Chapter 3: Have you ever resisted a “Call to Adventure?”
In Chapter Three, Meylyne visits the Well of M’Yhr to ask for advice, but when the Well tells her she must go to the Valley of Half-Light to cure Prince Piam, she thinks the Well is crazy—no way is she going to the home to the sinister, soul-eating Sphers! She runs home, determined to find another way out of her problem.
In the archetypal theme of the hero’s journey this is called the Refusal of the Call to Adventure. If the journey is to continue, the hero will have to change her or his mind and accept the call after all. In Meylyne’s case, she has no choice but to accept once she finds out what the alternative is.
For most of us, our Calls to Adventure are not as extreme. We get lots of them without even noticing. For example, I used to work for a wonderful recruiting agency. I loved my team and the women that ran the company, so when I heard that the owners were selling the agency to a bigger company, I was sad. Then a colleague approached me to ask me if I’d be interested in starting a company with her. My first reaction was, “what a crazy idea! Go out on our own? No thanks!”
I refused a Call to Adventure.
It’s all right to refuse. We get lots of Calls to Adventure throughout our lives. Some we accept, some we refuse. What’s more interesting is to question why you made the decision you made. If something niggles at you to reconsider, you probably should. In my case, I ended up deciding that I did not want to stay put under the new regime, and that starting a company with my friends was the lesser of two evils. (Note; accepting a Call to Adventure doesn’t necessarily feel good. Sometimes it just feels unavoidable.)
Let’s think about the Calls to Adventure you may have refused. Perhaps someone invites you on a camping trip. You’ve never done it before and the idea of sleeping outside, in the wild, scares you so you make up an excuse. Or maybe someone suggests you try out for the lead in a play and you break out into a cold sweat. Instead of saying no right away, ask yourself why you’re having this negative reaction. Is it because you’ve never done it before? Because you’d rather watch YouTube than rehearse? Because you’d rather do sports? By digging for the root of your fear, you may decide it’s worth giving it a shot after all.
You can also ask your friend why they suggested it. If it’s because they want to try out and need the support, then perhaps it really isn’t for you. But what if your friend genuinely thinks you’d be good at it? From asking yourself these questions and talking with your friends or parents, you’ll get a better understanding of what you’re feeling, and whether or not accepting that call would be good for you.
Now let’s look at this from a different angle. Sometimes we accept Calls to Adventure that deep down we know we should refuse. In high school, one of my best friends dared me to steal some ice-cream from the school cafeteria at night. I knew it was wrong, yet I went along with it. Years later, my friend and I discussed this “adventure” of ours. We realized that I accepted the call because I didn’t normally do things like that and it felt exciting. She did it because the consequences of getting caught were a means to get attention. These were themes that would show up in our lives repeatedly until we learned to identify them—I do reckless things when I’m bored, and she does reckless things to get attention.
In the hero’s journey, the hero always returns home with tools to aid them in their ordinary world—magical swords, enchanted potions and the like. For most of us these tools are insights into our personalities and the nature of the world. This knowledge guides us as we take new journeys and helps us complete our own personal quests.
What are some of the Calls to Adventure you have received? Maybe there’s one you’re contemplating right now. I’d love to hear about it!