By David E. Sharp
Originally published April 30, 2020
Everyone at one point or another must face the gauntlet that is trial and tribulation. Scourge and punishment. And despite this woe, many are unprepared because most of us have never enrolled in wizard school. Nor have we fought an oppressive empire in a galaxy far, far away. We haven’t carried a magic ring through Mordor to drop it into a volcano or sailed home through monster-filled waters. But that doesn’t mean we’ve never undertaken a task that required heroic effort!
This past weekend, I moved from my tiny apartment into a house with my family. There were no harrowing escapes, long treks across barren wastelands, or grand speeches given to a band of ragtag warriors about to head into battle. It still felt pretty epic from my perspective. Let’s see how it stands up to the twelve stages of the hero’s journey.
THE ORDINARY WORLD
We meet our hero, an intrepid librarian seeking to support literacy day-by-day, endlessly curious, and moving through life with the attention span of a magpie. Hey, something shiny! He lives in a cramped apartment with his two boys. Traffic jams in the narrow hallway are a day-to-day occurrence. Walls are thin enough that anybody with an inclination to jump through them like the Kool-Aid man, screaming, “Oh, yeah!” would have no trouble living out his fantasy. But our hero has no idea about the adventure awaiting him.
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
Our hero gets engaged. His bride-to-be has two children of her own. Some quick math indicates one tiny apartment will never accommodate six people. Our couple qualify for a mortgage, locate a suitable house and purchase some real estate. It’s time to get packing!
REFUSAL OF THE CALL
Hey, know what I love more than packing up every stupid thing I own? Netflix! Binge reading! Taking a walk through a construction zone! Pretty much any activity that isn’t packing!
MEETING THE MENTOR
While attempting to avoid responsibility by watching internet videos of fainting goats, he finds recommendations in his feed for how-to’s on efficient moving practices. He finds himself learning from moving experts who live in isolation at the tops of the peaks, where they make instructional videos with questionable wifi access. But it must have been tough moving all their crap to the top of a mountain, so they should know what they’re talking about.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Our hero realizes this apartment isn’t going to pack itself. He rounds up some boxes and begins the arduous task of filling them with all manner of objects he doesn’t recall ever having before. Is this a combination spoon and straw? Why would he even have that? It doesn’t matter. The journey has begun!
TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES
Why can he not stop opening every book he comes across? Ooh, look! He hasn’t seen that sweater in years! He should try it to see if it still fits. No! Must… resist… temptation! Attention faltering. A dust bunny in the corner mocks him. “You’ll never finish,” it seems to say. His competitive fiancé assists by calling to brag about how much she’s already accomplished. “Yeah, I’m totally making progress,” he lies. “Let me come see,” she tells him. Key up The Flight of the Bumblebee. The insolent dust bunny laughs.
APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE
Doubts and fears loom over our hero’s head as he must sift through old boxes that were never unpacked during his last move. He must face awkward pictures of childhood and reminders of the nerdiest possible teenage years. He contends with terrifying articles of clothing he cannot believe he ever wore. These are the boxes he saved for last. But moving day is around the corner, and he must prepare himself by facing his inner demons.
Boxes are so stupidly heavy! What is in this thing, his collection of signed bowling balls? Oh, no. It’s books. And there are twenty more boxes just like it. His body aches! He feels like he is going to die! But only in this symbolic death can he be reborn. To rise like a phoenix, he must first pass through the fire. Seriously though, does he need to own so many books? He works in a freaking library!
Our hero has now transferred a mass of boxes from a small apartment to a sizable house. They don’t look so big here. Maybe he should go buy more stuff, he ponders. His beloved bride kisses him. The aches vanish. Okay, they don’t, but perhaps they just don’t matter so much anymore.
THE ROAD BACK
He returns the keys to his apartment manager. The complex looks smaller.
Unpacking begins. This challenge is nothing to what our hero has endured. But he is now equipped for the battle, and he approaches his fight with new competence.
RETURN WITH THE TREASURE
Life is back to normal, but it’s a new normal. No more traffic jams in the hallway. Joyous sounds from his children playing outside rise through the windows. There is space. There is also a mortgage to deal with, but that’s a whole other journey. For now, let’s just enjoy the serenity.