Andy may not admit it, but he has “heard the call” (and tried to avoid it); he has launched himself with trembling tread into the unknown; he has dueled monsters, received aid from unexpected sources, experienced All Is Lost moments, and at length returned home, bearing a gift for the people. The gift Andy brings is his writing. His gift is an album of life as it is lived in Konar and Paktia, under the helmets of Marines in the field and in the shit.
The hero’s journey in real life begins in darkness. A seed burgeons, way below consciousness. This seed is the germ and kernel of ourselves-in-becoming. It is not us-as-we-are. It is who we will be.
We are pregnant with ourselves, as Andy was, and we feel it. We experience it as restlessness, dissatisfaction, anger, shame, irritability with ourselves and with others. We experience it as Resistance.
The hero’s journey in real life is personal. It is about us and us alone. Our gift—which is unique to you and me and which no one else on the planet possesses—breaks through the soil like a fiddleheaded sprout, which is ourselves-in-becoming. No wonder our knees knock as we launch on the journey. No wonder we feel fear and pain. No wonder the stakes seem like life and death. They are.
The hero’s journey can take place on a battlefield or in a cubicle. We can live it out amid public clamor or in the soundless vault between our ears. The demons we are dueling are always the same. They are our own fears of becoming who we are. No one who has ever lived—or ever will—has a journey like ours. And yet our journey is universal. It is every woman’s and every man’s.