“In the hero stories, the call to go on a journey take form of a loss, an error, a wound, an unexplainable longing, or a sense of a mission. When any of these happen to us, we are being summoned to make a transition. It will always mean leaving something behind…The paradox here is that loss is a path to gain.” – David Richo
I first heard of the “ Hero’s Journey” concept when I was watching a video from Pixar’s Storytelling Class and the teacher explained how this concept apears in almost all the movies we love. It’s the foundation of every good story. Basically, the concept by Joseph Campbell boils down to three stages:
- Departure: The Hero leaves the familiar world behind.
- Initiation: The Hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world of adventure.
- Return: The Hero returns to the familiar world.
For a while I applied the concept to my work as a storyteller. It wasn’t until my ALTER training (Allied Leadership Training For Embodied Resilience) with Holistic Underground, did I understand how this concept relates to my own personal journey towards self-actualization.
I have always been very introspective. It is a skill I developed at a young age in order to process the abuse I was receiving from a parent. By journaling and writing poetry, I got to know my feelings pretty well. My spiritual-self also turned to anime, nature, wicca, trance music, and moon power for extra guidance.
Somewhere between college and my early 20s, I stopped looking inward for answers. I stopped connecting with my spiritual-self. Since I no longer lived with my parents, I thought I no longer carried any pain. What I didn’t realize was that the trauma was still alive in my body. My cells never recovered from the fear, sadness, and anguish I absorbed in childhood. As an adult, the pain would manifest when a trigger is pulled and my instant reaction is an overreaction— fight vs. flight, hyperventilation, or tantrum. I learned much later that there is a word for this— transference is when you put your parents’ face in replace of your partner, friend, or colleague. In present-day conflict when a trigger is activated, my body instantly relives/replay the pain from childhood. So to the unwary catalyst, what they see on the outside is a person lashing out in anger but what’s happening deep inside for the person is a relived pain of excruciating portions.
As a daughter of refugee parents, I grew up in a community with other refugee families and gang violence. I didn’t know that my reactions were overreactions since everyone around me behaved similarly. It wasn’t until I left my community that I learned my childhood was not normal and not okay. Since mental health is stigmatized in Asian immigrant and refugee communities, access to see a therapist or vocabulary like self-actualization and transference, is a major cultural obstacle for many Asian American women like me. With this blog, my Instagram posts, my healing circles and workshops, I’m dedicated to creating conversation and facilitating dialogue about mental health. I want to increase awareness about vocabulary that we can use to name our feelings and needs. I have felt unlovable all my life and it took me years, some therapy, tons of reading, and learning new vocabulary to find the words to describe the deep loneliness I carry.
My childhood experience created an emptiness that I didn’t know how to fulfill. In my early 20s, I felt very unsatisfied with my life even though it looked great on paper. I searched outward for fulfillment— my boyfriend, passion projects, shopping, eating, alcohol, party favors, and clubbing. But constantly looking outward led me down a path of reckless self-destructive behavior— many blurry nights, poor financial decisions, and the reckless hurting of innocent people that I genuinely loved.
It wasn’t until my late 20s where I finally decided (and had the resources) to see a therapist. I learned looking outward is not the answer. I needed to return to what I know and what has worked for me in the past— introspection, journaling/writing poetry, and reconnecting with my spirit. There is a lot of soulwork to be done, and luckily for me it’s work I enjoy doing. The hero has returned to her spiritual home with new knowledge and lessons that will bring her closer to her true self.
This blog will reflect the truths of my journey; the meltdowns and awakenings. This isn’t going to be one of those blogs that is only full of positive quotes, though there will be some. The positive-only mindset is just another destructive way to mask real feelings. In this space, I will be talking about uncomfortable topics and experiences. I also will not tell you how to live or how to find what you’re looking for — only you can do that for yourself.
I’m just here to share my story as an Asian American woman, a daughter of refugee parents from Laos, a seeker, writer, and organizer, with the intention to heal and build community through the power of vulnerable storytelling.
I share my light with you. You are not alone. We are in this together.