#806 Cheryl Strayed’s radical sincerity

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed at TEDxConcordiaUPortland; photo clip from talk

“Our deepest treasures are buried in the crappy detritus in our life.” Cheryl Strayed, TEDxConcordiaUPortland


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail completely captured my imagination. I could not put down Cheryl Strayed’s account of her hike along part of the Pacific Coast Trail.

Strayed lost her mother to cancer, within weeks of the diagnosis. Grief sent her on a self-destructive course. The chance finding of a guide book to the Pacific Crest Trail offered her a challenge and a way out. Strapping on Monster, the overly heavy, overly filled pack she took on her hike set her back on track. Feet blistered, body rubbed raw by the pack, she kept putting one foot in front of the other. The simple act of finding water or watching a brilliant sunset became balm for her soul. Though she was a completely inexperienced backpacker, she hiked through isolation, pain and risks, never losing sight of her goal.

By the end of the hike, she had, as she says in her TED talk, “Radical Sincerity”, learned how to be resilient, that she could bear the unbearable, and that she could live in the world without her beloved mother.

Reading Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (the advice column she wrote for The Rumpus), I was inspired by her willingness to share the deepest recesses of her life as well as the highs.

Her talk embodied what the “radical sincerity” she chose as the title of her TED talk. These passages leaped out at me as I watched:

So much of that reach-for-the-extraordinary is bound up in the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the darkness, the difficulty, the things that we bury.

What we accomplish is built on what we failed at, what we tried at, what we hope to do better some day.

The definition of the word ‘radical’ is ‘of the root, of the origin, the fundamental’, and ‘sincere’ means ‘true’….I do think that the journey to the extraordinary is through the true root, finding in ourselves that voice that we know to be true, that we recognize as the voice that makes the most sense.”

The talk gives me hope, not just for my own writing but for everyone who has ever felt the sting of self-doubt, the wrench of guilt, the ache of failure and for everyone who has ever known the giddiness of creativity, the ecstasy of love, the heart-stopping wonder of joy.

In other words, it gives me hope for all of us.

You can follow Cheryl Strayed on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.


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