have learned from Strayed is to move onward in your journey of life.

Instead of stopping where you are and going backward into whatever caused you to move forward in the first place, why not look ahead? Full of intention, as we all should be, I encourage you all to move onward and upward in your lives. Keep moving forward instead of going back to where you started.

This is something I struggle with constantly, but I always, always have this quote in the back of my mind. Intention is important.

Let it be

My mother’s favorite Beatles song is “Let It Be,” so in turn, my favorite Beatles song is “Let It Be.” There is something very romantic and reassuring about the idea of letting something just be. I can be a bit of a control freak and of course I want everything to go my way but my ultimate motto is to just let things go. Whatever will be, will be. There is something very reassuring about it.

In Wild, one of my favorite lines is, “How wild it was, to let it be.”

You’ll feel better about everything if you can ever get to the point of letting something be. Put that song on. It helps.

Everyone has useless days

I know these things are true, I know they are my becoming. I know this because I learned more from the movie theater I worked at in high school than I ever did at my actual high school. I learned more about love from the boy who never kissed me than I have ever learned from any other boy. I learned more from my failed best friendship in college than I did in any college course. I learned more from my five years of managing a coffee shop than I have from any job I will ever have in my life. I learned more from nights I stayed up with too much wine and not enough sleep than I have ever learned from a cup of hot tea and eight hours of sleep.

The things that suck are the things that make you who are. The bad jobs, the days you don’t want to get out of bed, the friendships that are hard, the boys that break your heart–these things are your becoming. Live a little–you will definitely learn from it.

Be brave enough to break your own heart

Strayed gives a lot of advice on life and love and I honestly don’t know which advice I relate to more from her. Whenever she speaks on her past relationships, I cry. I cry because, though I have never been divorced, I have been through a breakup that gutted me entirely. I have broken up with people not because I stopped loving them, but because it was for the best. Sometimes the relationship has come back around, and sometimes it hasn’t. Strayed advises her 20-something self on lessons she has learned throughout her life. On my death bed, I will be thinking of this line. It has meant more to me than any advice I have ever received in my entire life. It is as if Strayed was speaking directly to me when she wrote it:

I have been brave enough since I read that line three years ago. I will always be brave enough since I have read that line. Sometimes all you need is a little push.

FYI: Strayed’s collection of quotes Brave Enough came out last week and I am so excited to buy it. Many more life lessons in there, I’m sure.

Images via Instagram.