For a while now I have had the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It sat for weeks on my computer desk, a reminder of what I love to do (read) and what I aspire to do (write). You see, I know Cheryl. Or at least I thought I did…
About a week ago I finally was able to find time to pick up her book and start reading it. I haven’t finished yet. But one thing that I come away with, chapter after chapter, is that I never really KNEW Cheryl at all…
Many moons ago Cheryl and I, along with about 40 other people, graduated from a small town high school. McGregor High School to be exact in the small, little town of McGregor, Minnesota.
Cheryl was the head cheerleader, Homecoming Queen, she and Jeff were the head of the court at Prom. She was blonde, thin (too thin but that’s a whole other issue) and popular. In the “IN CROWD”. But at the same time she was shy, never flaunted her “in crowd” status and always had a look deep in her eyes that screamed “I am living someone else’s life please help me!!!”
But in small town McGregor in the 80’s you don’t walk up to the Homecoming Queen and ask her what’s wrong. You don’t pull her aside, pop a squat and tell her to spill her life’s sorrows. And for someone like me, band geek, 3 close friends who were NOT in the “in crowd”, one of the many that only got noticed to be rediculed, you definitely don’t presume to ask anything.
Not that it would have mattered anyway. High school is the worst invention. EVER. Some may say they had a great time in high school. It happens. But most of us live through it to get on with the actual task of living AFTER it. And rarely think about it except when those “5 year” notices start going around (or now the facebook page letting you know, by the same people each time, that it’s once again time to get together, drink ourselves silly, and remember the “good old days” in a way that distorts and alters the memories).
But I digress.
This is about me realizing that even though I thought I knew someone from high school so many years ago we aren’t going to bother to count, what I really knew was nothing. Not a damn thing. Yes, Cheryl was all those things I mentioned. But she was so much more. And became so much more. And in reading what she became, what she went through, overcame, how she fell only to fight back, I am humbled in way that words can’t express.
And it makes me realize that until we know, and even then we never really “know”, someone, we don’t know shit. We all live our lives, creating our perceptions based on our experiences, growing and becoming who we are based on those same things. But no one really “knows” us just as we don’t “know” them.
Look around you at work, on the street, in the grocery store, in all the cars you see and pass on the roads that take you to wherever it is you go. You can stereotype and make judgements based on those few minutes you encounter that person. But you don’t know what they have been through, their fears, their triumphs, their sorrows. And even if they told you, you still wouldn’t “know”.
Remember that the next time you think you know someone. You might know a little piece of them, but you don’t. Just like they don’t know you. Just like you don’t know me.
And that’s okay.
Thank you Cheryl for reminding me that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. And all books aren’t alike for a reason. And for sharing just a piece of you for the world to see. You’re more of an inspiration than you know.