Wild by Cheryl Strayed

*Trigger Warnings for the book/movie: sex, drug use, vomiting, body gore

Wild is a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed of her several month trek on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. She took to the trail a few years after her mother’s death nearly broke her and she was dealing with a crumbling family, drugs, and an ending marriage.

I originally saw the movie before reading the book and while the movie was done well enough, it would have definitely helped to read the book first. The movie starts with Cheryl starting on the trail and has flashbacks to why she’s walking from California to the Oregon/Washington border throughout. As someone who had very little knowledge of the story, I was a bit confused for the first part of the movie trying to figure out what had happened before the trail.

The book is definitely well written but ultimately, it wasn’t mind blowing or revolutionary. Her several month trek (and subsequent memoir) happen in a relatively predictable way so there weren’t many surprises or particularly gripping parts. It’s not that the book was poorly written or that the trek was a terrible journey – it was just predictable. Woman loses mother, goes through several rough years of sex and drug use, goes on several month hike, finds herself again.

Ultimately, the book was really well written – Strayed is definitely a writer with a strong voice. It’s definitely a book I’m glad I read but probably will not pick up again. While the journey is predictable to a certain extent, I would recommend reading it if you are into hiking and backpacking.

Food Deserts and Food Forests

The USDA defines food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers” . Michigan State University has a similar definition, adding in that the same area with limited access to fresh/healthy food has 20% of the population living below the poverty line. Being able to access fresh food can be incredibly difficult, whether that be through lack of transportation, stores not being close by, or lack of time or money to buy fresh food.

Food deserts are areas in which accessing fresh food is incredibly difficult. The below map highlights where people live in food deserts and the USDA has a larger and interactive version of this map.


Ron Finley gave a TED Talks about being a guerrilla gardener in South Central LA, speaking about living in a food desert and planting gardens in vacant lots.

Food forests are similar to what Finley discusses, have started in several cities, including Seattle and Austin and in the case of the two cities mentioned, might have city support behind them. These forests are, as far as I can tell, run by some community members. But there are some who aren’t that fond of food forests, including Toi who wrote a piece on Black Girl Dangerous called “Frankly Not About Food Forests“. Toi brings up incredibly valid criticisms of food forests and I highly recommend reading what they wrote.

It’s important to remember that while trying to address food deserts and issues surrounding food, you can’t just bulldoze past the people you’re trying to serve.

Self Care

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

– Audre Lorde

Self care is so incredibly important for everyone, especially so for activists. It took me years to realize that constantly going and working would burn me out so quickly. Taking care of yourself is just as important as any other part of the fight.

There are plenty of places that provide ideas and resources for self care, including:

  • The Self Care Zine
  • Your Mental Health First Aid Kit
  • There are multiple master posts (including this one) on Tumblr
  • Self Care 101 – Everyday Feminism

Self care can really be anything that allows you to take a break and check in with yourself. It can be writing, spending time alone, watching movies, hanging out with friends, napping, etc. There’s no one right way to do self care and it doesn’t always mean spending time alone.

I used to feel an incredible amount of anxiety for taking time for self care before I had the words for it. The semester that I was advocating for legal protections at my school, I spent weeks and weeks just constantly going. I was always talking to people, editing and filming videos, doing school work, (occasionally) attending classes. I was barely sleeping, answering emails between bites of food, and hardly showering.

I was really fortunate to be living with two of my closest friends at the time who started to see me getting incredibly burnt out and would make me food when I was hardly eating. One Friday and Saturday, they forced me to take a break and cooked a ton of food and we had a movie marathon with no laptops or cell phones. I still think about those months a lot and so thankful that those friends forced me to spend time taking care of myself.

Take care of yourself everyone

LGBTQ+ Homeless Youth

Homelessness is a significant issue for many LGBTQ+ youth because despite being a small percentage of the general population, there are estimates that suggest that up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and that family rejection is a big reason why. And the number of youth experiencing homelessness is growing in some cities.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has compiled a list of resources for LGBTQ+ homeless youth, including research done in 2002 about experiencing homelessness and another report form the National Coalition for the Homeless. KBOO, a community radio station in Oregon, did a piece in 2010 that highlighted stories of LGBTQ+ youth being kicked out. Lambda Legal has a brochure about this issue and the Homelessness Resource Center has a long list of resources available as well.

There are resources available to LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. Some cities (usually major ones) that have community centers and/or shelters that help, including:

  • New Alternatives in New York City
  • SMYRC (Sexual and Gender Minority Resource Center) in Portland, OR
  • Janus Youth Programs in Portland, OR (not specific to LGBTQ+ youth)
  • The ISIS House in Seattle, WA
  • Essex County LGBT RAIN Foundation in East Orange, New Jersey
  • Youth on Fire in Cambridge, Massachusetts

There are other resources out there but being able to access consistent and transitional housing is so important. And of course, there are issues like discrimination based on gender identity/expression from homeless shelters themselves. Ultimately, I believe that the queer community (myself included) needs to step up more to support queer youth experiencing homelessness.

Post Grad Life

Last May, I graduated college and like some other college kids around the US, I moved home and still live with my parents. The decision to move home was in part because after four years (and watching my little sister grow up), I missed my family and hometown. It was also in part because my dad isn’t in the best health so I wanted to be able to spend more time with him. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my new found freedom from school. I didn’t have any job offers or even any leads so after a couple weeks, my dad offered a summer position for me at his company. That lasted for a couple months and I took some inconsistent pet sitting during that as well. But with no further job opportunities (other than a few occasional times of pet sitting), I decided to go back to school and do a certificate program at the local community college, which I quickly realized was not going to be a good fit.

Now, I’m unemployed with no school to go back to. Every day for the past few weeks has felt busy but not productive. I’m constantly doing chores for my parents like cleaning or walking the dog; consistently doing things but not accomplishing anything. Plus, the more strained my relationship with my dad gets, the more I regret moving home.

What’s even better is having questions of my future constantly thrown at me from family and friends. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do and the societal pressure to be constantly productive is overwhelming. With my depression and anxiety, productivity comes and goes. Some days I’m able to get a lot done – I go on long walks, I write a lot, I get some reading done, I clean, etc. During those days, I feel productive and validated. But that doesn’t happen all the time – in fact, it happens very rarely. Most days, I’m barely able to do the minimum to get through and I have no motivation to start things.

Additionally, the more time I spend at home, the more I feel like I’m spiraling down my own rabbit hole of depression and anxiety. I feel trapped in this weird world where I feel like the most formative years I’ve had never actually happened. I don’t feel good enough here, I don’t feel like I have anything going for me. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I don’t really have a focus. I want to feel less hollow