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Grilling Steak: An Analogy

GraceNL's picture

Grilling Steak: An Analogy

            When Cheryl Strayed first started her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) during the summer of 1995 she was emotionally and physically unprepared for the challenges ahead. She was broken. She was unable to move on from the past, which consumed her. She was raw.

Emotionally she was raw. She was unfinished, crude, and painfully exposed. When her mother died her life fell apart. As Strayed said herself in her memoir “Wild”, “It hadn’t occurred to me that my mother would die” (20). Strayed, like many people, believed that her mother would live to a ripe old age and they would have each other for years to come. But that wasn’t to be. Her mother died and a little part of Strayed died along with her. After her mother’s death Strayed was unable to continue as the person she had been before. She drifted away from the people she loved, Karen, Leif, Eddie, Paul. She got a divorce with Paul, a man whom she still loved at the time but had cheated because her “…grief obliterated [her] ability to hold back” (34).

Physically she was raw. She wasn’t properly prepared or trained. She was inexperienced. When she first tried to lift Monster, her backpack, “it wouldn’t even budge”(42). She had done very little research into hiking the PCT. She didn’t know how to use a compass. Monetarily, she wasn’t properly prepared. When she began, she overestimated how far she could walk in a day, walking far less than she was hoping. She had “…raw patches of flesh…” on her back and hips (66). Her “…feet hurt both inside and out, their flesh rubbed raw with blisters…”, caused by her too small boots (70). She honestly didn’t know what she was doing.

When she began, Cheryl Strayed was raw. She was unfinished, undefined but as the book progresses that changes. Little by little she grows. Little by little she grows both as a PCT hiker and as a person. Little by little she finds herself. Strayed’s journey is like a nice juicy piece of steak being cooked on a grill.

Just like how on a grill the steak is cooked from raw to rare to medium rare to medium to medium well to well done, Strayed changes, transitioning from one version of herself to another version. She learns, she grows, she experiences something new and that changes her. Just like how on a grill the longer you leave a piece of steak the more done it gets the longer she stays on the PCT the more she changes. Gradually, Strayed becomes someone one who is both the same and different as the person she was before. She is still steak but just of a different consistency. She is still Cheryl Strayed; she is just a different version of Cheryl Strayed.

By the time she completes the Californian part of her hike she is medium rare to medium done. She has learned the ways of the PCT. She has met and learned from other PCT hikers. With the help of The Eagle Scouts, Monster is no longer so scary, now more suited for hiking the PCT. She has dealt with snow, dealt with hot and cold, dealt with getting lost, dealt with not having enough water or money. In her memoir, “Wild”, it is around this point that Strayed truly stops complaining so much about how much pain she is in. She stops complaining about her back being rubbed raw, her skin hardened into “…what [she] can only describe as a cross between tree bark and a dead chicken after it’s been dipped in boiling water and plucked”(190). She comes to terms with this and accepts it. She stops focusing on how much her feet hurt and how raw they are with blisters. They still are in terrible shape but she chooses to focus on other things more. More on the beauty of the nature around her and on the interactions she has with the people she meets. She is now walking around 20miles per day. She can now hold her own in a conversation about hiking the PCT. She is a PCT hiker. Physically she has changed. Physically she is well done but emotionally she is still rare. It isn’t until she had almost reached the end of her trip that she became emotionally stable and well done.

When Strayed began her trip she was so emotionally attached to her mother that she couldn’t let go and her grief ran her life. Both mentally and physically she couldn’t let go. When they buried her mom’s ashes Strayed “… put the burnt bones into [her] mouth and swallowed them whole” (269). She was unable to move on from her mom’s death. But as Strayed hiked the PCT she had time to think about her Mom and to come to terms with her loss. So by the time she had almost reached Mazama she had forgiven her Mom for everything that had happened. And right before she reached the Bridge of the Gods, Strayed crossed a river and left her mother “on the other side of the river…” and then “…something inside of [her] released” (306).

By the time Strayed reached the end of her journey at the Bridge of the Gods, continuing with the steak analogy, Strayed was well done. She was physically in tune with the PCT and emotionally in tune with herself. She had gone on a journey of self-discovery and had grown and changed. Through her journey on the PCT Strayed had become a new type of raw. Raw with potential for the future.



Work Cited

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. New York City:

Random House,  2012. Print.


calamityschild's picture

thank u