I finished reading this book recently. I happened upon it by accident. It was a happy accident.
There aren’t that many books which I’ve read where I can honestly say “I couldn’t put it down.” This one though was one of them. It really resonated with me and the funny thing is, I already knew how it was going to end even before I started reading it.
It’s a memoir and a harrowing tale of how a young woman named Claire Nelson from New Zealand, living in London, England at the time found herself fighting for her life when she accidentally ventured off the trail she was hiking on, alone in Joshua Tree National Park in California (she was house sitting for friends at the time in the area) when she lost her footing on a boulder and slipped off a cliff.
Unable to move from her hips down, a broken pelvis and her cellphone having lost its signal she spent the next four days fighting off the elements from the hot summer desert heat (and freezing cold nights), while trying to keep a watchful eye out for coyotes and venomous snakes, her survival instincts kicking into action and with what few items she still had left in her backpack she used to the best of her ability while laying there praying for someone to rescue her; her friends and family unaware she was even there (Note: NEVER go hiking alone without letting someone know where you are going to be).
What first drew me to this book was the author’s love for hiking and adventure but what I didn’t know before reading it was just how much more we actually had in common including her time spent living in Toronto and her “thirst” for Diet Coke.
Throughout the book she retells stories in a series of flashbacks to her life before the fall. They were so insightful.
Although Claire was already living her best life as a successful writer before the fall (something I dream about), able to travel the world freely and had a loving and very supportive group of family and friends behind her (as do I), she still felt unable to live a purposeful life anymore. I understood her sense of despair and felt it in relation to my own journey.
She spoke in great length about how she had been battling Depression and Anxiety for some time; how she had lost her direction in life; how she felt such an overwhelming disconnect from her friends and loved ones; how she never wanted to show her vulnerabilities to anyone; how she struggled immensely with the burdensome feelings of guilt when it pertained to allowing others to help her. All of which made her feel very much alone even though in her heart she knew she truly wasn’t.
I understood and felt every crushing emotion as I read further and further into her life and found myself holding on to her every word as to how she was able to reignite her will to live and eventually find her way back to true happiness after her rescue as well.
It was a book about self-reflection and self-discovery. It was a book about survival, self-doubt, acceptance, connection, resilience and letting go of your fears in order to find your happiness.
Her recovery, both mentally and physically didn’t happen over night. It was a very slow and arduous process with many setbacks along the way. Her journey felt so relatable on so many levels to my own struggles with the fear of failure, self-doubt, lost connections, being vulnerable and that feeling of loneliness which aches so deep inside me.
We all get lost sometimes and sometimes we trip and fall along the way as we venture off in different directions while trying to find our perfect trail. What I need to remind myself of and what I will take away most after reading this book is that it shouldn’t matter how many times we get lost, how many times we tumble and fall along the way or how long it may take us to find our “perfect” trail because each of the trails we take getting there are certain to help us become braver and stronger.
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