It seems that whenever I’m going through something difficult or about to, I read this book. Gilbert’s words give me hope. It makes me feel as if there is an end to the difficult situations I face.
This time around it’s not a difficult situation but difficult thoughts. I believe I’m suffering from a quarter-life crisis, the current trend on the internet these days. I don’t like trends much but this one seems fitting. I, like a number of 20-somethings/millennials, tend to get a bit anxious when comparing our future goals to our present situation. How will I ever get there? Will I spend the rest of my life doing the same things I’m doing now? Will I progress? When will I be successful? I had hoped that by the age of 25 I would be close to reaching my goals or at least half or quarter of the way there. But no, my dreams are slowly taking their time to come through.
The first time I read Eat, Pray, Love I was at a low moment. I was in a failing relationship. I could see it disintegrating and I had no idea of how to save it. It was also the end of my college years, the best years of my life. I could see myself heading towards a turning point and that turning point seemed to be directing me to go backwards. I realized that due to my exorbitant student loan bills, I would have to move back in with my parents—something I told myself I would never do. At that time, it seemed that I was failing at life: losing and regressing. As such, I was one sad student on graduation day. I didn’t want to leave school, didn’t want to face what would surely come, and my relationship was over. Reading Eat, Pray, Love during that tough time was a small ray of hope. It made me realize that bad situations don’t last forever if you are willing to work towards creating a happier life for yourself.
As much as I am aware of this lesson, I can’t help feeling lost when I think of the future. I’m working towards a brighter, better future, but it’s taking too long to manifest, which makes me think my dreams are impossible. Often I am plagued by negative thoughts, which are almost always based on my student loans. The way I see it, I’ll probably die with the ball and chain of my student loans tied to my leg dragging me to debt hell, where I will spend my days working to pay them and whenever I am close to eliminating them, a hellish amount of interest will be added, trapping me forever. Everything in life right now revolves around these damn loans and I hate it. If I had known, I would have dropped out of college. That would have been cheaper.
But this is about Eat, Pray, Love; not my sad, sordid tale of student loan woes. Re-reading this book helped to cheer me up. Gilbert makes you think that the universe is attuned to your suffering and your prayers and anything is possible. While this may be true, reality is often a drag that makes believing such things difficult. I think by now everyone is familiar with Gilbert’s memoir due to how popular the movie is. Actually, I just watched her most recent TED Talk where she says she was stopped at JFK airport by two Italian women and one claimed Gilbert wrote “that book based on that movie.” Hilarious! (By the way, check out her TED Talk, “Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating”. I included it below.)
Reading Gilbert’s book was like watching a flower bloom. You see the struggle in the beginning where she battles with her depression and the harshness of divorce and moving to Italy and having to tolerate the dampening feeling of loneliness. She slowly begins to bud there, finding some comfort in food and the warmth of friendship. Sprouts of happiness, or at least some contentedness, begin to show in India, where she spent hours meditating at an ashram. She blooms in Indonesia, becoming one of its many beautiful flowers. There, she finds happiness and love. It’s a wonderful structure for a book that acts as therapy for the writer. Gilbert carries us along on her personal journey, exposing herself on the pages as she tries to make sense of her toppled reality and gain some insight on how to set it aright.
She is a very descriptive writer. Poetic, too. As such, the first chapters that dealt with the darkest moments of that difficult period were hard to read. Her suffering is palpable and if the reader is also experiencing a rough patch, then it’s nearly impossible to read those passages without wanting to stop and cry like the author. The narrative lightens as the story progresses. There are a few bumps of course but it’s noticeable that the author is slowly leaving the darkness behind. What makes this book great is that the reader also feels lighter as she reads. It’s not that we merely read of Gilbert’s experiences, we feel it too. We feel the temporary satisfaction she gets while eating her way through Italy, trying to stuff the hole in her that depression leaks through. We feel her frustration when meditating at the ashram. We feel her spirit lighten while staying in Bali, slowly falling for Felipe.
The first time I read this book, I immediately wanted to hop on a plane and visit Italy, India, and Indonesia. I was so immersed in Gilbert’s experience and emotions that I thought if I should copy her journey, my journey would mirror hers. Silly, I know, but that’s what happens when a book grips you. You’ll spend days thinking about the story; you’ll want to visit the settings of the story or meet the characters or wish you were one of the characters. You’ll want to write something similar (I wanted to write my own Eat, Pray, Love as well) or create something based off the story you read. I think that’s a sign of a great story or creation—it lingers.
I think every bibliophile has “go to books,” books they read when faced with certain situations or emotions. Eat, Pray, Love will be my go to book for whenever my emotions start to go dark and I begin thinking that my life is running off course. It helps me to stop wallowing in self-pity and lightens my emotions as I read along. It makes me realize that all facets of my life cannot be controlled and sometimes it’s best to stop forcefully directing it and just let it flow. Of course, there are other books that provide similar messages but I prefer this one that is wrapped in poetic narrative. It’s like feeding myself candy to stave off pain.
I no longer want to copy Gilbert’s journey but I do plan to one day visit each of the countries she’s been to for my own reasons, mostly to see the art and architecture there. However, I still want to meet Ketut Liyer and have him read my palm. I wonder what he would say. Hopefully, it’s something along the lines of no longer having student loans and no one in my family will be plagued by them. Anyways, if you haven’t yet read it, give Eat, Pray, Love a try.
Quotes from the book:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”
“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
“Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Love, Pray: TED Talks – Your elusive creative genius – and Success, failure and the drive to keep creating (mowbraybydesign.com)
- 3 Female Memoirists: Kerman, Gilbert, & Strayed, or, Why They All Gotta Be Blonde? (inthegardenofeva.com)
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (marshasusantracy.wordpress.com)
- Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (thesolitarybookworm.wordpress.com)