While this year, there are no costumes parties to grace, Halloween still gives a chance to transition into a world that is quite different from our ordinary reality, to play a different character in the stories and myths we are writing about own lives. This time last year, I was at a very different point in the story: I was in the belly of a whale.
You might be thinking, "the belly of a whale? What did Andi have for breakfast today – a bottle of gin?" While that would have been appropriately nautical, this metaphor comes from Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces. (For those of you not familiar with it, the Hero’s Journey is seriously worth a look. Whether you dive into the book, read this brief summary or watch this movie – check it out. You won’t regret it.)
In June 2016, I had answered the Call to Adventure. Once you've had a taste of the call, the ordinary world looks even more, well, ordinary. The hero’s journey is dangerous, but remaining where you are is no picnic either. By October, I was at a point called the Belly of the Whale on this particular loop around the Hero’s Journey. It’s the point where the hero has transitioned from the known world into the unknown. When they’ve made the commitment to journey and there’s no going back. It’s a point in the journey where, as far as the outside world is concerned, the hero has been swallowed into the unknown. They have disappeared altogether. Perhaps never to be seen again. And the hero knows it. The hero feels the weight of the commitment. The hero understands that they must keep moving forwards. Even though it’s dark. Even though they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
This time last year, I journeyed to Amsterdam for my very first FSTVL (THNK’s annual alumnae conference) and with three months to sabbatical lift-off, I was beginning the efforts to find my first placement. I was on the hunt for like-minded souls who would be curious, share my perspective on experiential learning and who could ultimately, take a leap of faith and invite me to work with their company. Every conversation felt like a pitch as I tried for find the right words to convince people of the value I could bring without feeling boastful. The question "So what do you do?" plagued me because I didn't really know what to say when everyone around me had seriously impressive CVs and accolades galore. They had climbed high on the ladder of success and here I was choosing to get off life's treadmill of certainty. This time last year, the sensation I remember harbouring deep in my core was a sense of terror and dread that it would never get off the ground, that I didn’t have the courage it would take, that this big adventure would swallow me whole.
I'm on the flip side now. The whale has spat me out.
Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I’m somewhere along the Road of Trials. I’ve slayed some monsters and battled some epic beast; narrowly missed traps hidden deep in the brambles that guard the treasure; and, with help of some clever friends, I solved a few riddles for a troll to cross the bridge. This summer was full of bumps, bends, and snags, and the weariness that comes with them. I’ve encountered my first “failures,” met many allies, learned new skills and have grown immensely. I also realized that I can sprinkle a little fairy dust on other people, and be a guide for them. The metamorphosis is underway. The quest is changing me.
This year at FSTVL when asked the dreaded question What do you do? (which frankly is a question that should be banned from all conversation), I can proudly say "I’m doing this crazy thing called a mid-career working sabbatical (and isn’t it cool?)" I’m starting to feel like I have an interesting story to share even though there are many chapters still unwritten. The nervous author in me wonders if I’m starting the approach to the Innermost Cave, where the hardest challenge awaits. If that’s true, I find myself wondering Am I prepared for this?
A year can do a lot for a person. Isn’t it crazy how we can look back and realize how much everything has changed? The number of people who have left our life... or entered it and fit in the corner like a piece of furniture that was always supposed to be there to complete the room. There are memories that you won’t forget and there are awkward moments you wish you could. It’s crazy how all this has happened in just one year. Here's to year ahead!
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
- Joseph Campbell
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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