Thursday, February 28, 2013

Call Me

Well kids, I’m both incredibly excited and somewhat scared to write this. I guess I'll just come out with it:
I’ve turned in my papers. I’m going on a mission!
Yup. How many people were expecting that? Can I get a show of hands?
Sometimes I suspect that everyone knew but me.

How I got here? It's a long story. One that I'm still working out. If you'd told me last summer that I'd be turning in mission papers, I would have slapped you silly and said that was as likely to happen as Mittens becoming president or the world ending on December 21. But here I am. And I feel so incredibly good about it.

I realize this must seem very out of the blue. I haven’t talked to many people about it, because at a certain point between going to church and deciding to go on a mission, I realized something pivotal: this is nobody’s journey but my own. I’ve always felt pushed and pulled in various directions by the Mormons, ex-Mormons, and non-Mormons in my life. Partially, that’s because I grew up in Utah where everyone has an opinion about the Mormon church, but it was mostly just my own illusions and sensitivity. At any rate, getting past that changed things for me. Once I understood that it really wasn’t anyone else’s decision (or business, really), I set about finding out where I stood when I was alone. And what I found is that I am a Mormon, through and through.

I know it’s a long way from where I’ve been to the statement I am a Mormon, through and through and to be honest, I'm not sure exactly when I got on this path. Looking back now, it seems that I was always on it, because I can’t imagine how I would have gotten here except the way I came. If I think about it, I suppose I really started heading toward a mission when I got to college (ironically enough).

I got here and I finally wasn’t pushing back against the church or the other things I’d grown up with, simply because they weren’t present. For a while, it was fun to not have to be a Mormon. And by a while, I mean less than a month. Then I started really missing it, which deep down, I think I always knew I would. But it was more than missing it, because I was also missing my home and my friends and my family, and that was different than how I felt about church. About church it felt deeper, and with some kind of inner tension and dissidence.

Around this time was general conference, when the policy was changed to allow women to go on missions at 19. The moment I heard about the new policy, I felt this powerful feeling that I needed to go. It was one of those moments of surety such as I have rarely experienced. But it also scared the hell out of me. I'd never thought of a mission as being something for me. I wasn't sure I was a Mormon.

So there I was. For a while, I really fought the feeling, because it wasn't what I thought I wanted. It certainly wasn't what I thought my path looked like. But I prayed hard about it, and allowed myself to contemplate and sincerely consider the church more seriously than I ever had before. And I got my answer and decided I would go. In that moment of decision I felt peace such as I've never felt before. I felt aligned. I felt like I'd stopped fighting myself, like all this conflict and anger inside me had melted away. I was so thrilled by the path ahead. There was such an enormity of purpose.

Since then, I've been forging my way. I think the best way I can describe what it's been like is what I wrote in my journal soon after I’d decided to go: I’m not always totally sure of what I’m doing, but I know that it feels so right, and I follow that.

As I was figuring this whole thing out, I of course I made it to church. I realized that whether or not a mission was on the table I wanted the church to be part of my life; it’s who I am, and I love that. Living with faith matters a lot to me. So I planted my feet, and worked hard to figure out how I would be part of the church. My second Sunday I went to introduce myself to the Bishop. We were talking, and at some point, I remember saying, “I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted. It’s taken me a while to get here. But I’m here now, and I’m here to stay.”

One of the things that has been most meaningful to me is finding that I do have a spot in this church. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like there isn’t room for me as I am. But I no longer believe that. I’m in the church because this is where my heart has led me and I, too, belong. I will never be fit that ultra-orthodox, vague, misconstrued notion of what a real Mormon is. That’s not who I am, but that’s just fine, because I absolutely believe what Joanna Brooks once wrote: “this world needs Mormon women like you – with brains, education, opportunity, guts, compassion, a pioneer work ethic, and the burning-in-your-heart conviction that this life is really about spiritual growth.”

Getting ready to go on a mission has of course been hard work. I’ve had to start figuring out some big things. But it’s also been difficult because I'm literally the only Mormon at Swat. Me. (Talk about diversity). It’s different than it was at home, because on the daily I'm very much going it on my own. Being Mormon has become an individual effort on a whole new level. But I think that's been really good, because I’ve learned how to make the church my own.

Clearly, I don’t know everything about the church. Though I have developed a testimony of many things, there are also still lots and lots of other things I struggle with. What I’ve found is that I’m happier being in the church and dealing with those things from that perspective than making them deal-breaker reasons to leave the church, because on my deepest level, I do believe. And I have faith that there is a way for me to deal with those things eventually.

In the meantime, I move forward with a deep belief that I’m happier and my life is easier when I follow my Heavenly Father’s template for my life. That thus far the Lord has not led me astray. That my Heavenly Father loves me. Not in a cliché, pamphlet-y, as-long-as-you-don’t-sin way, but in a way that is personal and soft and sincere and meaningful. In a way that involves knowing me, listening to me, and being part of in my life. In a way that is unconditional, even when unconditional love seems like an incredibly illogical concept.

I’m a different person compared to who I was last year. The past several months have brought me enormous joy and peace, have made me quieter and kinder. I have learned about obedience and living with faith, and I have seen miracles in my life and myself. I’m going on a mission because I have this testimony, and because I haven’t always had it. I’m going on a mission because I believe completely that God’s love and Atonement are infinitely extended to everyone. I’m going on a mission to share these things that I’ve come to believe and that have changed everything for me.

Though there are times when I’m still pretty terrified, I am absolutely sure this is the right thing for me. Obviously, I don’t know where I’ll get called to (can we just acknowledge the complete surrender of control in being willing to live for 18 months wherever a piece of paper tells you to go?) In many ways, I’m hoping to stay in the States. When I think about myself as a missionary I can’t help feeling that, for whatever reason, stateside is where I’ll be most effective. Maybe it’s because the English language is one of my best friends - we work pretty well together - and I’d like to keep it up. But I know that wherever I get sent will be the right place (though please, please, please don’t let the right place be a visitor’s center). I trust that it will be, partly because of this scripture that I’ve held firmly to and that has become my favorite as I’ve been getting ready for a mission: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever” (2 Nephi 4:34).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quote Sunday

This week I've been battling some serious insomnia. At some early morning hour, after I'd finished cutting my bangs, I ran into this quote on Pinterest. I think I need it for this upcoming week. It's a big one.

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough or isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work, or family, or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
Neil Gaiman

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheap Meditation

My hair has reached perfect bun-hair length. I've been growing it out, more out of laziness/ not-trusting-anyone-to-cut-it than out of really wanting long hair. But now that it's growing, I'm kinda liking it and wanting it longer. Anyway, right now it looks not-so-awesome if I let it down without blow drying it. Since most days I'm too lazy to blow dry it, I've become queen of the bun. But it's okay, because my hair is going into a casual bun rather flawlessly. So I'm grateful for that.

I miss baking. Quite a bit actually. It's not like I baked a lot when I was home, but I would every once in a while. Usually, it was when I was sad. I bake when I'm sad. Cupcakes and bread, usually. But sometimes I bake just because. I like baking the same way I like driving. They both occupy just the right amount of your consciousness so that the rest of your mind can wander around. It's like meditating for people who don't have the discipline to do real meditation.

Journal writing is like that too. Not quite as good, but another kind of cheap meditation. Yesterday, I was going through lists of journal prompts, because I've been struggling with writing lately. One of them was "write letters for your loved ones to read after you die". I literally rolled my eyes. What a ridiculously contrived journal prompt. Sure, it works in movies, but besides that, blarg. Maybe it's just that I'm 18 and I have the luxury of not really knowing I'm going to die. Some day, I will know I'm going to die. On that day, I will read King Lear and maybe I'll write those dumb letters. Or maybe I'll sink into a deep depression, because I can't imagine that realizing you're going to die is very pleasant. Or maybe I'll bake.

I think the absence of a kitchen in my life is leaving my Mormon Housewife side is feeling neglected. Who can blame her, really. Maybe that's why I've become so absurdly clean. Because I've gotten really really clean. Everything in my room is put away at all times. Maybe that's my inner Mormon Housewife compensating for the lack of a kitchen.

On a related note, my inner feminist is seriously missing Hillary Clinton. I can't read John Kerry's name without feeling sad. But the fact that almost daily there's some article about Hillary's unstoppable potential for 2016 makes it somewhat easier. Just so we're clear, if she does run in 2016, I am dropping everything I am doing to work on her campaign. That woman is the greatest.

Spring break is two weeks from tomorrow! Woo Hoo! Florida, here I come!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Best Weekend

It was the best weekend. It included:

  • A gorgeous Friday
  • New lipstick
  • Dinner in Chinatown
  • Rockefeller Plaza
  • Shopping until our feet gave out
  • Me successfully not buying any books
  • Wearing the same leggings for 3 days straight
  • Hungarian Pastry Shop
  • Hot chocolate festival
  • Non-festival hot chocolate
  • Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidian
  • The BEST Thai dinner
  • The Impossible 
  • 2 straight hours of ugly-crying during The Impossible
  • Snobby Longchamp salespeople
  • Starbucks
  • Kat's incredibly darling roommate
  • Being the only blondes in a one-mile radius
  • Speed writing a thoroughly mediocre paper
  • Snapchat friends across the country
  • Catching up on the important and the not important things
  • Talking, talking, talking
Yes, it was the best.  It was wonderful to pick up right where we left off. I didn't realize how much I really needed that fill-up-my-bucket best friend time. But I did and it was great. Now to make it to Spring Break. 

I failed to get a group picture. Oops.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Paperman for Valentine's

Here's to another year believing in love and paper and and Disney.

One Billion Rising? Awesome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February... Ugh

I know it's probably not okay to hate an entire month, but I really hate February. I hate it so much. February and October are my two least favorite months. February makes my boots feel heavy. It feels like the work will never end, like summer will never come, like I'm perpetually in need of a good cry, like there will never be enough dark chocolate.

I've caught the Swat Plague. I'm usually a pretty healthy person, and I don't get sick very often. You've probably heard me brag about my "immune system of steel". Buy my immune system has failed me, and now I'm sick. I'm really bad at being sick. I'm not one of those who powers through it and keeps their chin up. Not me. I whine, and I whine a lot. And I feel debilitated and stop doing life. Yesterday, I spent the entire 90 minute yoga class in child's pose. And I went to bed at 8. Got 12 hours sleep. Needed it.

I've drunk my weight in tea. Specifically tea with lots of honey.

I've got essays to write and books to read, but I think I'll let them go for now. Because I think that's the only way to get through February. Instead, I'm going to read some of my favorite poems, and start Sound and The Fury again, because rereading good books  might be the only way to get through this plague and this month.

Like I said, I whine when I'm sick.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Break Day

Some days, I just need a break from life in the Swat bubble. So today I:

1. Curled my hair and put on makeup.

2. Went to lunch (Indian food!) with my Penn friends.

3. Came back around 4, put on pajamas, and did not leave the dorm for the rest of the night.

4. Ate Chinese leftovers for dinner.

5. Used my unused meal swipes of the week to buy 30 packages of fruit snacks.

6. Planned next weekend in New York with Kat and Alex!

7. Read an entire poetry collection instead of homework. (It was The Smell of Good Mud by Lauren Zuniga, and it was GOOD.)

8. Watched too many episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch on Hulu #guiltypleasure

9. Read trashy magazines with Winnie.

10. Wrote a poem.

11. I'm going to bed early and I'm getting 10 hours of sleep.

And tomorrow? Well I've got my bag all packed for a day in the library. I've got like four books to read, but I'll deal with that tomorrow, because today was just what I needed.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What did I learn today?

Tonight I wrote my first bio lab report. I should qualify that. Tonight I half-assed my first bio lab report and wrote a miserable first draft in the course of about ninety minutes. Let me once again mention how much I hate science. T- 4 months until I say goodbye to the natural sciences forever. #Englishmajor

So the lab was about homeostasis. Homeostasis is essentially maintaining the same internal state even in the face of changing outside environments. So we studied the way water of different salinities affected crabs and worms (I know, fun right? Tomorrow we dissect minks. I'd rather read Infinite Jest in one sitting). So the conclusion of the lab was that worms are osmoconformers - meaning they adjust to the salinity in the water - whereas crabs are osmoregulators - they are able to keep the same internal environment regardless of salinity.

And the whole damn thing just felt like a metaphor to me.

I know I've written about this before, but one of the things that I've spent a lot of the last year thinking about and working towards is grounding myself. To me, being grounded means that life is lived as a series of action not reactions. It's maintaining the same internal sense of being regardless of all the things out of my control. And I think it's important because when life is a series of reactions, I'm not in control, my environment is. In essence, it's being the osmoconformer, being the worm.

The thing about being the regulator is that it's hard. The crab has it's whole hard shell going on that allows it to be in control. I guess I haven't quite worked out that part of the metaphor yet, other than that it takes active work to be the regulator. But you know what? I've gotten better at it. These days, I think I'm more of a crab than a worm. Which feels good.

I don't know if there's a secret to grounding oneself. It's highly possible that the secret is simply some therapy here and there. But I'm pretty sure it takes a little bit more than that. For me, the most important thing has been developing my own list of anchor values. They're the overall governing principles and values that I hold to. And it took me about a year to really feel like I had a list and I was committed to it. But I've found so much power in that list of values, because I already know where I stand. When I've already decided - really decided - that compassion or integrity or faith is something I will work my hardest to live by, well then it makes things that much easier. And yes, I fail. I fail every single day. But I don't think it's about being able to drink the Felix Felicis potion and have one day of perfect anchor value living. I think it's about living a grounded life.

Start I where I am, use what I have, and do what I can. And that's enough.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Family Pictures

Once upon a time, when we were in Hawaii we took family pictures.
Somehow Lizzy got placed next to me. Good thing I have a five-year-old child. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Single Life

Fortunately, this is not a post about a breakup. No, this is a post about the glory of my single room. This past semester was the first time in my life I'd had to have a roommate. We did pretty well together, but I'm pretty pleased to have my own room now.

My room is tiny. It's about 75 square feet. Most of that 75 square feet is filled with college-issued furniture. You know, the cheap matching honey-stained wood desk, bookshelf, dresser, and bed. I also have a window, and that's quite pleasant. In the morning I wake up and the window fills the room with light. And I have a closet big enough to fit everything I want to put in there.

On a related note to the closet, a tragedy has occurred. My warmest coat - the Patagonia one - has gotten a tear in the sleeve. So rather than risk losing down, or the tear getting bigger, I sent it off for repairs. Which means I have to sit out the month of February without my coat. Which could be bad. So fingers crossed the weather stays warm.

So I had fun organizing and decorating my single. The wall opposite my bed got all my posters and such. For the wall above my bed, I cut letters out of an old lit mag so it says "There is only one heart in my body, have mercy on me" (because cutting letters out of a lit mag is the cheap way to decorate). The decorations make me happy. 

Having a single has been great. I just love having the privacy of it. I love that I can close my door and study instead of going to the library (though the library is still a valuable place to study). I even love how small it is, because it's quite cozy. It feels manageable. I keep it clean (ish), but it's easy, because everything has it's proper place, and getting it there is quick.

So that's my single. Yesterday, me and my friends went to Restaurant Week at a fondue place. Four courses. We were all dying by the end, but it was such good food. Sometimes you need really good food.

Speaking of food, when we ordered Chinese this week, this was what my fortune cookie said:
It must have known I was from Utah.