Countless people look to Cheryl Strayed for advice. The author has become something of a spiritual leader, reassuring people that yes, they are strong enough and capable enough to live out their dreams.
Years before her hit memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" came out in 2014, Strayed was the anonymous author of an advice column in the online literary magazine The Rumpus called Dear Sugar, which she continues today on Substack.
In 2012, she compiled those columns into a book called “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which has since been adapted into a stage play by Nia Vardalos and now, a TV show, starring Kathryn Hahn.
Suffice to say, Strayed is a keeper of wisdom and emblem of homegrown enlightenment to many — except, often, her two kids.
Strayed shares an 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi, and 17-year-old son, Carver, with husband Brian Lindstrom, or "Mr. Sugar" as she calls him in her columns.
Speaking to TODAY.com, Strayed laughs when asked if her kids listen to her.
"Oh, the contradictions here ..." she says. "All these people are asking me for advice. And my young kids are like, 'Yeah, mom, OK, we already know you don't need to tell us.'"
Strayed says she gets this is the natural order of things.
"They're just doing their job as teenagers. It would be weird if they were like, you know, 'Please let me sit at your feet and listen to your wise words,'" she says.
After all, she was no different when she was their age.
"They're just doing their job as teenagers. It would be weird if they were like, you know, 'Please let me sit at your feet and listen to your wise words.'"
“As much as I love my mom, and I think the world is quite well aware of the fact that I love my mom deeply. I was just like them as a teenager. You know, I was the one rolling my eyes,” she says.
Strayed's mom, Bobbi Lambrecht, died of cancer in 1991 at age 45. Strayed was just 22 years old.
In 1995, Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, out of which came "Wild." On the journey, she came to understand that many of her mom's adages, which she had once written off, were actually words to live by.
Among them? “There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it. Put yourself in the way of beauty," Strayed wrote in "Wild," paraphrasing her mom's words.
Strayed says she had an "a-ha moment" during the hike when she realized she'd been following her mom's advice all along.
"I'm standing there on the Pacific Crest Trail, and I realize that's what I've done. I've done what my mom said I should do," she says. "I put myself in the way of beauty and my life is different because of it. I saved myself by doing that."
Parental advice, according to Strayed, has a "time release quality that means the kids can't take it in right then but they will later."
So, what wisdom is Strayed hoping her kids internalize?
"It's so important to always, like, tell the truth as soon as possible. Tell the truth to yourself as soon as possible, and to others, because very often we don't do that, and then it always leads to something bad," Strayed says. "I think that getting into the truth and telling it as soon as you possibly can, sets you free."
Reflecting on the legacy of Dear Sugar, Strayed says what she thinks resonates isn't the advice she gives, but the "affirmation and validation" she provides.
"It's not that I don't ever tell people what I think they should do. But almost always, the most important part is that kind of affirmation and validation," she says. "Very often the thing I tell them to do is the thing that they told me that they want to do, that they're afraid to say, that they actually do know what they need."