Sometimes I pick up a book because it’s on some “best of” list in a magazine or book review, or because I’ve heard about it from a literary friend whom I respect and admire. But sometimes I just go into the neighborhood bookstore on a random weeknight after work and pick the brightest, prettiest book with the words “National Bestseller” sprawled across its cover.
I figure, a bestseller is a bestseller for a reason.
I was feeling down and out the other day and went straight to the bookstore after work, because somehow these days the bookstore is the only thing that can cheer me up. The peace and isolation of a bookstore is an old comfort, one that I’ve relied on my whole life. One is surrounded by great words, or if not great, at least words that have managed to clamber up onto some publisher’s desk and make it in between two covers. For a writer, a bookstore is both a humbling and a comforting place, one where you can track the careers of famous and canonized writers and the next minute flip through the pages of a cheap paperback and feel completely reassured that at the very least, your writing is better than that. :)
Ah, well that night I found myself returning again and again to the trendy bestselling section. Those are the prettiest, and sometimes you just want to run your hand over the new shiny ones filled with so much promise, as if life could miraculously become like that - shiny and new again. I found myself circling around a bright red book with an enticingly strange name, picking up all the books nearby then putting them down. Finally I opened up the book that I really wanted to open but somehow had resisted. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed. I soon realized that it was a compilation from an advice column written by Cheryl Strayed, who went by “Sugar.”
Well, if there was anything I needed at that moment on that evening after that day at work, it was advice on life and love. And reading about other people’s problems is a great salve to one’s own. Things both at home and in the office have been tough, and not really as I’d expected they’d be when I first took the job, or first signed the lease with the boyfriend for the long haul. But reading the book reminded me that very few things are as expected.
If I could distill the two overarching pieces of advice from the book, they would be these:
Love and work with all your heart if that’s what your heart is telling you to do; it’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it.
Leave quickly and without fuss if that’s what your heart is telling you to do; it’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it.
In the hard times recently, I’ve tried to remember these messages. In love and life you really only have two options - try harder, or get out. And without writing to Dear Sugar about my specific situations, I've realized that I already know which paths to take. Execution is the hard part, but no one can really help me there.