Sometimes there is a coming together of several different aspects of one’s life that promises to provide an insight or two. Earlier this year I saw a review of a book called Wild by Cheryl Strayed. In 1995, when she was 26, Strayed decided to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. This was only a couple of years after the 2,663-mile-long trail was finally completed. She hiked the trail to find herself, after her life had taken a long spiral downward. Her lack of experience and training for such a formidable journey amazed me.
It's a great read. I had been waiting for the book to come out in paperback, but I finally gave in and bought a discounted hardback of it at our local bookstore. I have since read it twice and will likely read it again.
Why is this story so compelling to me? For one, I love to walk and hike, and I recently did a short bit of the PCT trail. I've also taken a class on preparing for a long hike on it. Exercising outdoors — with what you see changing all the time — is a lot of fun. And, Ashland, Ore., where I live, is 10 miles from the PCT and thru-hikers (those who are hiking the entire trail) stop in town periodically during the summer. The local paper will do several stories during July and August about some of these folks.
When I was in my early 20s I was a bit lost and needed to find myself, much as Strayed did by taking this journey. The story of her struggle to come to terms with what was and to figure out who she would become, now makes a lot of sense to me. But Strayed writes this book in 2011, 16 years after she did the hike. That's a lot of time after the event, and in that time she has become someone with a perspective that is a bit more grounded and a bit wiser.
I've seen a similar change in me as time has gone by. Strayed's challenges remind me of when I was in my 20s and took on remodeling projects that were often quite challenging — sometimes for people who were not always the easiest to work for. The prices I charged were ridiculously low given all that I have since learned and experienced. If I kept on doing things the same way, my family and I would have been doomed to a life filled with a lot of struggling to get by.
Circumstances forced me to examine the choices I was making. I had to become more educated and skilled in how to run a business — much as Strayed gathers experience about life while on her hike — if I wanted things to be different. So I started learning.
Sixteen years from now, what do you want to be able to write about your life and the changes you decided to make so you could be living the life you wanted to live? Start thinking about that now. Need some food for thought and some inspiration? Consider reading Wild. —Paul Winans, a veteran remodeler, now works as a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage, and as a consultant to remodeling business owners. Contact him at email@example.com.