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Transition March 16, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search.
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3 comments

There is nothing like getting that call: “We would like to offer you the position of…” It is like sweet music to the ears, tasting the finest Bordeaux, watching a sunset over the ocean, the sound of a beautiful woman saying “yes.” I have longed for those words for close to two years, and last Monday, it happened. I will be in my dream position, doing what I was trained and educated to do, working with wonderful people inside and outside the organization. It is perfect.

But there is no time to celebrate. I never planned for the chaos that happens after those words. There are things to do and it has been a whirlwind of activity since that call. First of all, I have my foot in two offices at once. I am basically wrapping up projects and cleaning out my desk in one and studying, preparing, observing and participating in another. I am the kind of person who likes to be as informed and prepared as possible when I enter a new position – yes, type A all the way. That would be fine if that were all I needed to do but holy Moses, that is just the tip of the iceberg!

I am moving to the community where I will be working. This is taking a fully engaged effort on my part. Here is the list of things to do:

  1. Find apartment
  2. Shop for household items
  3. Shop for furniture (a bed!)
  4. Find truck to move stuff
  5. Find new bank
  6. Get in to see dentist and doctor (so I don’t have to take time off right away)
  7. Shop for more professional clothing (this is an administrative position)
  8. Pack, pack, pack
  9. Pack some more
  10. Move stuff in truck
  11. Unpack, unpack
  12. Unpack some more
  13. Set up living spaces
  14. Connect utilities/cable/internet (gotta have my internet)
  15. Settle in (optional since I will basically be living at work anyway)

These are just the main bullet points. There is so much that has to be done in order to accomplish each one. But I am happy to announce that the first thing on the list is completed. I found an apartment!  After a week of looking, it happened. When I saw the location, before I even went into the apartment, I got excited. It borders a city park complete with gazebo, pavilion and a statue of a WWI soldier. Even better news is that on the other side of the park, there is an Irish bar! I was always told to step into a local establishment to see what the natives were like before you decide to settle there. So I did and had the time of my life! These people knew how to sit at a bar and have fun and I made friends with them quickly.

As soon as I walked into the apartment I knew this was going to be my new home. It is all newly renovated with very spacious front rooms, three bedrooms and an incredible kitchen. I love to cook so this is huge for me. I began envisioning great parties, get-togethers, cooking for people, having friends and family overnight. It is only 2 miles from my office and it will be an easy commute.

Find apartment – check.  Now on to #2

*Update!  I just heard from the owner. It looks like I move in on Saturday. Better find that truck!

My new apartment!

and a bannister to slide down!

Dining room facing the front room

The Kitchen

The front master bedroom (out of three)

The Park

The Irish Bar

Roll With The Changes March 12, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better – King Whitney Jr.

Reach for your Blue Sky Objective

Being paralyzed by fear of change for many years, you reach a breaking point that throws you into radical chaos. Once the dust settles, you sit down with pen and paper and construct a strategic plan. The plan consists of “Blue Sky” objectives that, at the time, seem completely out of reach. Regardless, you reverse engineer from those objectives and strategized step ladder goals and strategies in an attempt to proactively bring you to a life better suited to your core values and persona. The critical path is determined by identifying core events and use of a time-specific Gantt chart. The goals are achieved one by one. The low hanging fruit is gathered. Everything is in place for achievement of the objective and then… an external variable is thrown into the mix. Trying not to fall off course too far, you begin crisis management and re-structure some tactics to place yourself in a holding pattern. Time goes by and resources dwindle. There is more crisis management to stay off the breaking point for just a little longer so that you can optimize as much opportunity as you can.

And then it happens. There you are, staring change in the face. Not just any change, but change that you yourself designed – change that will bring you over the threshold and place you squarely into your blue-sky objective. It is uncanny how the opportunity before you fits your goal statement. All the work you have done for the past five years is about to come to fruition.

But you blink. There is a moment of hesitation. You forgot to account for a variable in your plan. The core reason that this whole journey began in the first place – you are afraid of change. It paralyses you. Luckily you are given time to absorb the tremendous opportunity ahead of you and the enormity of value it brings. You also realize that the stop-gap tactics you had to engage in to extend the original time line have given you essential tools and experience that enabled you to get to this point. They always say, “Everything happens for a reason.” In this case, it is so true.

Your feasibility study finds nothing but a win-win situation and the initial hesitation is purely just unjustified fear of change. You remember that this is change that you designed, change that you desired, change that is now a reality.

Yes!You are ready now. With a smile on your face and warmth in your soul, you confidently stand and say, “yes.”

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

Dreams of Sex, the Past, and Bob Barker January 30, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, inspiration, Sex.
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2 comments

“Come on down! The price is right!”  What?  Me? The dream was so vivid I could feel the heat of the studio lights. There I was, on the Price is Right Show. Bob Barker holding the microphone in my face and asking me, “…and what do you bid Steve?”

What am I bidding on Bob?

Wait! … where are my clothes?

It woke me up instantly. That is the only way I can remember my dreams; when they are so intense I am thrust into consciousness with the dream scenario still embedded in my thoughts. There I was in bed, still hearing the theme music and wondering, what was that all about?

Some dreams are so bizarre (thanks Bob Barker) and make no sense to us. Others have a clear connection to what is happening in our lives at the moment. Some are from our past. Some are of our future. Whatever and whenever they are, we want so much for them to have meaning. We want our dreams to guide us to our future or give us understanding of our past. We want our dreams to give us the answers to our current situations.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, leading sleep expert, there are reoccurring dreams that we all experience that may have a common meaning. These Dreamscapes include; falling, being chased, visiting or seeing someone you knew who is now deceased, being back in school or college, or finding yourself naked. In general many of these dream scenarios indicate some current stress happening in your life.  However, it is important to understand that the same common dream can be interpreted differently between individuals. For example, let’s take the dream about being in high school. This is a reoccurring dream I have had for close to 25 years now. My dream focuses on the restraints of the high school environment; hall passes, bells, teacher authority, etc… I hated my years in high school and this dream reflects the restrictions I felt while attending. It may even extend to the limitations I felt growing up with an over-protective mother and under-loving stepfather. I find that I have this dream more often when I am in a financially or personally restrictive time in my life. Others who have this dream may interpret it in an entirely different light. If they found their high school years to be personally enriching and socially affluent, they may have this dream in times when their lives and relationships are going well.

Sex and being naked

We have all had this one. Having sex with a friend, your boss, your mother, past and/or present and/or future lover – you name the person, people dream of having sex with them. Think about what sex is. Yes, having sex normally reflects a mutual intimacy between two people. However, it can also be an act of dominance or power over someone. Some even associate sex with pain. Combine your meaning with the person you dreamed having sex with and you can come up with all sorts of conscious parallel meaning. Personally I have never dreamed about having sex with my mother or boss (ewww.) My sex dreams always are with past, current, or desired lovers. More important to my personal interpretation however, is the fact that when I am feeling overly stressed, limited, restricted, I don’t have sex dreams at all. It is in a time when I have hope and high self esteem that my dreams become sexual. Apparently for me, sex is about confidence.

Suddenly lose your clothes during your dream? You are not alone. This is a common one usually meaning that you are afraid of having something exposed, insecurity or low confidence. It can also reflect on the anxiety you are experiencing about an upcoming meeting, doctor’s appointment, presentation, or performance. Not many get naked in their dreams and like it. For the ones who do it can reflect a bit of a narcissistic need for attention, to stand out in a crowd, or a need to be noticed by work colleagues or a recent romantic interest.

The Price is Right

So what does this all have to do with dreaming about being on the Price is Right Show? I have not seen this show, let alone thought about it since I was a teenager. Bob Barker was a young man back then (and that is the age he was in my dream.)

What does this all mean?

It has been a few days since I had this dream and I have used this time to reflect on it. My belief is that this dream mirrors the doubts I have been having lately about pursuing some big dreams of mine. Maybe I am wondering if the cost is worth it. Is the price right?

It is natural to have doubts. It is normal to lose some self-esteem – confidence – as you challenge yourself with change. But what is the alternative? For me, compromising is not an option. “What do you bid Steve?”  Bob, I am not going to make a bid because what I am doing – what I am going after – is priceless.

As for being naked? If people can’t respect me for the challenge I have put before myself, then they need to step aside and let me pass. I have no shame in what I have started. I have no regret in the hard work I have done and am doing to get there. I have no remorse in what I have left behind. I have put myself out there. I have exposed myself and it feels wonderful.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

Resources:

Recurring Dreams and Their Meanings – Dr. Michael J. Breus

Blood on the Sock January 24, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, fitness, Job Search, Life, running.
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4 comments

On my first attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I blew out my quads. A runner will turn his hat around when his goal is lost.

Here I am. After an 18 mile run I am in bed with a cold pack on my heel and a corn bag on my left thigh. I am a mess and this is only the beginning of the training for the Boston Marathon, my last bastion of freedom.

So I started out this morning, already sore in the heel (now thinking that it is the return of an old injury – Plantar Fasciitis) and new soreness in the knees. At mile nine, a quick stretch on each leg calmed the knee soreness but from there a malaise of pain gradually took over my lower body until around mile 15, when it felt like my legs were on fire. After the run, while slowly unraveling running gear (it was very hard to bend over) I discovered blood on the top of my sock where a persistent hot spot has opened up despite Body Glide ®, and taping. Yes, I am in sad shape and it is only the beginning.

I remember the training for my very first marathon. My buddies and I were experiencing a whole world of hurt that season. I was popping ibuprofen like it was candy. During the carb-loading pre-race dinner the night before the race, I made the grand pronouncement of, “Hey, maybe because we trained so well, it won’t hurt so bad.” My buddies, having run a marathon before, just laughed and laughed at that statement. They laughed again when I discovered that I was wrong – very wrong. I couldn’t go up or down stairs for a week.

I don’t know what is up with my thought process. Yes, I have embraced change. Yes, I am working hard on making my life the life I want. However, I always think, “Oh this will be easy.”  What the hell am I thinking?  My run in Boston this coming April will be my 7th marathon. You would think I would remember how painful the training is. It doesn’t get any easier, and now that I am 50, I have the age thing working against me.

At one point in my life I loved being able to say, “I have succeeded in everything I have done.” It was a hollow statement. I never challenged myself. I never thought that maybe if I took control of my life, I could make a better life. I was in an unsupported career, working with people who were not collaborative or open to new ideas. I ignored a relationship that had become nothing but a conciliatory, domestic partnership. I had the body of a 75 year old, wearing out before its time, and I didn’t care. Of course I am going to be successful accepting mediocrity and compromise. Anyone would. Things have changed. I have given myself monumental challenges in a quest to become the true me with a life better suited for me.  At one point I remember saying, “Changing careers will be a snap. Creating a relationship rich in intimacy, passion and commitment – no problem. Running marathons – bring it on.” Now it is mile 18 and I am feeling the pain.

Break it down into parts

Since the winter season dictates that I leave my bike on the rack, my cross training for this race is swimming. This will serve two purposes; Cross training for the marathon, and streamlining my stroke for a future triathlon this summer. My coach has us doing drills that break down the mechanics of swimming into individual elements. He has us focusing on each part in an effort to slowly rebuild a new, more “efficient forward propulsion,” as he describes it. Again, you guessed it, I found myself saying, “Oh! This  will be easy.” Wrong! I have completely forgotten how to swim! Rebuilding something new after years of doing it wrong is not easy. Frustratingly, painfully, incredibly difficult to say the least. Damn right.

“Rebuilding something new after years of doing it wrong,” that is what I am doing. I have to remember that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Breaking each element down into its smallest parts is the best way to approach this. I am not ready for the end result yet. I still need to tear it down, correct the misconceptions, practice each part, rebuild from scratch. You can’t rush the end result if the end result is to be successful. Patience and persistence will get me across the finish line when the time is right. Toss in a little blood on the sock as a reminder that this is not easy, but it is going to be worth it – someday.

Is it Time to Make Banana Bread? January 13, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Job Search, Love, Relationship.
Tags: , , , ,
8 comments

You look at those last few bananas and think, “Should I make banana bread out of those today, or should I wait? Maybe someone will eat them today.”  How long to you wait before you make banana bread?  How far do you let the bananas go before giving in? Do you wait just ‘one more day’ in hopes that someone will still eat them? But what if you wait so long that they aren’t even good for bread anymore? What happens then? They just have to be thrown out and then all is lost. So when do you make that decision? When does the oven get turned on?

We all have hopes and dreams – fresh bananas that we just bought. They are so green. There is so much optimism there. We make the right moves. Do all the right things. Our bunch is set on the table in a cool dry place – preferably propped on the kitchen table where they are displayed well and noticed more often. It feels so great when one is taken, sampled, tasted. Maybe it was that interview for the dream job. Possibly a new romantic interest. A phone call from a prospective client. A banana is taken, but for some reason, you just can’t get anyone to take the whole bunch. They just sit there and turn darker and darker. How long do you wait before you make banana bread and settle for what you have?

Is that a banana in your pocket?

Don’t ever underestimate the power of self-promotion. Sure there are many apples and oranges out there but how many bananas are just like yours? You have unique qualities. It is important to identify them and then display them. It may be great interpersonal communication skills. Possibly you are a talented writer. Maybe you have a flare for creativity. Whatever it is, know it and show it. Some people advocate splitting the bunch up. In this way, the ripening process slows down and you have more time. Get that resume out there! Network! Diversify your job search engines. If it is a romantic connection you seek, networking is just as important. You know people who know people. Mix and mingle. However, unlike posting your resume on job sites, I do not advocate the use of online dating services. They are just meat markets and really do not cater to fruits and vegetables. In any circumstance, your bananas are rich in vitamins and sweet to the taste. They are a nutritious value for the price and somebody is looking for them. All you have to do is display them properly and in a variety of venues.

Ripen first before eating

Many people want to look at their bananas and eat them too. If they are eaten too early, they don’t have the rich taste that people are really looking for. You have time. Aiming for that dream job? Maybe you have to return to school for new training and skills. You might have to work in a position that will give you more experience for a while. Establishing a good friendship with a person before any romantic interests develop is important.  All of this can take time but will make your bananas look better and taste better in the long run.

Yes! We have no bananas

What happens if no one is hungry for bananas today? This is certainly a commonality in today’s economic environment. There is simply no demand for bananas. This is also a cause for how few are actually actively looking for a new relationship as well. With so many financial difficulties, family issues, career bumps – people are putting their bananas in the refrigerator in hopes of preserving them until there is a demand again. This is the absolute worst thing to do. Everyone knows that hiding bananas in a cold dark place will make them rot even quicker. Something about the gas they produce makes them turn brown or worse, never develop the rich sweet taste that is so desired.

What is in your oven?

What is wrong with making bread? Is it settling when you reassess your goals or maybe tweak that dream? Reinventing yourself to fit the current situation is not always about settling or giving up. Maybe it is adaptation. Maybe it is taking what you own and transferring it into a more marketable package. After all, variety is the spice of life. I am not saying that if you can’t sell your bananas that you have to make banana bread. There are so many other possibilities. How about a banana cream pie for those who are sweet and compassionate? Banana muffins are a good choice for those who are more structured and analytical. A banana split may be a good opportunity for someone who is balanced in creativity and critical thinking.

Don’t wait until your bananas go bad. If someone moves your cheese, it is time to coordinate your dish to match what is on the table. And if you do make that banana bread, just add nuts please. Everyone needs a laugh now and then.

For unique banana bread that will surely be eaten, try this recipe

The Toxic Lover January 10, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Love, Relationship, Sex.
Tags: , , , , ,
8 comments

Have you ever had a partner who doesn’t play by the same rules he or she imposes on you?  How about a girlfriend who continuously holds you down in a continuous pit of depression and hurt? Maybe your companion was so possessive of you that you felt imprisoned within an emotional cage. These are all strong indicators of a toxic lover.

There are many abuses that can metastasize in a relationship. It is so hard to comprehend at times that we DO hurt the ones we love. Some abuses are overt, such as physical abuse. Others are not so apparent and can easily be masked by the blinding effects of love and passion.

Scenario #1

The relationship moved quickly in the beginning for Bob and Linda. It was like magic. Before Bob knew it, he was feeling a close bond with Linda and felt she was coming closer to him as well. When he tried to discuss these emotions, Linda would just say, “I feel that way too Bob, but I can’t make any promises right now.” Promises or not, Linda began to display possessive behavior. She insisted on knowing Bob’s whereabouts constantly. She would demand that he return her texts immediately even when he was in meetings or classes. If he evaded her questions or was indisposed, she would blow up at him and accuse him of infidelities that were completely irrational. Worst of all, when Bob wanted to go out with friends, even though he would invite Linda to go with him, she would relentlessly monitor the evening through calling, texting, or showing up unannounced. At first, Bob felt excited and loved. After all, a little jealousy is an alluring thing. But after a while, Bob found himself staying home instead of going out with friends for fear that Linda would get upset. He felt enclosed and restricted. Bob finally realized that Linda wanted a commitment from him without making any promises or commitments to him.

Scenario #2

Karen met Matthew in her accounting class. He was deep and mysterious in his thinking. To her, this was alluring to have a man so connected to his emotion. Their discussions centered around feelings and connection, passion and love, pain and suffering. In the beginning Karen believed that the relationship they were building was itself, deep and passionate. However, when Karen had good news to share, or just wanted to involve Matthew in positive discussions or do something fun with him, he would make her feel guilty about her happiness by dragging her back into the darkness of his life. She began to feel as if the only way they could connect was through his lens of emotions. She began to feel guilty about feeling happy, wanting to do something fun, or sharing good news with him.

Scenario #3

Patrick thought Crissy was beautiful. She was the woman of his dreams. After a few dates, he was quickly finding himself falling for her. She had no problem telling him everything about herself. It seemed so easy for her to share her life with him and he loved every minute of it. As the relationship grew, she began to include him in her life in various ways. He would help her prepare class notes and prepare meals to take to her nutrition class she was teaching. She would ask for his advice about finances, include him in helping her study for an upcoming exam or writing her papers. When she was upset, she would come to him for consolation and advice. At first, this all made Patrick feel needed and wanted by her. Unfortunately, when Patrick wanted Crissy’s help on something, or even to spend time with her, in most cases she was unavailable for him. He started to wonder how Crissy even knew who he was. All they would talk about was her life. All that they would do together, was her projects. He began to feel used.

I am sure if you look back on your past relationships (or even your present one) you will see yourself in one of these situations.  They are more common than you think. All of these scenarios first feel like true love, want, longing, and trust. However, they quickly become a pattern of inequality, emotional abuse and mistrust. Why does someone tolerate a toxic relationship then? Love is blind that is for sure. The overwhelming excitement of a new love can mask many of the early signs that you are getting involved with a toxic lover. The rationalization that you may be partly to blame makes you feel like you have to work on the relationship. The fear of being alone can keep you there. In general, change, whether it is good or bad, is always difficult. Internally we tend to rationalize because it is much easier than changing our behavior (see Cognitive Dissonance) but it is even more difficult when you are under the mental and physical influences of love and sexual desire. External wake-up calls can be useful in this case.

Have you or are you experiencing any of these external indicators?

  • Does your partner expect you to follow certain guidelines in the relationship that she/he does not place on themselves?
  • Do your friends or family tell you that they see problems in your relationship?
  • Are you hesitant to go out with friends or even on your own for fear of upsetting your partner?
  • Do you feel you have to consistently change your plans to satisfy the needs of your partner?
  • Are conversations with your partner consistently one-sided?
  • Are you pulling away from your friends and other activities that you enjoyed before your relationship?
  • Do you feel compelled to consistently satisfy the needs of your partner before your own?

In the end, it is about balance. If you are feeling more like a possession rather than a mutual partner, maybe it is time for a change.

It Takes a State of Mind, Not a Place in Time January 2, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Health, Holiday, Life.
Tags: , , , ,
5 comments

Happy New Year?

Are you sure about that? What difference does one evening, one day, make in your happiness? Will writing 2010 on your checks be that much more thrilling and exciting to you than writing 2009?  I doubt it.

I have been travelling the blogosphere in the past few days and reading everyone’s thoughts on how, in this New Year, things will be different. Losing weight, exercise more, quit smoking, do more of this-do less of that – Resolutions such as these are made only to be broken within a short time span.

Cognitive Dissonance

Rationalization of bad behavior can be a powerful influence. A smoker will rationalize by thinking, “I won’t get cancer, other people get cancer.”  A dieter has thoughts of, “One more cookie won’t matter.” A couch potato will reason, “Running is bad for your knees.”

The psychological theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger, 1957) explains just this type of human rationalization. It is more difficult for a person to change behavior than it is to change their thought. Thus, rationalization is conceived and the behavior remains the same. In fact, the process of Cognitive Dissonance is so powerful that marketers use it as a basis to sell you products you don’t really need. They force you to make superficial decisions that make you believe that you must buy their product. “Oh! Chef Boyardee says my kids will be happier if I serve them mini-bites micro ravioli.” “Oh! I will get ‘girl-approved hair’ if I use Axe hair products.” These marketing techniques are banking on people not taking the cognitive energy to understand that these superficial connections are completely irrational.

Superficial Rationalization vs. Reality Perception

It comes right down to Ontology – the way in which people perceive their reality. There are two basic meta-theoretical perspectives on this: Determinists – the thought that prior conditions determine human behavior, and Pragmatists – the thought that people plan their behavior to meet future goals. Determinists believe that their life is all determined by fate. This is the “Forrest Gump” philosophy of “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” People who think within this paradigm are behaviorists. They believe that their world is just a series of events and awareness levels that are slowly unveiled throughout their lives. They have no control over the outcome. These people tend to rationalize more (they are more susceptible to Cognitive Dissonance.) The Pragmatists however understand that their whole world outlook is based on previous experiences and connections and their future is completely malleable through their actions. These people are interpretivists. They understand that for every action, there is going to be change and they have previous experiences to prove it. They learn from their past mistakes, they adjust future actions by assessment of prior events, they plan accordingly for long-term improvement.

The Transformational Learning Experience

How do we learn to think like an interpretivist? How can we gain the knowledge and experience that will give us the constructs to intrinsically understand consequential behavior? What do we need to obtain the cognitive complexity needed to think long-term benefits rather than frivolous unsubstantiated pronouncements of change that will be consumed by cognitive dissonance the next day?

I was fortunate to be involved in a research project on transformational learning during my last degree work. Transformational learning has three elements; the learning experience must be memorable, it must change behavior or attitude, and it must be continuously referenced within a person’s self-narrative (Wilson, Switzer & Parrish, 2007). Long-term behavior change begins with transformational learning. There must be a personal stake involved that transforms thought into entrenched action – action that will not be shifted by cognitive dissonance or any other external influences.

Specific examples might include:

  • Personal health scare or one of a close companion = healthy living changes
  • Birth of a child = value of life and need for longevity
  • Divorce/separation = broader understanding of long standing relationship values
  • Job Loss = value in acquisition of transferrable employment skills
  • International travel = understanding of acceptance and value of diversity

The list is limitless on the powerful learning possibilities and the long-term values that are gained by them. What is important to understand is that life change cannot be frivolously decided upon just because of a date on a calendar. True behavior change must come from previous experiential learning events that are transformational. Personal change comes from personal experience. Something must be at stake for you, or your loved ones. Use the New Year not as a reason to start a new behavior, but as a reaffirmation of your devotion to your journey towards life-long action. Action that is based on previous powerful learning which puts true consequence on change.

Long-term personal change comes from a state of mind, not a place in time.

References:

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wilson, B., Switzer, S., & Parrish, P.(2006).  Transformative learning experiences: How do we get students deeply engaged for lasting change? Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology proceedings, 2006, Dallas, TX.

The Hero Journey December 19, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Life.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

Change has been depicted metaphorically throughout the ages with the story theme called the hero journey. It commonly takes the shape of the protagonist, or ‘hero,’ thrust into change. The change is depicted as an unwilling departure from home and then the ensuing struggle to return to their original origin. The efforts, mistakes and setbacks are huge and bring our hero to the brink of disaster every time. However, he manages to learn and grow from each experience and with that, he eventually returns to safety. Here is where the hero journey becomes powerful. Almost always, our hero does not return to his original life but instead, finds that there is a new existence waiting for him – one that is more aligned to his purpose and wisdom gained on the journey.

Odysseus

The earliest piece of known literature to follow the hero journey theme is the ancient Greek poem by Homer, the Odyssey. In this epic story, Odysseus, our hero, reluctantly sets out from his home of Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War. On his journey home, he encounters sea monsters, shipwrecks, witch goddesses and sirens to name a few. When he finally returns to Ithaca, not only has he changed but his home has changed as well.

More modern depictions of the hero journey can be seen in movies such as the Wizard of Oz and Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. Both films depict the hero (Dorothy/Chuck Norland) thrust abruptly away from their homes. There are terrible trials that they encounter in their struggle to return. When they eventually find their way, they encounter a new reality that is cast out of their wisdom and experience during the journey.

In the Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939,) Dorothy is swept up in circumstances beyond her control. When the dust finally settles, she finds herself in a land of witches, munchkins, strange magic and dark forests. On her quest to return to her home, she finds unusual friends with diverse backgrounds (to say the least) that she otherwise may have never befriended within the confines of her normal world. She also gained insight and knowledge by experiencing powerful events that would have never transpired in the comfort of the familiar land she came from. During all of this there was always the red shoes. Metaphorically, the shoes represented a talisman with untapped power that could only be realized from a new perspective born from the growing enlightenment within Dorothy. In the end, Dorothy only had to come to the realization that “there is no place like home.”

In Cast Away (2000, DreamWorks) we see the hero, Chuck Norland, thrust in a much different situation – a journey of silence and solitude that facilitates his progressive self-discovery. His encounters with struggle and pain are his own. He finds his enlightenment mostly by trial and error as he first learns to just survive in a new strange environment and later as he discovers cooperative and productive solutions. In this story, the foreshadowing talisman is the wing logo printed on one of the Fedex packages that washes ashore with him. Here is the representation of his future new world although he cannot see it just yet. Later it all becomes very clear to him. When presented with crossroads at the end of the story, the wings lead him to his new world.

The hero journey can be found in our own personal narratives. We all encounter an unwanted or unexpected turn into change at some point in our lives. With this there are trials that test us, darkness that misleads us, and pain that distracts us. But each event brings us closer to enlightenment. We grow in wisdom and understanding about who we are and what we can accomplish. Eventually, the efforts we make are more focused and effective as we work toward solution. In this path there can even be a talisman full of unrealized power or prediction that will come clearer as we reenter a new world more aligned to who we are.

In the movie Cast Away, there is a poignant scene where Chuck Norland tells a friend about his darkest moment. That moment when in the deepest of despair, there is still light. There is still hope. It is a powerful scene;

The only thing I could control was my own death so I made a rope and went up the summit to hang myself. I had to test it, of course, you know me. The weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree. I couldn’t even kill myself. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow I had to stay alive. Somehow, I had to keep breathing even though there was no reason to hope and all my logic said that I would never see [home] again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive, I kept breathing. And one day that logic was proven wrong because one day the tide came in and gave me a sail. And here I am, I’m back…

  • Do you have a hero’s journey in your own personal narrative?
  • Are you still on your journey today?
  • What was/is the darkest moment in your journey?
  • How did you find your way home?
  • What is the enlightenment that you brought back with you?
  • Did you have a talisman that stirred hope in you on your path?
  • Was your talisman’s power revealed at the end?

We are all going to make it December 18, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Life, Love, Relationship.
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We just need to stay together in the dark.

A letter to my father December 15, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Life, Love, Relationship.
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Dear Dad,

My Father

I know it has been a while. You died 11 years ago – May 10, 1988 – Mother’s Day. I remember it clearly. I held your hand. I told you it was ok. You can let go now. You took your last breath as I said goodbye.

I think of you often in these times – my time of change. I often wonder what you think of all of this. I know what you would have said when I left a secure career to accept a graduate assistantship. I am sure you would have told me it was folly on my part to even think I could change careers at my age. We would have argued I am sure. But Dad, I was dying. I was beating my head against the wall trying to maintain an engaging and effective program with no financial or administrative backing. More and more I found myself alone in a worthy cause within an unworthy institution. It became damaging to my soul and body and it was killing me.

I know it hasn’t worked out for me yet Dad. You would probably tell me, “I told you so” at this point. But look what I am doing. I am in a functional institution working with people equally committed to the vision and mission. I am challenged and engaged. I feel like I am making a difference in the outcome. Ok, yes I am not making any money and I am in serious financial stress, living in a back room, watching my pennies, worried about my children’s happiness and welfare. But Dad, I can’t wait to get up in the mornings! I love to go to work. I can’t wait to engage with intelligent, professional people. I now feel like I make a difference.

The best part is that I have learned so much about myself and my new field by going back to school, earning a new degree and working in a new environment. It will carry me dad. I am not done but only starting. I have tremendous potential and all I have to do is wait until someone gives me a chance to prove myself. I know I can do this and I know I can do this well. You watch, you will be proud of me Dad. Just give me some time.

My new career path is one thing Dad. I really feel I am making headway on that. Personally, I don’t know. I am a mess Dad. Here is where I need your help the most. I have been burned. I have been used. I have been lied to. I have been cheated on. It seems almost like I am being punished. Oh I know I am not lily white in all of this either. You had your problems with relationships too. It must be the curse of our line. What is it with us? Why can’t we get it right? I do think that your problems and my problems are different in this matter. Regardless, it would be helpful to me to be able to compare notes with you. It seems so easy for people. What is it with me? Is it a trust issue? Is it an issue of not being able to open my heart to anyone after having it ripped to pieces so many times? I am scared Dad. Maybe I am someone who is just meant to be alone. Maybe this suits me.

I am now on the edge Dad. There is a major opportunity before me. It is right in front of me Dad. I am scared, excited, horrified and thrilled all at the same time. Change, whether good or bad, is always scary. However, if there is one thing I have learned in the past five years it is to embrace change and let it take you. Only in this can new worlds appear. I am going for this Dad. I am heading straight into it with full steam. It will give me extreme challenges that will test me and allow me to grow.

I hope you are watching. I hope you are paying attention Dad. I am going to make you proud. You will see me for who I am, not for what other people think I should be. I am slowly breaking free of chains.

I am gradually becoming…. Me

Your Son