What to Expect on the Journey
Whether Adult or Teenager—It's Our Story
If I’m on a heroic journey as a teenager, what can I expect - what will I discover? AND what good will that do me?
1. Why the Heroic Journey?
There are three answers to that question and they are the same answers laid out in the first section on the three big challenges of identity, relationship/connection and competencies. It can answer two core questions and it’s extremely useful as an adult.
What can I expect? What’s normal – even if it seems confusing, weird or annoying?
The heroic journey tells the story about what to expect and how to make sense out of the vast range of experiences encountered as a teenager. One advantage is that simply knowing the range of natural challenges that come with being a teenager – and how tough they can be—can help you realize that, if you feel like you are struggling, it’s probably not that you are somehow lacking. It’s that the challenges guarantee that you will struggle at times.
What Can I do about it? How do I manage my journey?
The heroic journey also provides a structure for figuring out how to respond to those experiences - how to self-manage, how to get the support you need and how to support others. It doesn’t solve all the problems but it can guide you in dealing with them effectively.
It’s Useful Throughout Life
The heroic journey will be valuable at any point in your life because the heroic journey is a spiral that we follow multiple times. It’s the story of change at any age. If you get good at managing the journey as a teenager, you will have a good preparation for being a successful adult. It can also prepare you to be a leader or an effective follower.
You can expect to discover who you are and the gifts you might bring to the world—large and small. A life is made up of a series of heroic journeys and in each one we discover new things and grow and mature.
The heroic journey has been used by most cultures throughout time to teach their members how to create a life or a community – or renew that individual’s or community’s life. Adolescence is—by definition—a developmental heroic journey and you can safely assume that all of your peers are on that journey. Your parents and teachers have been on that journey. Everyone experiences the journey in their own unique way, but the basic path is known.
Remember, that the three big core challenges for teenagers on the journey (the purpose of the journey) are (a) to create/discover a strong identity, (b) to build relationships and connections, and (c) to develop the range of competencies required as an adult.
Being the Author of Your Life. You can expect that the underlying challenge will be to become the author of your life, which is the fundamental shift from childhood dependence to young adult independence.
A Play in Three Acts. You can expect to experience all of this as a play in three acts – beginnings, on the path and completion. Beginnings matter a lot. Most of the action is “on the path” and that’s a long time for the developmental journey of teenagers. Completion brings its own surprising challenges.
Tested on Five Levels. You can expect to be tested intellectually, emotionally, physically, socially and even spiritually. As you meet the various tests you will develop on one or more of these levels. You will develop in all of them over the course of the journey.
Three Types of Test. You can expect that, regardless of the type of heroic journey, you will be consistently tested in three ways – letting go of the old ways of childhood, discovering and mastering the new ways of adulthood and dealing with the land in-between letting go and mastery (inbetweenity).
Two Types of Journey. You can expect to experience two types of heroic journey. The first type is that described in the first section on the three big challenges. That is a “developmental journey” that is going to happen to everyone as part of the transition from child to adult. The other type of heroic journey is a “situational journey”, which is triggered by a significant change. Those changes can range from moving to a new school or community to having a serious illness or breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. The changes can also be more positive, such as becoming a team captain or president of a club or getting into an honors program.
Growth and Maturity. You can expect to find that you are growing smarter, more mature, more responsible, more savvy about how the world works, socially more skilled, and more and more able to imagine what it will be like to be a young adult.
You can expect to get pulled in different directions and often feel like you’re rafting in whitewater, on an emotional roller coaster or in a crazed game of bumper cars. You will feel connected and at times disconnected. You will sometimes feel confident and sometimes insecure. Your world will at times seem to come together and at other times seem to fall apart. Sometimes you will be ready to engage and other times want to withdraw.
Gravity of Childhood vs. the Gravity of Adulthood. You can expect to experience two different gravities. One gravity is the gravity of childhood, which tries to pull you back into the old ways. The other gravity is the gravity is the gravity of adulthood, which tries to pull you into becoming a young adult. The childhood gravity gets weaker as you get older, but it will be a factor throughout your teenage years.
From the Known to the Unknown. You can expect to leave the known world of childhood and cross a threshold into a new world of mystery and challenges and tests and new experiences. You can expect the fastest period of growth and development since you were an infant.
Not only is it natural to get pulled in lots of different directions, but you can also expect to experience lots of ups and downs. Some ups and downs are big and some are little. Some last a long time and some are fleeting. Sometimes you will experience an “up” in one part of your life and a “down” in another. Understanding that these ups and downs are normal and natural is important. It is also important to get increasing good at managing these ups and downs.
Successes and Setbacks. You can expect to have successes and you can expect to experience disappointments and setbacks and have to recover. The teenage journey has so many ways to be tested and so much unknown to deal with that the setbacks are inevitable – just part of the journey, not an indication that you are failing.
Roller Coaster of Emotions. There are so many emotions at play in the teenage years – and often at intense levels – that it can feel pretty chaotic at times. You can experience excitement and anxiety, clarity and confusion, feeling connected and feeling disconnected, happiness and sadness, hope and despair, affection and anger, etc. Adults experience the same emotions, but usually not in such a changeable fashion.
Energy Traps. You can expect to encounter “energy traps” that diminish the energy you have. These traps can range from failing to see your successes and focusing on the negative to getting worn down by stress. They can range from getting discouraged or fearful to getting injured or being disconnected from others.
Sources of Life Energy. You can expect to find sources of energy that provide the life energy necessary for the journey. Those sources can be remembering to celebrate successes, eating well or exercising, being part of a team or performing group and even simple things like listening to music, going to the movies, or being out in nature.
Being Hurt. You can expect to be hurt and need to recover or be healed by others. There are sometimes physical injuries and there are always emotional injuries during the teenage journey. These are rarely life-threatening injuries, but they hurt all the same. You just don’t get to cruise through adolescence with all its tests and unknown (particularly in relationships) and not get hurt.
Surprise Breakthroughs. You can expect to be surprised when you suddenly realize that you “got it.” That can be a new sense of ease in social situations, a dawning realization that you really are a person of significance and can make a difference, a new ability to manage stress or insights into subjects that had been a struggle or mystery. Those are the rewards for persevering on the path of mastery.
5. Heroes Don’t Go Alone
You can expect to find that heroes don’t go alone. It might seem like a lone quest, but we all need others in various ways to successfully navigate a journey. You can expect to find that you can help others just as others can help you.
People Encountered. You can expect to encounter people who will play a variety of roles in your journey. Some will be companions. Some will be opponents, people who undermine you or even enemies. Some of the people encountered will be healers and people that care for you. Some figures will be teachers, mentors, guides or counselors who can provide the information and wisdom necessary.
Roles You Can Play For Others. One of the most rewarding and empowering things you can expect is the opportunity to play roles for your peers on their journeys. For example, you can be a companion, helper, healer, advocate, protector, even someone who challenges someone to be their best. You can model successful behaviors, connect peers with others or stand up for another. These roles can be played in large and small ways and they make a difference.
"We find a model for learning how to live in stories about heroism. The heroic quest is about saying yes to yourself and, in doing so, becoming more fully alive and more effective in the world. For the hero's journey is first about taking a journey to find the treasure of your true self, and then about returning home to give your gift to help transform the kingdom - and, in the process, your own life. The quest itself is replete with dangers and pitfalls, but it offers great rewards: the capacity to be successful in the world, knowledge of the mysteries of the human soul, the opportunity to find and express your unique gifts in the world, and to live in loving community with other people." p. 1
– Carol Pearson, "Awakening the Heroes Within"