Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by life, I’ll pick up a children’s book and read. The simple language of a fable or legend helps restore order to my world. In these stories, the main character goes from the everyday to an accidental encounter to an impossible journey. Through a series of obstacles, they must forge a path forward. In the end, the character returns home changed.
As we read along, imagining their surroundings and what they might do, without realizing it, we become the main character. Their journey becomes ours. In a good story, we discover that we’ve thawed out a range of emotions in ourselves. In the end, we, too, are changed.
But the journey we take, albeit an emotional one, is purely imaginary. For us to make a real change in our life, we have to risk something. If we want health, we give up fried processed foods. If we want community, we befriend strangers. If we want peace, we leave bad relationships. And if we don’t know where to start, we get help.
It would be absurd to think that reading a story would be the only act needed to transform our lives. It may be the inspiration to begin but lasting change requires sacrifice and courage. Like in every hero’s journey, we have to leave the house to discover what it means to finally arrive home.