Late last year I was reminded of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, The Hero’s journey where a person (the Hero) is called to face some sort of challenge that, if he succeeds will transform his life forever.
Campbell describes 17 stages for his Hero’s journey which go through 3 acts:
1. Departure (also Separation)
Examples of this journey include Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars, or Moses who led the exodus from Egypt, or any story where there is a problem to be solved, a main character who is called to take on the task, who answers the call (sometimes reluctantly) and is changed as a result.
The Call to Adventure isn’t something that happens only once in our lives. We often hear of people who are searching for their purpose or their calling, and the fact is we can get ‘called’ several times in our lives to do different things. The ability or willingness to answer that call is dependent on several factors:
· Where you are in your life – are you in a position to answer that call?
· Who you perceive yourself to be – do you see yourself as someone who has courage or someone who is fearful? Someone who is worthy or someone undeserving?
· How influenced you are by the people around you – are your friends, partners, family members, bosses, colleagues supportive or a hindrance. How important are their opinions?
· What is your vision - does this call fit in with the plans you have for yourself and your life?
By the time we hit middle age we have been called several times to embark on several journeys. The journey of relationships, the journey of work, the journey of hobbies or passion, the journey of the spirit, the journey of parenthood. The difference is that now we may be in a better position to hear and respond to that call.
The ability or willingness to answer that call is dependent on:
· Where you are in your life – your children are grown up, or your mortgage is paid, or you are being made redundant, or you are considering early retirement (for instance).
· Who you perceive yourself to be – have you been married for a few decades, or newly single, are you where you wanted to be at this stage of your life, are you doing what you thought you would be doing, are you who you thought you would be, have you succeeded or failed (in your eyes)?
· How influenced you are by the people around you – Will your family’s opinion stop you from answering that call? Do your children have expectations of grandparent duties, has your partner got plans for this time of your lives that aren’t in line with yours? do you have people around you who will say ‘go for it’ with no questions asked. Do you care about others’ opinions?
· What is your vision for the next chapter of your life? – are you looking for a quiet life or ready to start a new adventure?
The Call to Adventure doesn’t have to be massive, it could come through an experience of redundancy and the need to make a choice about the next direction. Or the end of a marriage, which has lasted several decades, through death or divorce. On the other hand, it could be to try one more time to fulfil that yearning to live in a different country – this time without talking yourself out of it or it could be like my current call, to try something I have never done, nor ever wished to do.
The (Midlife) Hero’s Journey
In this blog Midlife Hero’s Journey, I will explore Campbell’s themes of departure, initiation and return through a series of reflections on my journey as part of a group, who are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in July (2018).
I’m doing this for a number of reasons:
1. It’s totally out of my comfort zone – no showers, camping, peeing (and other things) in a bucket
2. It’s going to stretch me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
3. It’s completely in the spirit of the new 5ifty
4. It’s an example to other people in midlife who think it’s too late for them
5. I’m curious about what I’m going to learn
This journey is a spiritual one for me. A true Hero’s Journey. I will come to the end of the trip, having hopefully, reached the summit, but also transformed into another level of me. Not the next level - that will come in my preparation, and not the level after that - that will come once I board the plane or the one after that – who knows where I’ll be? I just know that, for better or for worse, I won’t be the same person I am today.
I did not have a dream to climb Kilimanjaro. I have never wanted to climb Kilimanjaro – did I mention it’s totally out of my comfort zone? But the more I said I wouldn’t do the trip, the more I knew I would. I knew one day I would hear myself and hear the excuses I made to myself and others and I would give myself a good talking to. So here I am.
But every Hero needs friends and companions who help them as they navigate their way through their journey, so I invite you to join me by following this blog and I would love it if you share your own journey experience by commenting below.
And so it begins…