The Heroine's Journey: A Glimpse Into a Modern-Day 'Road of Trials'

I’m running late for work — again.

My hair is dripping wet from sprinting out of the shower and I’m eating granola out of a cracked Tupperware container. A bit of almond milk dribbles down my chin as I wait for the subway. I realize that I forgot to leave the rent check for my roommate and slap my hand to my forehead — another reminder as to how tightly I’m squeezing by this month.

Before I can think about it, the train arrives. I spot an empty seat and ruthlessly dive for it, barely beating out a girl in sleek, black running gear. I triumphantly wiggle into my spot and find myself wedged between a blond in leather and a large man who smells like used library books. My hair falls in my face and I let out a sigh.

Some heroine. 

And yet, maybe this is exactly what Joseph Campbell was talking about when he described the “road of trials”: the obstacles every hero(ine) must undergo along the hero’s journey. In order to become the hero(ine) of our life story, we have to train for it. We have to be molded, sculpted and transformed. This doesn’t happen overnight. And it definitely doesn’t happen without the added bonus of pain, anguish, frustration and despair.

I recall the following from A Hero with a Thousand Faces:

“The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed — again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, un-retainable ecstasies, and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land.”

My eye catches a cheesy advertisement for a local college. It reads the following,“We’ll help you open the right doors.”

I laugh out loud. A sign? Maybe this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. I look around at the colorful array of humans on the train and smile.

None of them know who I am. But I do.

I sweat day in and day out, clicking away at keys, armed with a Thesaurus and a hot cup of tea. When I’m looking down at my phone, I’m not texting a fabulously handsome stranger I met at the bar last weekend. I didn’t go to the bar last weekend. I was creating, planning, scrapping, re-working and starting again. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now — as I open the virtual yellow pad on my phone. I can’t lose the lyrical flow whispered in my ear at inopportune moments. I must transcribe. I’m a vigilant warrior.

What the outside world sees is a disheveled young woman, wearing arguably too many rings, chasing an improbable dream. They worry about me — concerned that I’ll be crushed, heartbroken and destroyed by a disappointing world.

“But, what are you ‘really’ going to do?” They ask me.

“I ‘am,'” I want to respond. It appears that following my bliss is never the right answer — that can’t possibly be a destination.

I have learned to become comfortable with their misunderstanding. Mostly because I’m starting to see the formation of a very different reflection in the mirror — one that becomes ever clearer and more defined with each passing day.

What do I see?

I see Hercules. I see Odysseus. I see… the need for way more epic female heroines.

The truth is I can never be crushed. My light is un-snuffable. I’m starting to understand that the intangible element glowing within me only grows stronger as I rise from every blow, every misstep and every failure. I’m slowly sprouting phoenix wings. And I earn each burning, blazing feather at a time.

The used library book man sneezes on me.

“Oh! Pardon me, Miss.”

I sigh. Yes, you sneezed on the protagonist of this story. But, that’s okay. You have no idea. No one has any idea. Except me.

And, maybe, that’s enough.