Updated: 5 days ago
Being the hero of our own life is an empowering mindset that urges us to shoulder responsibility for our choices, strive for greatness, and envision a brighter future for ourselves and others. It fosters accountability and grants us control over our destiny, allowing us to mold our lives as we see fit. Embracing this role doesn't demand superhuman abilities or grand gestures; rather, it begins with taking small, consistent steps and unwavering determination to become our best selves.
Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey indicates a hero embarks on an adventure, learns a lesson, wins a victory with the newfound knowledge, then returns home transformed. My interpretation of his theory is as follows:
The departure: Being aware of my limited beliefs that no longer serve me. Time to adjust.
Learn a lesson: Navigating the unfamiliar world; stepping out of my comfort zone; facing various challenges and failures.
Win the victory: Apply new life skill sets and competencies when facing similar circumstances that happened before, but handle them differently.
Homecoming: Continue living as a new me.
Perhaps the best way to understand these stages is through my personal stories.
Here we go.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I remember sleeping close to my brother during nights when we heard our parents fighting and arguing. My father would then storm into our bedroom while taking the leather belt off of his pants. He would pull off the blanket we were grabbing on to with all our might, and belt us for absolutely no reason.
All we could do was cover our heads in fear and weep as quietly as possible so we wouldn't anger him further.
I can still vividly recall those Sunday mornings, etched into my memory with a blend of sorrow and nostalgia. They were the only days my brother and I looked forward to sleeping in, but instead, we'd be abruptly jolted awake by the sound of relentless beatings and my father's hysterical tirades. It was as if he had transformed into the very caricature of madness that one might witness in movies.
Amidst this chaos, he'd summon us to accompany him on a half-hour trek to our local church. As we sat alongside him on the pew, I couldn't help but notice tears silently streaming down his face, each droplet carrying its own weight of unspoken pain and turmoil. Those moments were a poignant testament to the complex tapestry of our family's story, marked by both darkness and a fragile flicker of hope.
Years later, during a home visit over my college winter break, a tense moment erupted when my father and I got into a heated argument. As emotions ran high, he raised his fist, and in a moment of defiance, I challenged him to strike me, almost hoping for him to give me a valid excuse to react.
At that point, something shifted. Perhaps it was the intensity of anger burning in my eyes, or maybe the realization that I was no longer cowed by fear that shook him. His clenched fist gradually relaxed, and without a word, he turned and walked away. Since that day, he has never resorted to physical violence against me.
From my college years to stepping into the adult world, I carried a heavy burden of anger. The torment of witnessing my mother endure abuse at the hands of a monstrous figure left me with a profound sense of vulnerability. In an attempt to shield myself, I believed that the only way to stay safe was to adopt a harsh demeanor. I became loud, fierce, and sometimes cruel. Making others cry through ridicule seemed like my way of asserting dominance, a misguided affirmation of my own strength and survival.
I didn't like myself much. In truth, I despised the fact that I carried so much hatred within. It felt like I was imprisoned by my own emotions, yearning desperately for a way to break free and find solace.
Fast forward to the day I gave birth to my miracle child. I insisted on a natural birth, even if it meant he would come out sooner than the initial due date, Christmas Eve. I passed out twice. The second time took place in the patient's room and my poor mother witnessed how I dropped on the floor with my eyes rolling back. She thought I had died.
I was then told that I had a heart valve issue, which explained prior unexplained fainting episodes. I was also informed of the importance of controlling my emotions. My son was born two days ago and I still haven't held him. It was then that I decided to get rid of all my anger. I want to be a good mother. And I do not want my son to endure what I lived through.
I would say this is when I officially started the hero journey, hence the departure.
On my 35th birthday, and for the first time, I received an email from my father titled Happy Birthday. In the email he stated that he had no idea I was working so hard as a child as he looked through all the homework and books my mom kept. He was also dumbfounded by the close and loving relationship I had with my son.
I still do not know why to this day, but an insane amount of anger filled my entire body within seconds. I grabbed my car key, drove to my favorite PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) spot between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. I screamed and cried uncontrollably.
On a different occasion while attending an entrepreneurial workshop series, the speaker had all the attendees write down impressions of each other on post-it notes. By then all of us had already attended other workshops together, so we knew each other fairly well.
The speaker called me to my seat. Pointing at those post-it notes, he said, "Look at them!"
The speaker was a mentor to me at the time; you could say he knew me pretty darn well. Written on those post-it notes were:
Born with a golden spoon
No struggles/easy life
Does not know what hardship is
My mentor pointed them out because they were far from who I really am. Far from my upbringing. Far from the truth. To put it simply, I managed to cover up my pain and who I am pretty well. I successfully acted out the script of a nonexistent perfect family written by yours truly.
And if you've met my mentor, it would be no surprise to know that he had me share my true stories with everyone.
It wasn't tough to do so. Oddly enough, it was a huge relief.
It was around the same time that I discovered the book that changed my life. I know it sounds cliché, but it did. It's "10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace" by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Secret 3 caught my attention immediately: You can’t give away what you don’t have.
What comes out of us in the form of words and actions is what’s inside us. Dr. Dyer uses oranges as an example--no one can ever squeeze apple juice out of an orange, even if it's papier-mâchép'd as an apple.
My father lost his parents at a very young age and grew up in an orphanage and later in the military. There was no love. There was no nurture. How would he know how to love his children?
And to continue nurturing my son with love, I first need to fill my heart and soul with love. With joy.
To do so, I continue with secret 5 - Giving up my personal history. I am not defined by my past. I have shed all the labels that others, and I myself, had placed on me. I began living as the person I aspire to be. Just like the first secret, I remain open to every possibility and unattached to anything.
I relocated halfway across the country with my 10-year-old son at the time, in pursuit of a higher quality of life. While my son was enjoying his new environment, for which I was grateful, I faced setbacks—I experienced a business venture failure and got fired from my job. These challenges left me feeling humiliated. I felt a deep sense of shame, and in the quiet moments after my son had gone to sleep, I found myself crying in fear. I was overwhelmed by a sense of terror.
While they all sound awful, looking back, I had to go through them to grow as a person. Each of what appeared to be unfortunate events ended up being the greatest life lessons I will forever treasure.
By dealing with a failed business, I was able to learn and explore more about business development, marketing strategy, operational costs, etc. I was later able to consult companies and help them grow revenue.
Being fired gave me the courage to stand up for myself, without being a jerk as I used to be, and won an EEOC lawsuit. It guided me to learn more laws that later became useful when helping others. I was also motivated to become a leader instead of a boss as a result.
Overall, I've come to understand that settling is not an option, and it falls solely upon me, not anyone else, to chart my path in life and become the person I aspire to be.
I started holding myself accountable for everything. How people think of me does not define me. How people act is none of my business. How people treat me is also none of my business. My personal values remain the same and I will walk away with no regret or resentment when it is the best option.
After an absence of 12 long years, I finally returned to my home country, a visit long overdue because of my son's school activities. What happened next was truly heartwarming – my parents, relatives, and friends, they all saw the profoundly changed person I had become.
In response to the love and respect I showed, my father strives to contribute to a harmonious family life. Relatives who used to belittle me said I now speak with authority but not arrogant. Friends who used to joke around with me started seeking advice from me. (Not that I am qualified to offer much. Ha!) Each of them reiterated numerous times, “You’ve changed, and it’s a wonderfully positive transformation.”
And that is my homecoming.
Throughout my life, I've gathered countless lessons and celebrated numerous victories, one of the most significant being raising my son on my own from the age of three. Despite the challenges, his childhood was brimming with laughter, boundless joy, and an abundance of love.
As we approach the end of 2023, I take immense pride in his accomplishments. He's on the cusp of graduating with a degree in Music Composition, and embarking on his postgraduate studies in the same field. His dedication is undeniable, as he diligently held down two jobs each year throughout his college years. Additionally, he pursued his passion by participating in Drum Corps International, marching until his age-out year. His journey is a testament to his resilience and determination, and it fills my heart with immeasurable pride.
I am blessed. I am blessed that I was given the opportunity, or should I say the awakening, to grow as a person. Heck, I still have so much to learn and improve, and I will continue to embrace each valuable life lesson heading my way. They do get easier.