What Are You Going to Do?

*The painting featured in this post was beautifully created by an artist from Recreate, a company that specializes in capturing moments that just can't be captured in photos. I was able to share this special moment of mine with a Recreate artist, who then beautifully illustrated it. Now, I have something to remind me every day when I wake up of the most important moment in my life. To find out more, visit their website www.recreatememories.com*

I'm a big believer of important moments in our lives. Not always life changing per se, but big moments. However, sometimes those moments can be life changing. I have three of those big life changing moments in my life, and they all link together. 1. Deciding to go to BYU (which led to going on a mission) 2. Deciding to go on a mission (Which led to #3) 3. Sitting on a plane from Seattle to Salt Lake City. That third and crucial moment has been the biggest life changing event of my life so far.

When I decided to go on a mission at age 19, I wasn't prepared for the challenges ahead. Sure, I knew that missions are hard, but I couldn't have known that I would face the dark days that I did. God had a lot more in store for me than an 18 month mission in Federal Way, Washington. I just couldn't have ever known it or seen coming. 

If you're familiar with this blog and my story, you'll know that I only served for six months on my mission instead of the traditional eighteen. During those six months, I was constantly pummeled by devastating depression and anxiety. I fought well...for awhile. Eventually, I started to crumble under the weight of those mental illnesses. I fell further and further down into a pit of loneliness and despair. At a breaking point, I felt like nothing was ever going to change and that I was just going to be depressed forever. My mission president was aware of the challenges I was facing, and he and his wife fought with me and for me. In the end, they recognized something that I couldn't recognize: going home was really the only way for me to heal. 

I was on a plane home to Utah within two days of that decision being made. The night that the decision was made, I was allowed to call home. It was surreal dialing the numbers, and hearing my mom's voice on the other end. She told me that my dad would be at the airport in Seattle, waiting to take me home. I don't think I cried much after the call, even though I wanted to. I was too in shock, too numb. Honestly, being numb was the best way for me to fight the pain. 

In that surreal state of mind, I met my dad at the airport in Seattle. Hugging him felt foreign, everything felt foreign. After we went through security, he asked me what I wanted. We both knew what he really meant, "What can I possibly do to take the pain away?" Well, it's easier to get food than to cure depression, so I asked for a pumpkin spice hot chocolate from Starbucks. 

As we sat at our gate, we talked and we didn't. I sipped my hot chocolate as my dad did a great job of making me laugh and making me feel loved. It didn't solve the problem, but it sure helped. Once on the plane, he continued to tell me stories, trying to make me smile. Once in the air, he asked a question that created the biggest moment of my life: 

"Rach, what are you going to do?"

What was I going to do? I think I might've mumbled an "I don't know." off the bat, but as soon as those words came out, I received a powerful prompting. It was the calmest I'd felt in months. All of a sudden, the pain and the darkness made sense. I didn't quite know why or how it made sense, all I knew was that it did. 

"I'm going to be open about this. I'm going to tell people my story and help those with mental illnesses like me."

That moment is so poignant and so powerful every time I think about it. Suddenly, I realized that my real mission and my real purpose wasn't to go to the Washington, Federal Way mission. It was to share the experiences I had fighting depression and coming home early from that formal mission. Ever since that moment, sitting next to my dad on the plane from Seattle to Salt Lake City, I've known my purpose.

Now, just because I know what I'm supposed to do, doesn't mean I always know how to do it. I've had cool experiences like speaking at a Girl's Camp, being in a documentary about early returned missionaries, guest blogging, etc. I've been able to talk to people and give them dorky "business cards" that I ordered off of VistaPrint for like $4. Those things have been amazing and fulfilling. But other times, I feel lost. I feel like what I do really doesn't matter. There are a lot of people out there with stories almost exactly like mine. At times I've thought, "Well, they're being open and gaining more attention and attraction than me, so it's not worth it to try." Those doubts continuously push me down, adding to feelings of inadequacy I already face. It's hard to remember sometimes my purpose, my mission.

When those times come around, God always sends a gentle reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing. A text from a friend thanking me for being open. An email from someone I've never met telling me that my words made a difference in their life. This painting that sits on my desk that illustrates the most important moment of my life. God, through little ways, helps me remember my purpose.

I believe that we all have a purpose, above and beyond the purposes we are taught at church or in theory. Your purpose might be to smile at those around you, helping them feel loved. Your purpose might be volunteering with the less fortunate. Your purpose might be to lead your community on a city council, etc. And you know what? I believe that we all have multiple purposes. God doesn't just give us one talent. He gives us many to better this world and to better the lives of those around us. Whether we have found those purposes or not, they're there, and we will get to them. Moments lead us there. It took me six months and coming home early from a mission to get to a moment on a plane to realize mine, and I have no doubt that God has other purposes and missions for me in mind. Important moments will often come unexpectedly, and in those moments we need to ask ourselves, 

"What are you going to do?"