There are some books that you pass on like good deeds. In fact it’s almost a crime to keep these books on your shelf, because they’re working books (as opposed to leisurely books that are ruined on beach vacations, their soggy carcasses left in hotels). Worker books shouldn’t be lying around unread. Their pages should be turned, their words making people stop pause consider and change. One such book is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
For years, Cheryl Strayed fielded questions from the “lost, lonely, and brokenhearted” under the guise of Sugar for The Rumpus magazine. Her empathetic, personal responses gained a huge following, and add to the myth of Cheryl herself.
“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
Since reading that book the summer before my senior year of college, I’ve bought about 10 copies to give to friends. There is no inappropriate time to receive this book. Even if none of the advice columns directly relate to situations you find yourself in, Strayed’s responses are universal. They’re about striving to be a better, kinder person. She makes the specific apply to everyone.
Right now, many Americans find themselves in a surreal situation, something universal that feels like it’s also rocking your whole personal life. While the same footage of Voldemort getting sworn in is aired on TVs across the world, it’s all still very specific. I found myself this morning shaking my head and just being like: what the…
Then I caught myself. I caught myself because once, someone wrote Cheryl Strayed a letter that said, “WTF, WTF, WTF.” That’s all the letter said. Apathy and nihilism personified. Apparently that letter haunted Strayed. She didn’t know how to answer it. Then, she figured it out.
I give you her response. Read it the whole way through.