Monday, May 26, 2014

29 Days

There is this show that I was paid to watch at my wonderfully cushy job of Master Control Operator at BYU Broadcasting. "Peg + Cat" was its name and it was the bright spot of my dreary Tuesday and Friday shifts every week. The show featured a little animated girl named Peg and her cat (named, appropriately, Cat), who had problems that they solved with math. Super generic kid's show, except it was hilarious and I loved it, weirdly enough. I mean, the animation was simple, the humor was spot on, and I managed to relate to Peg in a strange, personal, existential and yet so accessible sort of way (name that movie) (Elf). I mean, Peg is great. She's happy, she loves blue crayons, she's super good at solving problems, she's got bright red hair, and her best friend is a cat named Cat. I mean, for crying out loud, this girl is the coolest. But, as convincing as those reasons are, they aren't really why I loved Peg. That reason boiled down to one very straightforward quality that she possessed, that being that Peg had anxiety. Bad anxiety. I mean, this girl seriously couldn't get through an episode without yelling her catch phrase "I am tooootally freaking out!!" at least two times. The background trombones would play a dangling tune and Cat, being the buddy that he always is, would have her count to five to calm down. It didn't matter what the problem was! Cats stuck in a tree? Cue the "I am toooootally freaking out!!"line. Pirates stole her gear? She's hyperventilating. Can't figure out how to satiate the hungry monster who only eats small yellow things? Here it goes again! Peg really didn't know how to handle things calmly (without counting to five, of course). And that is the reason that I love Peg. Because she understood, without realizing that she understood it, that tooootally freaking out is often the best way to deal with things.

So I'm gonna go out on a limb and mimic Peg here, but today is May 26, 2014 and as of today, I am leaving on my LDS mission to Madrid, Spain in 29 days. And, as you may have guessed by now, I am completely, 100%, all-consumingly and tooootally freaking out. Peg has the problems of hungry monsters and cats stuck in trees, I have the fact that I'm packing up and leaving for a foreign country that I've never been too to learn a language that I can't speak and attempt to teach the Gospel to people that may have no interest in hearing it in 29 DAYS. I mean, I suppose our problems are unique as we are! Not that my mission is a problem, but man oh man. At this point in my life, I'm pretty terrified. I kind of wish I was Peg, living in an animated world where it's ok to have a best friend named Cat that helps you solve problems with math and counting to five. I wish I had a way around this anxiety, this absolute nail-biting anticipation that I have lived with and will continue to live with for 29 days. But there isn't a way around it. My mission is coming whether I am ready for it or not.

And for that, I am so grateful.

I mean, there are ups and downs with this mission thing. It's not smooth sailing, even and maybe especially before you enter the mission field. It starts with the difficulty in deciding whether or not to go. For some people, this is the real trial of preparing for a mission. For me, however, it wasn't that hard, and I feel very blessed to be able to say that. I always knew I wanted to go, the age changed, I then knew I was for sure going, and my parents and friends supported me the entire way. Sure, there were doubts about that decision, but I always knew that I was going. Sometimes, you just know things and for me, deciding to go on a mission was one of those times.

Then, the road gets bumpier. You have to decide when to go. I mean, boys can now go at eighteen and girls at nineteen, but by all means, that doesn't mean you have to go then. What if you want to do a year of school or work first, gentlemen? What if you just don't feel quite right about going right at nineteen, girls? Then what do you do? I'll tell you what- you go with what you feel is right for you. You pray about it. Take it to the Lord. He'll tell you. For me, this was a surprisingly difficult part of the process of going on a mission. I just thought I'd have my availability date on my 19th birthday. Easy. Simple. No brainer. Then, because life isn't easy or simple or a no-brainer, I hit some bumps in the road. I had to push back the date of turning in my papers a few times because of some unexpected problems that I encountered with my emotional health. I had developed some anxiety in my first year of school, and my bishop recommended that I attend therapy sessions. I was reluctant and rather, and I cringe saying this now, but rather ashamed the fact that I needed it. I was so scared that therapy and these emotional roadblocks would mess up my plan for when I was going to turn in my papers. And guess what? They totally did. It messed up my plan. But God's plan? It wasn't frustrated by the therapy in the slightest. In fact, it was fulfilled. Through the therapy and everything else that came along with it, I started to understand myself better. I became a better version of myself and more ready for a mission. I did have to turn in my papers later than I anticipated or hoped for, but guess what? I turned in my papers as a healthier, happier, more prepared human being. And for that, I'm so grateful.

For those of you reading this that are preparing to serve, know that emotional issues are nothing to be ashamed or scared of. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other type of emotional health problems, be honest with yourself and those around you. They most likely aren't going to go away on a mission, so take care of them before you go. It was probably the hardest thing that I've ever done to admit to myself and those that I loved that I needed some help before I was ready to serve the Lord, but I did it and I'm undeniably grateful that I did. He knows what He's doing. He knows who you are and what you need and He loves you so, so much. So trust in Him.

So. Now the papers are turned in, the availability date is set, and a few weeks later, voila! The silky white folder/package/envelope arrives in your mailbox with your name on it and you are ready to die of excitement. Suddenly, nothing else matters. You can't eat, you can't sit, you can't hold a coherent conversation- EVERYTHING revolves around what that sheet of paper in that white folder/package/envelope says. You might be like me and wait a few days before you tear open that seal with shaking hands in front of a bunch of people that love you and are prepared to cheer about whatever you read off the paper. You might be more like my roommate, who opened her call in the quiet grounds of the Provo Temple, all by herself with no one but the Spirit to keep her company. Regardless of how you do it, opening your call is hands-down the happiest part of the entire preparation to go on a mission. For me, I felt it so strongly when I read the words "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to serve in the Spain Madrid Mission". I mean, even typing that 14 weeks later gives me the chills. No matter where you're called, it's your mission and nobody can take that away from you. The high of opening my call lasted for about three or four days. Nothing could touch me. I was on top of the world and so, so excited.

The high does, eventually, wear off. You start to doubt again. You start to question whether or not you can do it, if you're really capable. You start thinking that you're the only one of your friends with mission calls that isn't actually worthy of one, boom. The roller coaster of emotions hits. Everybody goest through this in their own way. The Adversary is real and he knows how to get to us. For me, it was the anxiety. Hit me like a ton of bricks. For others, its complacency. For some, its distractions. For most, it's a little bit (or a lot) of both. The key for me through this process, is, like Peg, to freak out for a little bit, count to five, and to regroup and focus on the basics. "Through small and simple things, great things shall come to pass". How true is that? I mean, it couldn't be any more beautiful. Through prayer. Through fasting. Through scripture study. Through service. Through faith. These are the things that bring great things, like, say, missions? I'll take a shot in the dark and say that that is one of the greatest things that Heavenly Father can help us do. There are dark days with missionary preparation, but the key is diligence in the little things.

With all ups and downs and the frustratingly long and somewhat complicated process, there is nothing better than preparing to serve a mission. It gets hard. Believe me, I know that first hand. There is nothing inherently easy about missionary work, or the decision and preparation to do so. But it is inexpressibly worth the struggle. Throughout life, I've found that the hardest things are the most worthwhile. Running sucks, but it leads to results that nothing else can. College? It's sometimes laughable at how difficult it is, but how else are you going to gain a quality education without going through that grind? Missionary work is supposed to be hard! It's the most important work that any of us have ever done! Whether we are preparing for/serving a full-time mission or not, it's the most important work that has ever been done. I know with everything in me that Jesus Christ is behind this work. He is the reason for the happiness and peace that the Gospel brings, and He wants all of His brothers and sisters to feel it. So of course He is behind this work. In my eyes, it all boils down to one, very important question: Is the Gospel true? If that answer is no, then we don't have to worry about the struggles that living this religion brings anymore. We're off the hook. I mean, that takes away the blessings that comes with living this Gospel, but hey, it's all good? Right? Wrong. Because the answer to that question is, in fact, not negative. The Gospel is true. It's so TRUE! And that makes me want to shout and jump up and down and tell EVERYBODY because I have something so precious and so incredible and I want my friends to have it and I especially want the people of Madrid, Spain to have it as well. So it's true, and I'm willing to go through what I have to go through to live it because I am a Mormon and it's the most important part of my life. And so I will go on a mission and prepare for a mission because the answer to that one simple question has and will continue to influence the course of my life forever.

My mission is coming, whether I'm ready for it or not. I've decided, I've been called, and though I don't feel ready and I probably never will, I'm leaving in 29 days. My adventure is about to begin.

Calm down. Count to five. Go to work.