Maybe Leaving Is The Answer

Applying the Hero’s Journey to my escape from the city. A voyage of expectations, frustrations, and change.

Photo by Catalina Muñoz

A few weeks ago I was bored, uninspired, stuck in a negative mindset regarding work, and plainly “ugh” (you know that feeling). I had published my first article on Medium and got a spark of enthusiasm about writing more, which was rapidly killed by my state of mind.

Nothing was working out, nothing went how it was supposed to go, nothing was exciting. Nada.

Enter: My aunt. In the popular Hero’s Journey, she would be the Mentor who takes the Hero from the Ordinary World to the Special World (I’m the Hero) She invited me to spend some days with her in Ocoa, a valley she recently moved to, to change scenery (and probably also mood). I was like “whatever” and went.

In my mind nothing could substantially change while there: I still had work to do every day, meetings to -virtually- be part of and therapy to -again, virtually- go to. Turns out, everything changed. My self-imposed rules disappeared and I was venturing into the limitless unknown.

I changed my email-checking mornings into horseback riding and my staring-into-the-abyss afternoons into reading in the hammock. Everything was better. While making time for outdoorsy activities, I still got my work done.

Suddenly, my perspective on things changed. Before going to Ocoa, work was dominating my mind space, and other activities were employing the space work left unused; which were few. I am not saying I was a workaholic, I knew how to distribute my time. What I didn’t know was how to distribute the topics in my head so work didn’t use most of them.

Everything was great during my temporary escape. Then, I received a “permanent” escape opportunity in the form of a job offer. Was this valley, also known as Oasis La Campana (yes, Oasis! as “a calm, pleasant place in the middle of somewhere busy and unpleasant”, according to Cambridge Dictionary), not only calming my state of mind but making external things better? It seemed so.

I was in my Ordeal, the big challenge, and failure was not an option. I needed to decide. At that moment, I wasn’t aware of the valuable changes Ocoa was making in my life. I felt this was the opportunity to make permanent transformations. So, as any young adult would do, I called my parents on a high to say: “I’ve got an out!”; and of course, I was met with a bucket of iced water. “I should think things through”.

Was my job as bad as I made it out to be or was I in a slump? I had that conversation with my therapist even before the offer. If I changed jobs, would everything change for the better? I realized there were many non-work-related things I could change that would make me feel better.

The thing is, I used to plan my whole future, which made me a person with high expectations; a quality that made me someone with elevated levels of frustration. I like to plan, (like, fifteen years in advance), and even though the pandemic taught us all that everything can change in just a few weeks, I still do it.

Doing work I didn’t enjoy, not being sure what I wanted to do in the future, and thinking about accepting a job I wasn’t much interested in, just for the sake of change, WASN’T in my plans.

While in Ocoa, surrounded by nature, silence, animals, and peace, my perspective on work changed. Work wasn’t an end anymore but a means. My responsibilities were important, I had opportunities to make an impact and I still could do things on the side.

Somedays, I woke up and, even before sending an email, went horseback riding. That was possible for me! I read in the hammock, I helped my cousin cook several times even though I hate cooking (I’m more of an “I’ll clean the dishes” kind of person), I walked my aunt’s dog and I even let him sleep in bed next to me; something I swore I would never do. And it was nice!

“The hero returns in a changed state” Now I’m back in the city, still doing my job, and my psychiatrist even lowered the dose of the medication I take for my mental health. Was that place magical? Did I use my time there wisely? Probably. Or maybe I needed to change the scenery to see things from a different perspective. A more positive perspective.

In this stage of The Hero’s Journey, “the Hero uses newly acquired knowledge to great effect”. I believe I am doing that. Now, I’m focusing on the parts of my job that make an impact. And feeling enthusiastic about them. I also make time during the week to visit family members, something I only did on weekends. I have time -and energy- to start writing again.

The journey was sometimes tough but worth it. From this perspective, life is good.

Journalist, fiction fanatic, and avid reader. Trying to write as much as I read.