A week or so ago, I was listening to the radio, drifting in and out of sleep (that happens a lot when you are on pain meds.) I was listening to an author interview, and I heard her talk about this thing call the “misfit’s myth.” It felt like a lightening bolt to my heart.
There’s a myth in most cultures about following your dreams. It’s called the hero’s journey. But I prefer a different myth, that’s slightly to the side of that or underneath it. It’s called the misfit’s myth. And it goes like this: even at the moment of your failure, right then, you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty. –-Lidia Yuknavitch
I couldn’t remember her name, but I did remember the name of a book she had published: “The Chronology of Water.” I found her name easily enough via Google, but I couldn’t remember what it was about her that I wanted to remember.
I tracked down her Ted talk (which is embedded below), and listening to it remembered how excited I had gotten about this alternative ‘misfit’ narrative.
But I also heard something else. Her story was about having her dream handed to her, and she said “No.”
I had recently posted about the power of saying “Yes.” I knew that something felt heavy in my heart, but I couldn’t figure out what.
That night, a friend brought a 12-step meeting to my house. By “coincidence” she randomly picked “Jealousy” for the topic. It wasn’t until much later that night that I understood how deeply relevant that topic was.
Earlier in the day, I had gotten some not-good news about my novel being rejected, and this was the perfect time for a spiral into self-pity.
- I’ve never had that kind of opportunity to say “yes.”
- What if I never get that opportunity?
- What if I really don’t have any writing talent, and my novels are stupid?
- What if people are laughing at me for having the gall to think I could have a novel published?
My biggest fear was crystalized: What if I never get the opportunity to say “Yes”?
After crying and indulging myself in misery, I had two realizations:
- I was JEALOUS of her having been given that opportunity. (If I know the problem, then I can find the solution.) and,
- I’m getting really sick of having to have my foot up and not being able to do the things I want, which was contributing to my pitiful mental state.
While I love Joseph CampbelL and The Hero’s Journey model, I’m coming to understand the Misfit’s Journey. In the Hero’s Journey, the goal is straight forward. When obstacles come up, you muster strength and courage and blast through the barriers, no matter what. Nothing sways you from THE GOAL. While sometimes that is necessary, there is another way.
The Misfit’s Journey allows for flexibility. When seemingly insurmountable obstacles appear, and it seems like you’re going the wrong direction… maybe you are. With this story model, the hero(ine) can go “inside,” change path and, as Yuknavitch puts it, reinvent herself. This allows maximum flexibility and leads to creative solutions. This also gives room for a Higher Power’s guidance to slip in.