Hero's Journey: Call to Adventure, or Road of Trials?

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by on 2016-11-15 | License Permalink

I’m a bit of a poetic shithead when it comes to thinking about my life, challenges, and achievements. I listen a lot to Elliott Hulse and try my best to see my life as a long journey and development process. Constantly striving to become the next “better version of myself”.

Through Elliott I was introduced to the work of Joseph Campbell; the mythologist most famed for his work around the Hero’s Journey, which I’ve since lapped up. For those unfamiliar, it goes something like this:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Viewing my life through this framework on both macro and micro scales has been of huge emotional benefit to me. It encourages reflection, forcing me to take account of everything going on in order to make sense of it and make some estimation of where I think (and where I feel) I am in a cycle of the journey. The journey is divided into 17 distinct parts, across 3 Acts:

  1. Act I - Departure
    • The Call to Adventure
    • Refusal of the Call
    • Supernatural Aid
    • Crossing the Threshold
    • Belly of the Whale
  2. Act II - Initiation
    • The Road of Trials
    • The Meeting with the Goddess
    • Woman as Temptress
    • Atonement with the Father
    • Apotheosis
    • The Ultimate Boon
  3. Act III - Return
    • Refusal of the Return
    • The Magic Flight
    • Rescue from Without
    • The Crossing of the Return Threshold
    • Master of Two Worlds
    • Freedom to Live

I heartily recommend reading through The Hero with a Thousand Faces if you want to read thoroughly about this. For now, however, there’s a pretty good summary here, and I always liked how Elliott discusses the framework.

Anyway. To the point.

I’m currently at a turning point in my life, and am trying to figure out if something I’m experiencing is a new Call to Adventure, or a trial on the Road of Trials. I’ve been living with my flatmate for over 5 years now. I arrived at this situation through a very explicit call to adventure, where prior to starting University he messaged me off-hand on social media with “Fancy moving in together in my dad’s flat in Newcastle?”. That kick-started the adventure of my undergraduate degree: I received mentorship and talismans from allies, I was tested both academic prowess and personal qualities, I met with a goddess, and I ultimately transformed through my experiences at undergraduate and was tested at the end.

Living with my flatmate has been a mixed bag. I must first acknowledge that without him and the opportunities that this flat offered, I would be a lot worse off. Seriously. 100%. Forever indebted. He’s been on his own journey and trials during our time here, culminating in his own equilibrium. Recently, though, I’ve had a distinct urge to just get out of the flat and my day-to-day experience of it has become increasingly frustrating. I live in an area densely populated by students, who are increasingly noisy. My flatmate and I have opposing schedules and interests; I wake up early to train, and he’s knocking about during the night. These things cause frustration, yes, but why do they justify my feelings of irritation?

Important to remember is that my landlord is my flatmate’s father. Which is how this whole thing has been possible. We paid discounted rent as students, and my rent increased this last year. My flatmate’s didn’t. I also remember speaking to his bandmate and learning that he didn’t actually pay any rent. These sound bad, but I think that I understand the reasons for it, related to my flatmate’s own Road of Trials. I get that; I’d be a pretty bad Communist if I thought that he didn’t deserve the safety net. That it’s privilege inherited from his bourgeoisie father is a cognitive dissonance I have to reconcile at a later date.

It’s not so much the economics that bother me, so much as the politics of space. I strive to have as little impact on the communal space as possible, through both cleaning up after myself like a normal person, but also my hobbies aren’t particularly imposing: I wake up at 0500 to train in the backyard, and I read books, and I wear headphones, etc. My problem arises from what I perceive to be a lack of courtesy and respect flowing the opposite way: his dishes pile slowly grows and absorbs all useful items; he smokes weed and the stench of it flows into my window, preventing me from sleeping (in summer I can’t sleep with the window closed, it’s too hot); he plays the drums; he’ll sleep in until the last moment and then rush into the shower, not checking that people need the bathroom to finish off morning routines they’d otherwise be delayed on; and he never cleans.

All of this has resulted in this urge, experienced largely these last two years, to just. Get. Out. Why haven’t I? I can’t tell whether being on the receiving end of these behaviours / events / experiences is part of my Road of Trials, and I’m to grow and learn to be less pissy and more tolerant as a result. Or is it the beginning of a new Call to Adventure? By remaining here am I refusing the call, and growing more bitter as a result? It’s scary out there. That’s the point. I see my comrades with their own spaces, or a shared equilibrium with their house mates. My partner and I want to consider getting our own space, as we feel a bit suffocated (she lives with her parents and visits here). I think part of it is fear. I’m afraid that I’ll be stuck paying lots of rent to a shitty landlord, unable to get out. I’m afraid that after my PhD I will be poor, and homeless. Surely that means it’s a call? My flatmate has been away for a fortnight, returning today. I’ve really enjoyed his absence. My colleagues at the lab describe being able to afford their own flats slightly further afield in Gatehead without sweating it. I think that they’re all signs.

But what if they’re not?