The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell can be, and has been, applied to a great number of stories written throughout time. Today I am sharing my own Hero’s Journey through both college and university, from high school to being a graduate.
Please check out the original source for this version of The Hero’s Journey by Thearetical.com, which details the meaning behind each step. Ironically, in telling a story that covers my graduating with BAs in advertising and public relations and in philosophy, the Theatrical version of The Hero’s Journey steps cover examples in advertising!
The Artem Alex Hero’s Journey
When my sister and I were younger, we really enjoyed content creating and vlogging about life in general. A few years into making Youtube videos, life became incredibly busy for everyone in my family. My dad was the editor of all of mine and my sister’s videos, but one day he asked if we could take over as editor. As life was also busy for us, getting into middle school and high school, our content creation took to Tumblr rather than Youtube.
Just over a year after my sister and I stopped shooting videos, I was finally of age to start working and saving money. The second I turned 16, I immediately started working as a fry cook, later a line cook, a barista, a cafe cook, a dishwasher, a grill master, a host, saving as much money as I possibly could. When I was 17, I left my traditional school and moved into my sister’s apartment so I could be within walking distance of both her and my main job.
Call to adventure –
After debacles due to life, I moved back in with my parents when I was 18 and graduated from high school. Spending the majority of my time working and sleeping, one day, my father decides to invite me into his office area. His computer screen read “Community College” and there was my name, on an application with the rest of the boxes all filled out. I could barely even breathe, but the most important thing for me to hear was my father saying, “you don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
Refusal of the call –
It took me a second too long to decide if I wanted to go to college or not. And so I “missed” my chance to start my college experience during the winter semester. A lot of people will purposefully do a “gap year” in between high school and college. But I am very sorry I say that I genuinely just didn’t think about it. The largest factor in this was that I didn’t want to get student loans, but at the same time, I was working and making decent money. Getting into a habitual rut of going to work and sleeping every day was incredibly distracting to the fact that I wanted a degree.
I can remember sitting at my kitchen table for days trying to think of a major to study. My parents suggested that I look into accounting because I enjoy … organizing my money (it’s an odd hobby, I’ll admit that, but there are many psychological reasons that I will not get into today). My parents highly suggested that I not major in philosophy as I will not be able to (with certainty) make a lot of money with that as my major. And so I agreed to go into accounting, with philosophy as my minor, of course.
Meeting the mentor –
When fall rolled around, and it did quickly, my father was graduating with a degree in communications and receiving a position with his school to teach in the same field. I thought it was odd that he did not go into a field that has more “real-world” applications, but at the same time, this was really inspiring to me. Admittedly, my father has been my mentor my entire life but this only grew as I watched him turn his degree into what he wanted it to.
Crossing the threshold –
The difference between my high school and the community college I went to is night and day. The school is in the middle of nowhere and the only place outside to hang out is a 20’x20’ square in the middle of the building. The college is a collection of buildings, walkways, parks, and study areas, all in the heart of an artful city where coffee and food are plentiful. As someone who enjoyed spending hours of leisure time downtown throughout middle school and high school, my college was exciting and liberating. My first two semesters had 3-hour breaks between classes, and so I would spend that time walking to places for coffee or smoothies and almost always to the Qdoba a near-mile away from campus.
Tests, allies, and enemies –
There was one place on my college campus where seemingly all of the coolest kids would come to aggregate and so, of course, this is where I would spend the majority of my free time. One drawback on having the coolest of friends is that sometimes they can be, quite literally, too cool for school. Meaning, I would watch people skip classes, skip homework or tests, or skip full semesters of a class. To me, this was honestly unimaginable. As I mentioned before, I care a great deal about saving money but in addition to this, I also care a lot about spending my money carefully. Even though I was not paying for my classes just then, I was fully aware that I will still have to pay my student loans and pay for those classes eventually. Skipping classes in college is wasting money, it is really as simple as that, and so for me, this was the easiest Hero’s Journey test to pass.
The allies in college and in university include all of the people that help to develop both social and mental skills especially. In The Hero’s Journey, the “helper” ally is the utmost important one. In my journey, this was meeting the most kind-hearted soul you have ever met. We had a humanities class together and she often raised her hands to answer questions just as I would. And again, she often got to class early to wait and read just as I would! It was decided weeks into the semester that we were destined to be best friends and she has taught me so much about life and how to actually be a good friend.
On the first day of the next semester, I was lost in a building I had never gone in, looking for a computer lab to change a class quickly. And there she was! Ironically enough, she was there to do the same thing. Lovingly enough, she joined me in taking a non-arts major arts class (which ended up being a very expensive oils class). In her joining my quest to finish the required core courses for any major, I was incredibly inspired by how she was an undecided major. As a philosopher, someone who is passionate about all humanities courses is very encouraging as you come to know that sometimes you can just learn and enjoy what you are learning.
The real Hero’s Journey enemies that come into play when going to college is procrastination and time management, which are really one and the same. For some people, skipping classes can be necessitated by needing to spend that time on other classes. What is unfortunate here is that a lot of people don’t have the time it takes to complete schoolwork due to life getting in the way. When it comes to procrastination, woefully, the universe did not teach me any lessons in not finishing a paper the day/night before it is due. I did not attempt this with semester-long projects, I would recommend taking all of that time to create perfection.
Approach to the inmost cave –
After meeting my Hero’s Journey “helper,” I realized that I would greatly benefit from looking for a calling (as the kids say). I worked in the restaurant business for four years, slowly and slowly switching job positions to find where I would be the happiest. The last of which was as a host in a high-end restaurant, making a lot more than I had as a shift leader in a Steak ‘n’ Shake, doing a lot less. Toward the end of the former, I was working my way to be an expeditor.
It was over winter break, between my third and fourth semesters (out of eleven), when the idea of being an ambassador came to mind. This could very well be from watching so much Star Trek, but the word “ambassador” popped into my mind one day and stuck there. It was just a few days later when I received an email to work for my college as an ambassador in student retention. At this point in my work life, I worked morning shifts so that I could work alone; the restaurant would be slow enough to bus tables and even decorate the chalkboard with promotions for specials. But I found that my biggest “need for change” in my work life was people. In the restaurant business, you are often surrounded by passing-by people who are generally fairly young, unpracticed, and/or unmotivated, and this was especially so for the host stand. I wanted to be in a field where people would stay longer and somewhere where I can have help from experienced people.
The largest change in my work life that I needed was independence. Admittedly, I do not have my driver’s license (yes, that is in present tense), and my parents would have to drive me to and fro work every workday. Neither my father nor I are morning people but this was the only time in which I could work by myself. What’s more, my schoolwork started to pile up, and I could see that I needed more time to study and finish everything. Waking up so early and working double shifts most weekends, I was too exhausted to finish homework and this left me no time to relax or breathe.
The ordeal in the abyss; facing the shadow self –
Going from a beautifully modern restaurant to a small corner office space of that farthest point of my college campus was a literal physical climb every time I went there. It was either the hill outside of the two flights of stairs, where I would sometimes find a completely pitch black office and I would be the only one there. The plus side was that I was able to study more, I had my own transportation to my job, sitting just above a cafe, and I was able to sit and work with my boss sitting at the other end of the office. I had never had a sitting job before, nor one working online, working nearly solely with my brain. My boss had me run a Facebook page and create promotions for events, and together with the one other ambassador, we also organized and ran events.
At minimum wage, I was working at almost the wage I was before and a tenth of the hours per week. I went from saving hundreds of dollars a month, to living off of my student loan disbursements, $40 every other week from my new job, and from money here and there from Upwork. I started working on Upwork a year before getting my job in student retention, with freelance writing, editing, and copywriting, but freelancing does not pay much without A) a lot of free time and B) experience. Overall, my shadow self was broke.
One day, while sitting in the student retention office, I asked my boss, “what is it exactly that I do here?” When he answered “public relations,” my mind was blown! I had never heard of or thought of public relations as a field that I would enjoy. The more I looked into it, the more it all made sense. For the four-year university I was looking at, there was a degree in advertising/public relations and again, my mind was blown! Not everyone would think so, but the way in which organizations have communicated to their publics, via adverts or what have you, has always deeply fascinated me.
To all of the people who have changed the channel on me, I just want to say, I was watching that! Advertisements, commercials, promotions, the news and media, these all have messages and images that are so apparent in our world today. But as a kid growing up, I have always come to view these messages as hilarious points of brainwashing to the general public. I believe it was Youtuber Drew Gooden who said that the Gen Z audience wants authentic content so much because they grew up on trashy ads and trashy ad-y content. I am what they call a “Millennial/Gen Z Cusper” (I don’t know), but I would wholeheartedly agree with Drew in that the brainwashing aspect of advertisements is very apparent. Public relations includes advertising as well as all messages within or out of an organization, including consumers, employees, stakeholders, but invariably, all communities that an organization may be able to frame within and around their target audience.
The ultimate boon –
My Hero’s Journey through college and university had an ultimate goal of receiving a degree and a fruitful job. By good fortune, I was able to find a job four semesters before graduation. But as luck would have it, my job was able to find me through my Upwork profile. Part-time and full-time jobs are seldom seen on Upwork as it is a freelancing service. Shortly after Upwork started its feature for hirers to invite hirees to jobs, I started to receive messages weekly and this relieved a great deal of time for me. One of these was from my current job, who was extremely excited to hear about my goals in philosophy and hired me to work in public relations. They offered either part- or full-time work and ultimately offered a full-time position after I graduate (which starts next month!!). It was here that I joked that I could realistically quit school and work full-time now. However, it would be very unlike me to quit something that I have put so much effort and money toward; and as the people who just hired me just met me, I would not want that to reflect on my character one bit.
The ultimate, ultimate point in my Hero’s Journey would be walking across the graduation stage with my hard-cover diploma (prop, or else I would have had two). Owing to the fact that I left traditional school and went online to finish my high school degree, I chose not to walk for graduation because it was not the school I had grown up with (grades 6-11). And because I am oddly anti-social, I also chose not to walk for my Associate’s degree graduation. The first point in which I was able to experience that life-long milestone was during the global pandemic and for that reason, it was a 5-minute photo-op with four allowed guests. We all went to the park afterward, where four of my siblings and other family members joined the photo-op party. I do wish we could have had a bigger celebration, with food and friends, but what can you do.
Refusal of the return –
During the month of final exams, required speech lab visits, papers being written and due, presentations, and what have you, there was one idea that started to grow in my head: but what about a Master’s degree? Or a Doctorate? And even somewhere in the bottom of my heart when my family at the photo-op asked, “so are you done?” But there are a lot of advantages to be taken when you go there and back again.
Taking inspiration from a philosopher professor I met, leaving the bubble that is a university will allow me to fully finish The Hero’s Journey. In explaining his experiences, my professor explained to me that he had gone to school his whole life to then teach because he didn’t want to leave the college/university bubble. He joked about this but it really made me appreciate my gap year where I learned I didn’t want to cook anymore. And now, I want to leave that bubble to find out what else is there; and so far, my job is already showing me a much bigger and better world that I am very excited to join.
The road back home –
Being that the past two and a half semesters have been entirely online, my road back home is not very adventurous or exciting. The biggest change in my environment is not having to log onto Zoom three times a week. My first two and a half semesters of university had a much longer commute than it was for college because I had started taking the bus. Bussing back and forth, 1h15 each way, was relaxing and productive for me on the best of days. The university campus is a mix of both my high school and college in that it is in the middle of nowhere but it is also expansive with buildings and parks, in addition to this there are also structures and small hiking trails. If I were to imagine a more perfect road back home, all I could say is that I miss the campus already. Only, realistically, I have missed the campus for so long and it was so wonderful to go back for the commencement walk for graduation!
Master of two worlds –
Entering back into the ordinary world today, after leaving for six years, would be to compare the world as it was for me during my gap year of an unhappy work life in the restaurant industry. Rather, I would love to say that this is the case in which the hero comes back to their ordinary world to find that it has changed more than the hero themself. My work life today is to use my brain rather than my body as public relations is completely communicated, whereas restaurant work is simply physical. The in-between here is my experience as a host, but there one can only go so far in promoting menu items and being personable, though this was the most apropos stepping stone to public relations.
Return with special knowledge –
Entering back into the ordinary world today, after leaving Youtube nine years ago (middle school – now), would be a much better comparison as I have aspirations to continue being a content creator and commentator on items in the news and media on various advertisements and public relations messages and icons. One back to back example would be to take my Youtube video from 2010 on Katy Perry on Sesame Street and my opinion on the scandal that ensued (her boobs jigged), and to then make a video today on if this was ethical or not, or how Sesame Street’s PR team could and should have approached the situation.
Ascent to a higher plane –
Without ending on an entirely boastful note, I am very excited to say that I am very much so looking forward to creating better content and having found a more fulfilling career path! This story is not to promote college or university as a one-fits-all solution to finding a calling, but for +/- $40,000, I am very happy to say that my experience was able to help me and I couldn’t have done it had I not let my life fall into the hands of the universe and put effort toward what it chose.
Thearetical Concepts. (2019, February 4). The Hero’s Journey in Advertising. Thearetical Concepts. http://www.thearetical.com/blog/the-heros-journey-in-advertising.