For fans of Cheryl Strayed, her recent visit to Rasmussen College was a chance to meet the New York Times best-selling author and hear her story firsthand. For those who haven’t read her memoir Wild, the author’s appearance turned into a lesson of resilience and strength.
Strayed stopped by the Rasmussen College Blaine campus on Wed., March 20, 2013 and spoke to a room full of students, faculty and members of the public. The Minnesota native shared stories of growing up in northern Minnesota and the struggles she faced with divorce and drugs after her mother’s sudden death when Strayed was just 22-years-old.
“I sort of reached bottom and was no longer the woman my mom raised me to be,” said Strayed. “I thought I was honoring my mom by self-destructing, but I later realized the way to honor my mom was to move on and thrive.”
And move on is exactly what Strayed did in the form of a 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s the basis of her memoir Wild, which gained widespread acclaim in 2012, including selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Along her hike, Strayed faced rattlesnakes and black bears, as well as intense heat and record snowfalls. At times, her adventures are so intense you wonder if she’ll make it out alive.
“Growing up in northern Minnesota, I thought I knew the wilderness, but the truth is I had never been backpacking before,” said Strayed. “I couldn’t even lift my pack at first because it was too heavy.”
One member of the audience asked Strayed about what it was like being a woman alone in the wilderness.
“There were definitely moments when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but things were different back then,” said Strayed. “If anything, being a woman may have actually helped because people were more willing to pick up a female hitchhiker.”
Strayed says she is often asked why she waited so long to tell her incredible story. It wasn’t until 2008 that she started writing her memoir – more than a decade after taking the walk of her life.
“I wrote Wild because I was a writer, not because I took a hike,” said Strayed. “Until I had something to say, I didn’t have something to tell you.”
Wild isn’t Strayed’s first book. Her novel Torch was published in 2006. She also recently wrote New York Times bestseller Tiny Beautiful Things, which is a culmination of writings from the ‘Dear Sugar’ advice column on The Rumpus. For the longest time, no one knew Strayed was ‘Sugar’. During her visit, she read one of her experts from Tiny Beautiful Things where she gave advice to a group of graduating English majors who were uncertain about their future.
“Alright is where we always land,” read Strayed from her book. “Faking it never works.”
After her reading, Strayed signed books for dozens of fans in the Rasmussen College library and enjoyed refreshments and conversation with those in attendance. Strayed currently lives in Portland, OR with her husband and two children.
Strayed says she got her start as a writer at a very young age. She would read books and then write about them in her diary. She became more serious about writing in college. That's when Strayed says she began emulating some of her favorite authors. For more on Strayed's personal success story, including her secrets for success watch the video below.