My Year Was a Breeze When Compared to the Labours of Hercules

In about two and a half weeks, I will hit the one-year anniversary of my “official” self-realization/pseudo-coming out.

Okay, I literally just wrote that sentence, and even I am not one-hundred percent sure what it means.  But whatever, it’s going to be okay.  Let’s move on.

I was going to continue my discussion of Odysseus in this post, but I have decided against it.  There is a distinct problem with the Odyssey as a comparator (I can’t say metaphor since it was a very literal journey).  As a professor of mine aptly pointed out, the Odyssey, structurally speaking, is a comedy.  I know, I know, you’re thinking, “What is this guy smoking?  The Odyssey is depressing as hell.”  It’s true; I agree with you.  However, the Odyssey is a comedy in the respect that nothing changes from beginning to end.  The characters do not realize their true selves, the world is not permanently rent apart.  When Odysseus finally arrives home, after dispatching the pesky vultures wooing his wife, he is basically the same person.

There is a point in the Odyssey where Odysseus is unrecognizable even to his wife and son.  I was tempted by this moment of the story, as it is quickly, in many respects, becoming my reality.  However, for Odysseus, this change is temporary; a disguise, a means to an end; the calm before the storm.  The dénouement of Odysseus’ journey is the throwing off of his disguise.  Once he no longer requires the element of surprise, his disguise becomes unnecessary and he reverts back to his old self.

I have no intention of reverting.  Ever.

So, instead, I would like to draw your attention to the great and mighty Hercules, best known for killing his wife and children in a haze of goddess-induced madness.  More appropriate analogy, yes?

Aside from the fact that I haven’t murdered anyone, I actually think that it is.  While Hercules’ was a journey of atonement, it still narrates the long haul from a madness that divested this demi-man of his identity and his values for long enough to destroy everything he held dear to not only redemption but eventual immortality.  Hercules took the ultimate leap in self-discovery from man (sort of) to god.  He suffered at the hands of a negligent father, a batshit stepmother, a homicidal boss, and a gullible but jealous wife.  He toiled through twelve dangerous and challenging tasks to reckon with his own actions and earn forgiveness from the gods, who were actually responsible for his deplorable actions in the first place.

Now, my situation is not exactly parallel.  No one is out for my blood, I am laboring not for penance but for self…discovery, for lack of a better term, and I am by no means a Greek god (I know, what a shock).  However, both Hercules and I have come out of a haze of blinding madness to realize what we are truly capable of achieving.  In the case of Hercules, he awoke, horrorstruck, with his family’s blood on his hands, realizing he was capable of the worst.  I am lucky enough to have come out of my haze and seen that I have the strength to become the man I have always been inside.

For most of my life, it was easier, less frightening to leave my reality laying fallow while only cultivating the “me” inside my own head.  When, a few years ago, I first realized what it would take to allow my external self to grow, I balked and ran for the hills.  I didn’t think the external “me” had the strength and determination to survive the journey, to toil through the labours I would inevitably face.  I preferred to live blind than lay eyes on a destination I thought I could never reach.

If you have ever been to the western part of the United States – not the coast, but the West: Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, etc. – then you have probably had a moment where you have gazed across the wide, flat expanse at a mountain that seems literally worlds away.  You look at it and you think, “Damn, I’m never going to get there.  I don’t care how fast I walk/run/ride/drive/etc., there is an endless amount of territory between me and that frikkin’ mountain.”  Then, maybe, for whatever reason, you think, “Hell, I’ve got nothing better to do.  I can at least head in that direction.”

So you begin to walk/run/ride/drive/etc. toward that seemingly unreachable destination.  And at first, as you suspected, the mountain stubbornly persists to stay as far away as it ever was, no matter how long you walk, how far you run.  But, eventually, you get distracted, maybe by an interesting plant you’ve never seen before, or a hawk flying above you.  And when you finally turn your gaze back to the mountain, it hits you just how far you have travelled.

As I come around again to the date that I began my journey, I am starting to realize how much closer I am to my mountain.  Sometimes, all I can do is stare off at it in the distance and I cannot see the progress that I am making.  But other times, I get distracted by the rest of my life, the rest of my journey – old and new friends, illness and recovery, work and coursework and grad. school applications.  And, after having been bogged down by the drudgeries and simple excitements of getting through my days and weeks and months, once in a while I glance up and see that the mountain is not so far away after all.

Hercules journeyed from demigod to god.  I may not have immortality to look forward to at the end of my labours, but becoming the “me” that I thought could never exist is journey enough for me.

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