I wrote this for a writer's group I belong to. The prompt was to make a list and write a story from it. Since I have just gone over the Hero's Journey, I thought I would put a spin on that. What I came up with is the hero's journey as seen through the eyes of a boy named Jimmy who is going to his first day of school. There are many examples of this format in our popular culture from Odysseus to Buzz, Woody and Shrek. In this popular genre, we find that Hero's Journey is not exclusive to just superheroes, it can include common stories like this one. Follow along with me on this heroic journey.
Hero's Journey: First Day of School
I was teaching my class about the twelve steps in Hero’s Journey in one of my classes when a student compare this to his memory of the first day of school. At first I scoffed, but then he showed me how true his conclusion was.
Step One: The ordinary world
Hi, my name is Jimmy Shaffer and I’m supposed to start school tomorrow. I had my birthday over the summer when I turned five years old. We went school shopping while my older brother Casey kept an eye peeled for his “girlfriend.” He did not see her and was grumpy.
Step Two: The call
The new alarm clock goes off and I don’t know why. I have never used such a device before, but here we are.
Step Three: The refusal.
I’m going to do what, you say? I really don’t think so. Doesn’t sound like something I want to do. I have changed my mind. Casey calls me a wimp. He is not helping.
Step Four: Meeting the mentor.
After resisting, my mother finally runs a comb through my knotted hair and I have on my new cool jeans. She opens the door. A big yellow bus screeches to a halt near my front door. The door opens and a man sitting in the driver’s seat says, “Hi, I’m Mr. Spinelli. I’m here to drive you to school.”
Step Five: Crossing the Threshold.
I climb on the bus. All kinds of noise. All kinds of kids. All kinds of reasons why I want to turn around and go back inside my house.
Step Six: Tests, Allies, Enemies.
There is a girl with two ponytails named Ester. I’ve seen her and her big sister riding their bikes past my house. Even through I know her, she sneers and says, “Hi, I’m Ester and you can’t sit in that seat, I’m saving it for my best friend.” I move away and sit next to a boy who says, “Hi my name is Gene. Do you like jumping off the swing?” I move away and edge toward the back of the bus where some sixth graders are making noise and one of them sees me approach and growls, “Go away pipsqueak, just sixth graders are allowed.” So I sit up front in the back of Mr. Speneilli all by myself.
Step Seven: Approaching the innermost cave.
“Hello children, I’m Mrs. Perkins and I will be your kindergarten teacher.” She is as old as my grandmother and my grandmother is ancient. The classroom is like a cave and I panic thinking that I will never escape this awful place. Hey, wait a minute, there are toys over there on the shelf.
Step Eight: The Ordeal.
I sit at a table by myself. Ester scowls at me sitting next to her friend Missy. Missy looks like she could hurt me and I swallow hard and stare at Mrs. Perkins who says, “Now boys and girls we are going to pair up for storytime.” I hold my breath, I can feel my heart beat faster and faster. She has a hat and tells us our names are in the hat. She pulls out about ten names before I hear her call mine. Then she plunges her bony hand into the hat and pulls out Ester. My heart stops. Ester yells, “No fair! I don’t want to sit next to him for story time.”
Step Nine: Reward
But wait, Mrs. Perkins has a treasure chest at her desk. She opens it slowly and pulls out a brand new colorful pencil. With a twinkle in her eye, she smiles and hands me the pencil promising, “If you be a good boy, you can keep the pencil to work on you classwork. I look at my prize and I see Spiderman stamped near the eraser. How cool is that? She gives Ester a pencil with lame old Dora the Explorer on hers. Ester nods and then turns to me, “You’d better not bug me, puke breath or else.” She does not have to tell me what “or else” is, I’ve got a pretty good idea.
Step Ten: The road back:
It was a pretty good day, really and Mr. Spinelli is sitting on the bus when Mrs. Perkins lets us out of the classroom after the bell rings. I sit in my spot behind Mr. Spinelli and show him my pencil. He smiles and says, “Cool.” before starting the bus up. Man, he’s got bushy eyebrows.
Step Eleven: Resurrection:
I got off the bus and yelled “I made it!” as I walked to my porch. My brother rolled his eyes and said, “Good going dweeb.”
Step Twelve: Return with the elixir
I showed mom and dad my pencil and they sure were proud of me.