Literary First Aid Kit: When you need to change your life

This may sound dramatic, but I have every faith in my recommendation and have a story to back it up. Besides, we may as well start off this section guns blazing.

When you’re going through any transitional life phase, from stagnating in your job, to trying to get over a person who had a hold over your heart, chances are you need a book that delivers you one important fact. Every wasted day, every hopeless night, every humiliating moment adds up to something. We are tougher than we give ourselves credit for and chances are we will end up where we are meant to, no matter how often we get in our own way.

A book that delivers this advice in spades is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. As Cheryl embarks on a life-changing hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, you can’t help but change alongside her. She documents messy emotions with disarming authenticity, in a way that never feels contrived. I won’t give the ending away but I will say that I found myself sobbing through the last paragraph - deep, ugly, punching the bed it hurt so much sobs.

At the time, I was travelling alone in East Africa and had recently broken up with someone I couldn’t shake off. Our break-up was an incredibly loving event, a decision between two grown-ups that could see their futures going in different directions. We weren’t speaking at all at the time as it was just less painful that way.

However, the book sparked something crazy in me, something that didn’t make sense at all. His birthday was coming up and I was convinced I needed to give him Wild. I ordered it off Amazon and wrote him a note alongside it telling him how grateful I was that he had passed through my life and that I only wished him the best, most beautiful life. On his birthday, I made my little brother drive the precious package to his office, drop it off and run as quickly as if it were a ticking bomb.

My ex read the note and called me. I was so shocked I threw my phone across the room! He read the book and called me again. We met for coffee to talk through some things. He took my hand from across the table. That was almost three years ago, and in December, we’ll be getting married.

Books can change your heart and, sometimes, the direction of your life. They are not to be treated lightly.