I spent last summer reading the epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. What strikes me most about the books is the outright vulnerability of all of the characters, including the Gods. The heroes of the stories are portrayed as ordinary beings that are plagued by the same stresses and subject to the same flaws as people today.

What sets these heroes apart from their ordinary counterparts is their consistent choice to accept opportunities and to be proactive even in the face of challenges, most notably, imminent death. If someone steals their daughter, they sail across the sea to demand her back. If they are stuck away from home in an unfamiliar land without a ship, they inspire their crew to get back at any cost, even if it takes ten years.

Upon starting Book 16 of the Iliad, my professor announced, “This is the beginning of the end.” The class laughed, but it became increasingly astounding to me that, as we read on, the characters in the poem knew it to be true as well. Knowing well their fate to die inside the walls of Troy, they choose to fight. They continued on their journey despite vast and unknown forces.

Page after page, all of the heroes in these stories make the choice to be extraordinary despite their capacity for human vulnerability. Their legend is called epic. Knowing well my weaknesses as I go about my life, this leaves a thrilling comparison in my mind: How will I deal with the vast and unknown forces—will I stay safe in the safe harbor of my comfort zone or will I set sail on my very own odyssey?
…What will you do?