Part 1 - The Call to Adventure
Each morning at about 8am I hear the voice of a mother calling her young son, trying to get him ready for school. She calls from downstairs at least 3 times until, in frustration, she goes up to his room to find him doing anything but getting ready for school.
‘What are you doing?’ she says, ‘get your shoes on!’ Or
‘Come down and have your breakfast!’ And he does, sometimes complaining, but usually quietly acquiescing.
This scenario can be heard at any time of the day for any activity, so it’s not about him, the boy, not wanting to go to school, it’s that he wants to get on with what he’s getting on with and doesn’t hear when his mother calls. This morning activity came to mind as I asked myself when it was I got the call to this journey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
I want to say it was that day in August 2015, days after I sold my flat when I met Blair Singer, the man who would become my teacher and mentor (not that I knew it then). Blair showed a video of one of the climbs, the people who were on it, and the children at the orphanage where the group volunteered for a couple of days before the climb. He talked about the lesson of love he learned the first time he climbed which is deepened each time he has been since. That was the first time I heard Blair talk about ‘Kili’ and each time since he talked with passion and each time I was moved by that passion, but not enough to want to join the next group. (I’ll say a bit more about that in future posts). In answering the question of when I first got the call I want to say it was then, but I find I can’t.
When I first came up with the idea of charting my Midlife Hero’s Journey, I truly thought it would be centred around this trip, but it seems that the road to Kilimanjaro is part of a bigger adventure to which I’ve been called. It’s a major part, but not the beginning and not the end.
I go back this time ten years ago, when I decided to live in Brazil for 6 months. I went to finish my novel and came back with an even richer (unfinished) novel and a bit fluent in Brazilian Portuguese (now mostly forgotten). I go back to that time and see how I was being pulled towards where I now find myself. I don’t realise at the time that I am saying:
yes, I want to be creative,
yes, I want to be free to live wherever I want
yes, I want to be doing something I love
That isn’t the first call either.
Back another 10 years and I’ve just completed my MBA. I want to set up a consultancy where I use my skills as a drama therapist to work with executives. I explore that option and don’t realise at the time that I am saying:
I want to be a coach, because at the time I don’t know what a coach is
I want to have my own business, but at the time I don’t understand about learning curves and pain barriers and comfort zones
That isn’t it.
And then I’m there. Aged 18 working towards university. Studying physics and chemistry and biology and mathematics and computer studies. Applying to study pharmacology or biochemistry or dietetics by day while I night I lie awake dreaming of being on the stage. This idea comes from out of the blue, and I know for the first time in my life, that I am sure about what it is I want to do. I want to stand on a stage in front of people and make a difference to them somehow. I don’t get the make the difference bit at 18, but that is what I am being called to do. To stand in front of a group of people in order to help them make a difference in their lives.
And I do.
I answer that call.
Until I don’t.
But that’s another story.
A Call to Adventure can come in many different ways, and many different times in our lives. It is up to us whether or not we respond to that call. Sometimes we will but for reasons that will come out as we explore the (Midlife) Hero’s Journey we say no. Not this time. Sometimes we will step out in confidence, only to take several steps back to comfort and familiarity. And sometimes like the young boy I talked about at the beginning, we ignore the call the first, second and nth time because there’s something else we want to do. Then one day something happens in our lives to make us hear the call and respond. Depending on where we are we experience that something as an opportunity, as a challenge or a disaster.
Are you being called to do something. Is there a nagging feeling in your gut? Is there something you keep saying no to knowing in your heart that the answer needs to be yes? For me and my current journey the question that kept coming up for me in recent years was
‘if not now, then when?’
I knew that saying no now would make it much harder, if not impossible for me to say yes later.
This Road to Kilimanjaro needs to be seen in the context of a bigger call. A call to do something that will contribute to making a difference in people’s lives. The climb is part of what is called the Mountain Leadership Experience and that is what I feel God has been calling me to be all this time. To be a leader, to be an example, to show others what is possible. To teach, to support and in the process to heal – myself and others. That is the adventure I’ve been called to embark on, in faith. I don’t know what that’s going to look like but that’s the fun of an adventure isn’t it?
You don’t know where it will end?
And that’s one of the important things to remember about the Hero’s Journey. There may be an objective, an outcome we want to achieve, our ‘why’ but we don’t know how the journey is going to change us. The main thing is to hear the call and take the first step towards answering and accepting the call.
But that may not be as easy as it seems.
To be continued…