A Letter to Myself

The day I came home from my mission is a bit of a blur in my mind. Most of it is a mush of things that I've tried to forget. But, I have a few poignant, fragmented memories that won't ever leave me.

I remember looking out the window, numb, as my AP's drove me to the airport. They nervously tried to make small talk with me and the other two sisters in the car, then just with each other. I felt bad for them.

I remember seeing my dad for the first time in six months and the look of pain and concern on his face that he tried to conceal with a smile. He flew to Seattle to pick me up so that I wouldn't have to fly home alone. After security, while we were waiting for our flight, my dad asked me what I wanted. "What do you mean?" "What do you want? What can I buy for you?" I asked for Starbucks pumpkin spice hot chocolate. 

I remember walking down the stairs at the SLC airport, seeing my family waiting below. They looked as nervous as I was. When I got to her, my mom hugged me tighter then she ever has. My mascara smeared on my face and on her shirt. My little sister Amberly was taller, much taller than I remembered.

I remember that friends called. Neighbors visited. My family and I sat together, trying to inject some happiness into the awkward, sad bitterness than hung in the air. I told them funny stories and they told me some too. I pulled out the couple of Seattle souvenirs that I had snagged at various points in my mission--most of them tacky plastic somethings with the Space Needle plastered on them. We smiled and pushed back the tears the best we could. 

Sometimes, I wish I could relive that day. I wish I could tell myself then everything that I know now. I wish I could go back and square up my shoulders and hold my head high, because now I know that I deserved to. There are so many things I wish I had known back then. If only I could send a letter back to myself, to the girl in November of 2013.

Dear Rachel,

    Wipe away those tears. I know you're sad. It's okay that you're sad, but you're sad for the wrong reasons. You're sad because you think you failed. You think you gave up and failed everyone around you. But guess what? You didn't fail at all. No, you served the mission that God wanted you to serve. You didn't fail Him at all. He has something else in mind for you. Just because your mission only lasted six months doesn't mean you didn't serve a full mission. You did. Be proud of that.
    The next few months--years, really--are going to be tough. You aren't going to heal as quickly as you think you are, but you are going to make progress. You are going to make friends. You are going to find bits and pieces of happiness that will build up into something beautiful. 

    People aren't going to judge you like you think they are. They are there for you! They love you. They support you. Your ward, your friends, your extended family--they are all going to give you more love than you can believe is possible. They believe in you and want you to succeed. They are proud of you for everything that you've done. You are so lucky to have them. Cling to the support they are going to give.
    Rachel, your parents are hurting right now. They need help too. Seems strange, doesn't it? They are hurting for you. They want nothing more than to take away your pain. Love them lots, okay? Let them help you. Help them in return. Don't forget that they are your number one supporters.
    Your little sisters don't know what to do. It's hard for them to see their big sister in such a low spot. They've looked up to you for so long. But now it's your turn to look up to them. They have so much strength in them! They love you and want to help you. Rely on them, love them, and thank them. They might seem small and young, but they are powerful.
    Rachel, know this: There are better times ahead. Don't get overwhelmed by the darkness you are feeling right now. Cling to the little bit of light you have. Cling to the knowledge that you have that God loves you. He does. I know you don't believe it right now, but you've got to. Remember that the Savior not only died and atoned for you, but that He felt everything that you are feeling right now. When He knelt in that little grove of olive trees, He felt the ache you are feeling in your chest. He went through that dark hell that you are going through. He suffered it all. Don't forget that.
    Rachel, you've got a tough road ahead of you. Things aren't going to be easy. In fact, sometimes they feel worse. You're going to struggle, but it's going to be worth it. Keep going. Keep fighting. Hold on. Most of all, remember this: you are never alone.


The Optimist in Progress