3/23/15

How My Mission Ruined My Life

Before I went on my mission on April 24, 2013, I was a pretty happy person. I was attending Brigham Young University in Provo and was doing well in my classes. I was dating someone, had awesome friends and roommates, and was enjoying being myself. I had good goals set for myself: graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and marry in the temple. I was serving in my freshman ward as the visiting teaching supervisor. Life was good.

Then, I chose to serve a mission. I gave up my generally happy lifestyle to travel to Washington for a year and a half to teach people what I believed. I spent two weeks in the MTC, learning how to teach effectively and how to recognize the spirit. It wasn’t too bad of a time, but it wasn’t very easy either. Learning how to be around people 24/7 was a big challenge for me.

After that, I got shipped out to Washington with a group of missionaries. There, I spent the next six months having the hardest experience of my life. On a daily basis, people slammed their doors in my face and mocked the things I believed in. I had people threaten to call the cops on me. I had people swear and curse at me and everything I loved. I spent every minute, every day, trying to teach a message that people didn’t want to hear. I found myself asking God why He would want me to serve a mission if no one was going to listen, if no one was going to change. I felt like it was a huge waste of time and money. I could be back in Provo with my friends enjoying college. I became angry and bitter at times, reluctant to put forth any effort.

I kept going. I started to move past these mentioned things. I kept pushing and trying. However, my mission threw another wrench into my life. I felt a crushing sense of despair and disappointment. I started to hate myself and to feel like a failure. I found myself questioning the meaning of life. But I was a missionary! I was supposed to be helping people who were feeling like this, not feeling like this myself!

Finally, my mission delivered its final blow. I was sent home after serving only for six months because my depression was becoming too serious to be able to deal with out in the field. So much hurt and hatred went through my heart. My mission ruined my life! I had sacrificed so much to serve, only to be sent home early because I wasn’t good enough. Now, I was broken goods. I had a deep wound in my mind that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t served. I carried the shame of being a failure. I felt miserable and alone. My life, as I knew it, was ruined.

It’s true—my mission ruined my life. It ruined my idea of how my life was supposed to go and what I was supposed to learn. My mission completely upended me and made me work to find truth. No longer could I rely on the simple testimony I had gained and kept as a young child. I was forced to face the world and to see how hard things really can be. I saw how dark things truly can be.
My mission forced me to grow, to learn, to love. It forced me to dig deep and understand more about myself and what I stand for. It forced me to turn to God and ask Him if He is really there, if what I was teaching was the truth.

My mission “ruined” my idea of my life, and it gave me the life that God wants me to live. My mission changed my perspective and my faith. The challenges I faced helped me become who I am today, and I know it will continue to help shape who I will become. God took my small, weak expectations for myself and molded them into something greater, deeper. When I chose to serve a mission, God knew the trials I was going to face. He knew I was going to have a mental break down. He knew I was going to come home early. He knew the heartache I was going to go through and the darkness I would find myself in. But He also knew that it was what I needed. He knew that these experiences would help me grow in ways that I never could if I didn’t go. Yes—my mission ruined my life. It forced me to demolish parts of myself that were impeding better parts. I went through so much ruin, despair, and grief. But on the other side was hope, light, and growth.

My mission ruined my life and caused me to build a better one. Before I served my mission on April 24, 2013, I was a pretty happy person. Now, I'm a better person.


3/15/15

Choices

{It has been awhile since I posted last. I had a nasty combination of writers block, a low week, and a week of being absolutely sicker than a dog. However, those days are past, and I am back!}

Let me ask you a question. Is happiness a choice?

Some say yes. Some say no. For others, it's somewhere in between. 

There have been times in my life when everything was virtually perfect. I had loving friends and family. I was attending a great school, so on and so forth. Yet, I was absolutely miserable. For some reason that I could never really explain, sadness and apathy bogged me down like a 100 pound back pack. (Like I could ever carry that much weight in real life. Ha.)

During said hard times, I had very well-meaning friends, family members, and church leaders say something along the lines of, "Well, just decide to be happy!" When they said such things, I had to grit my teeth to refrain from saying anything stupid. These people love me and were only trying to help. I recognize that, and I appreciate them and love them so much for that. But, they were wrong. 

Happiness is not a choice. Neither is unhappiness. Happiness is not a choice, but the result of a collection of choices. Before you freak out, let me explain. 

When I wake up in the morning, I immediately have two choices. 1. Get up and get rest. Or. 2. Stay in bed. Now, choosing option 1 is usually the best choice which will lead to a happier, more successful day. So it is with every simple choice we make during the day. There are some things that are pretty much garanteed to lead to a happier day, and some things that are pretty much garanteed to do the opposite. The choices we make directly correlate with our mood. 

Here's another example. To make cookies, I use a variety of ingredients: butter, eggs, flour, sugar, etc. The right combination of ingredients will make some dang good cookies. But, it would be wrong to say that butter equals cookies. Butter is butter, cookies have butter in them. Happiness is a giant concoction of choices, not just one simple "thing."

However. And this is a big however. There are some things that are out of our control, or, non-choices. (Ya, I just made that up) Non-choices are things like the unexpected death of a loved one. Waking up sicker than a dog. Getting a flat tire on the way to work. Things that are pretty much completely out of our control. And these non-choices can greatly impact our happiness. 

Depression is one of those non-choices. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain, something that greatly affects how a person can function. I cannot change the fact that I have naturally low levels of "happy chemicals" in my brain. But I can control what I do about it. I can choose to go to therapy. Choose to take medicine. Choose to exercise. Choose small things to keep me balanced. 

Are you catching my drift yet? Happiness is not a choice, it is a composition of small and large choices we make every day. I don't choose to be happy or unhappy, rather I choose to follow the time-proven practices that I know will help me improve my life. 

Happiness is a complex thing, an idea that is different for everyone. I feel that too often we turn it into something it's not. It's not a destination. It's not a choice. I don't even feel like it's an emotion. To me, happiness is a way of living. It is taking small steps every day to improve your life and the lives of those around you. Happiness isn't a choice, it's how we live our lives. 





{Agree? Disagree? Somewhere in between? Comment below and let me know!}