How to Know if You Live in an Archetypal Wasteland

The Wasteland is a place of despair, isolation, and loneliness. Nothing grows there. Especially not you. If you’re in the Wasteland, your own talents and abilities go to waste.

In Star Wars, A New Hope, Luke Skywalker is raised on the planet of Tatooine. It’s a desert planet. He lives with his aunt and uncle, and though they are good people, there’s really nothing for Luke there. They spend their days farming moisture. Luke is so bored by it.

And no wonder. Luke Skywalker was born to be a Jedi. His true brilliance could never come out if he spent all his days in the middle of the desert farming moisture. Not that farming moisture is an ignoble futuristic pursuit; Jedi just have other ways to serve the Galaxy.

Luke Skywalker was living in an archetypal Wasteland.

The Wasteland is a place of despair, isolation, and loneliness. It’s frustrating and mundane. If you’re in the Wasteland, there is no one and nothing for you. Nothing grows there. Especially not you. If you’re in the Wasteland, your own talents and abilities go to waste.

The Wasteland doesn’t have to look like a desert.

Harry Potter was in the Wasteland when he was living in the cupboard in his aunt and uncle’s house. (Notice that he was living with his aunt and uncle, just like Luke? Not a mistake. But that’s another archetype for another article.)

Here are a few things you might experience if you’re in the Wasteland:

  • A sense of complete isolation, even if you’re surrounded by others.

  • Boredom. So much boredom.

  • The feeling that you’re wasting time, even though you might be busy all the time.

  • You’re not utilizing your unique skills and talents.

  • You don’t enjoy the things that people around you enjoy.

  • You feel as though you could walk away tomorrow, and not actually be walking away from much.

  • You feel as though you were meant for something greater than what you’re doing . . . and you have the feeling that this feeling is silly. Why should you be any different from the people around you? You’re not “better than them,” after all.

  • You’re going through the motions of life, out of touch with your feelings.

  • You’re frustrated with your life because it feels monotonous and without “spark.”

All of these feelings are normal when you’re in the Wasteland.

I think the archetype of the Wasteland has a lot to offer us . . . but only if we recognize it and take action. When we’re neck deep in that shi—, we can’t always see it. We just feel the things on the list above, and think that maybe we’re depressed or something.

Just think—what if Luke had stayed on Tatooine? He’d probably have developed some real depression. He’d be going to a hologram therapist (since the nearest therapist would probably be days away) and ordering pharmaceuticals from future Google.

What if Harry Potter had stayed in the Dursleys’ house, and just believed that this was his lot in life? He’d have developed some issues, to say the least. Maybe years of abuse would’ve led him to create an alternate reality in his mind—one where he was a wizard. The Dursleys would probably have checked him into a psych ward.

Luke and Harry would have “wasted away” if they stayed there. (Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)

The point is: feeling bored and uninspired by life is not abnormal. Neither is feeling like you were meant for something greater. It’s an archetypal “sign” that you need to grow, and to do that, you need to change something about your life.

As human beings, we are constantly growing. What feels fulfilling today may someday stop helping us grow. That’s because as we live into our dreams and plans, as we follow our spirits, we grow as people . . . and we develop new dreams and plans. It’s not necessarily about “the grass is always greener on the other side,” or even about constantly seeking and never finding.

Those are very real states of being, but they’re not the same as the Wasteland, which threatens to drain your spirit unless you get out.

In order to get out of the Wasteland, you first have to go within. The Wasteland shows you that your world is unfulfilling, so it calls you to ask your spirit what you really want, and who you really are. How can the barren places be filled with life? How can you open your heart further?

Once you leave the Wasteland, I like to think it’s possible we can move into a different archetypal paradigm altogether—we can live our spirit’s true calling—and we won’t have to deal with the Wasteland anymore. But maybe, just MAYBE, the Wasteland will sneak up on us again at some point in the future. We’ll look up from a busy schedule, take stock of life, and say, “Oh, shi—. I thought I’d left this place in the dust, but here I am again.”

Yes, it sucks to be there—especially when you don’t hate everything about the Wasteland. Luke, for example, didn’t hate his aunt and uncle. He loved them. They were part of what kept him in the Wasteland (so: part of what kept him from growing). But then they died horribly and there really was nothing left for him there.

I like to think we can act before it gets to that point.

So the Wasteland has a silver lining, if we have the courage to see it. It’s a sign that you’re a bigger person than you thought, and it’s time to grow again.

So what’s next?


L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Her memoir, “Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker,” tells about when she answered a shady classified ad and wound up working as a sex worker’s personal assistant. Follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

© Leslie Hedrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.

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