Debt Success Stories: Cheryl Strayed | Refresh Financial

Debt Success Stories: Cheryl Strayed

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Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a bowl of Redenbacher’s and watching the flick, Wild, with Reese Witherspoon. It’s an emotional movie that follows a thirty-something woman as she hikes the Pacific Coast Trail with no experience. She’s walking away from her grief after having lost her beloved mother. It’s not action-packed or suspenseful, there is no feel-good romantic subplot, it’s not going to send you into fits of laughter. It’s just a real story, from a real human being, experiencing the very real things we all will at some point in our lives, and her unique way of dealing with it. It’s moving, and visually beautiful and if, by the end, you have not shed a tear, you are one cool customer, my friend.

The movie was written by Cheryl Strayed, who lived it. Her book, of the same name as the film, was based on her very real experiences hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. She really did it on a whim, she really did it out of grief for her lost mother, and she came home and wrote about it in a beautifully written, critically acclaimed book that inspired the Reese Witherspoon big screen version. Wild is worth every minute, whether you’re reading it, or watching it.

Strayed always thought of herself as a writer. For most of her life, before she’d ever had a book published, she knew she was a writer. While she grew in different careers and areas of study, she struggled to find the time to write like she knew she was capable of. She eventually realized that full-time work wasn’t going to get her to her dream, so she left the path she was on, and became a part-time waitress. The rest of the time, she wrote.

Cheryl was determined, and while she began her writing career, she sank deeper and deeper into serious credit card debt. What her small hourly wage and tips didn’t cover, her various forms of credit did. Strayed jokes that she should have thanked Visa and Mastercard in the dedication of her book.

While risks like this don’t often pay off, for Strayed it did. Her first book advance, for Torch, was worth $100,000. Her next book, Wild, brought in a $400,000 advance. By following her dream, and truly committing to it, Strayed not only paid off thousands in credit card debt, but she also became a well-known name, and a character played by Reese Witherspoon.

This is definitely not the most financially sound way to achieve your dream, but finally getting that credit monkey off her back, must have felt like a serious win for Strayed.

Have you seen Wild? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!

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