In March I departed for the Pacific Northwest and the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat; three days spent in the Cascade Mountains, devouring local grub and IPAs, communing with fellow writers and learning from some pretty impressive memoirists. (side note: there is talk of repeating the retreat next year, so aspiring memoir writers take note). Organizer and instructor, Theo Pauline Nestor, led my favorite session: “It’s Not JUST About You”. She introduced me to the concept of writers using memoir to tell a bigger story about the world we live in. I had an inkling of that, but when she explained it in detail, using memoirs by Cheryl Strayed and Joan Didion (writers I admire) to illustrate her point, the proverbial light bulb dinged above my head. This was what I needed — a way to connect my writing to the bigger picture, the shared humanity we all face.
As the session continued, she mentioned Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey. Days later in downtown Seattle, I came across his book at a local bookstore, but couldn’t bear lugging the massive tome home in my already stuffed-to-the-gills duffle. I placed it back it on the shelf and promptly forgot about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey until last weekend.
In a quest to find a movie to watch, Marc and I scoured iTunes, watching countless trailers until we found Finding Joe.
As soon as the documentary began we sat transfixed, absorbing every word spoken by the interviewees (writers, philosophers, creative types). Once the quotes began flashing up on the screen, I scrambled for the pause button so we could transcribe the words that we both had needed to hear.
“Follow your bliss.”
“Be the hero of your own journey.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
The words resonated in a way that made me think long and hard about my writing and who I am in this world.
I’m a writer who spends the bulk of her time in a day job to pay bills and excessive student loan payments, but what I really want to do is create, share stories that illuminate the common thread that binds us together. I want to live a different kind of life, one that’s not predicated on the societal norm of “get married, buy the house, have the kids, get a dog, work, work, work until you retire” (side note: I’m not saying it’s a bad life goal or aspiration to have. If that’s what floats your boat then more power to you. And for the record: I do have a dog).
One week after watching the film, I still find myself contemplating how I actually do this: live with courage and follow my bliss, regardless of who “gets it” (something I started exploring in my last post since I don’t quite know where I’m going or how I’m going to get there). And I know deep down that now is the time for bold, brave steps towards bliss and being the hero of my own journey. Because at this stage? Not doing it scares me more than venturing into the unknown.