What I've kept with me
And what I've thrown away
And where I've ended up
On this glary random day
Were the things I've really cared about
Just left along the way
For being too pent up and proud
Today is the 2 year mark of when I entered the MTC with intentions of serving a mission for the LDS church. If I had stayed, it would be over...
I always knew the day would come eventually. September of 2008 was inevitable whether in Utah or Florida. What was uncertain were my feelings at such a time.
September 6, 2006 was a day I will never forget. It was the day I had the strength to leave my world behind. It was the day I had the courage to walk through the next door, not knowing what was on the other side. It was the day when I said "I can't believe I'm doing this", and went forward anyway. This first day went fine for the most part. Though my system had been shocked by the whole experience, I was too busy taking in the whole thing to bother with melancholy feelings. But by day two, discouragement had began to creep in and already I was feeling homesick. I was very tired for a myriad of reasons. A lot less sleep than I was used to, and a lot more work than I was used to were two factors that ganged up on me a bit. But at first, it was tolerable..
September 13, 2006 is a strong memory of when things went wrong. I was up in the field playing... soccer, or something. The new arrivals were showing up. I saw the bright eyes of young men who had been missionaries for less than 24 hours, and behind them I saw "I can't believe I'm doing this". And I saw their families. And I thought of mine. And I realized that it had only been one week. One. Out of 104. Standing on the grassy field under the mountains which I loved, realizing what I was in for. And I didn't want to do it.
I kept things to myself for the most part at first. I did confide in my companion and he was encouraging. By Sunday I was ready to move on from my dreary state. I talked to my branch president. This started the motions of what would take a few weeks to complete.
I tried to continue to get as much as I could out of the experience. I learned what I could and practiced teaching. It was perhaps more for the sake of those in my district, especially my companion, than it was for myself. I can only imagine that there is nothing worse than having a loafer around bringing down the group.
Besides, I hadn't made up my mind. As my journal states:
September 17, 2006
"I still miss home. A lot. I still want to go home, but I know that I must endure to the end. We all must"
That night I had seen the Joseph Smith movie. The line that stuck out to me the most was "Shall we not go on in so great a work?"
September 18, 2006
"I've felt anxious and depressed all day. I feel little to no desire to serve any more. The very thought of it brings up feelings of anxiety and despair. Feelings of peace and comfort come upon me when I think about home. I don't know what this means, but I made the decision to go home. Elder Warren wouldn't have it. He gave many words to me rebuking my decision. I know not what to do. i will ponder and pray about it, but I fear that in my current state I cannot pray with real intent. I may just end up going home."
The next day we had a devotional with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If anything could turn me around, that could. It didn't. It is no fault of his. It was my state that prevented me from hearing his message. The next day I had an appointment with one of the District Presidents, and we ended up calling my Stake President back home. According to my journal they chewed me out, but I doubt that was an honest assessment of what went on. I know them to well to believe my own words. But it was this meeting where I finally mentioned anxiety. That got me a ticket to the mental heath clinic where I talked with a social worker of sorts and it helped a bit. Enough to get me through a little longer.
But at this point I really had made up my mind. And as many can attest to, once I make up my mind I can be very difficult to sway. So without regard to the good experiences I was having, and the council of the missionaries around me and my leaders, and the good council of my family back home, I left my calling as a missionary.
The day before I came home, I was up by the temple watching those around me and the following line came into my mind:
Blind man at a canyon's edge
Of a panoramic scene
Or maybe I'm a kite that's flying high and random
Dangling a string
Or slumped over in a vacant room
Head on a stranger's knee
I'm sure back home they think I've lost my mind
Here I stand, sad and free
I can't cry
I can't see what I've done
What have I done
These are the last lines of the song I opened this blog with. The first two lines were the main ones that struck me. I knew something beautiful was in front of me, but I refused to see it.
And I went home.
I try not to live my life with regrets, but it is near impossible to not think about what might have been. I really have no idea. The mission experience is so far from anything I've done, I can't begin to guess what the last two years would have held had I left the MTC in a bus instead of my parents' car.
But I do know what I wouldn't have. I can go over everything I have gained in the last two years that I would not have. A great job, many friendships, countless real life experiences, lots of real world knowledge that will help me through the remainder of my years. I have grown a lot, in almost every way. But there have also been many things which I would have preferred stay out of the last two years. But there is no life which was filled only with good, expelling the bad. And I do take solace in knowing I haven't spent the last two years in a cave.
But there is no knowing which line would have been better for me in the long run. That one simple choice of going home or going to Florida had so much weighing on it, my entire existence is altered by it. I believe one thing that was told to me was "You will regret this forever". Poignant. Even then I appreciated when people called a spade a spade and didn't beat around the bush. But still, I can't know for certain which choice was the right one. What does that mean?
I'll go on.
This two year mark could be a painful experience, knowing it would all be over now and my life wouldn't be anything like it is now. But I choose to let it be a reminder that the choices I make matter. The last two years were what they were because of what I
did. What I did against everyone in my life. Not one person gave persuasion to go home, and I did it anyway. Nothing in my life is so clear as to who is responsible for something. So I simply need to remember that ALL of my choices are that way. And I need to do my best to make the right one, because if I don't, its on my head.
If Elder Justin Warren ever reads this, I hope he knows he made a difference in my life. Even though I didn't heed his advise, there are so many out there who would have just not cared. I could tell that he cared immensely. I couldn't have asked for a better companion.