With the amount of papers I have to write and the lack of sleep I've gotten over the past couple weeks I haven't had much opportunity to stop and smell the tulips. But I have been allowing myself study breaks to listen to music and I've eventually compiled my official springtime playlist. Its a mix of old and new and in between. Pray that I live through this semester you guys, because I just might not make it.
10 things that make me really happy
1. Car dancing to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack
3. Running into friends on campus
4. Friends re-runs
5. Talking to strangers about their passions
6. Quotes from The Office
7. Long hugs and cheek kisses (does that count as 2?)
8. Tall trees
9. When Aimee comes in my room in the morning
10. Sad movies (ironic right?)
In the slew of midterms and papers and lots (and I mean lots) of stress, I think it is important to take a small moment to think about what makes me happy. Also, this video of Italians dancing to "Happy" byPharrell Williams really makes me happy.
How is it that time continues to pass more quickly every day? I feel like one day I'll blink and suddenly look in the mirror to realize I've aged 50 years without even realizing it. What have I been doing with all this time? Well since you asked...
Lots of time in the library. Most of the time I'm studying... but sometimes Nick and I take meditation breaks. I really invested myself into my school work this semester. Maybe it's all the habbits from my mission, but I think a big part of it is that I've come to really appreciate my education. Living in Italy I realized just how blessed I am to be able to attend a university and expand my vision. Instead of just trying to get through classes, I've really put my heart and soul into it and the whole semester felt really rewarding.
After all that hard work it was home for the holidays. We spent this christmas doing my favorite things... reading books (I read The Moon and More & Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me), going to the movie theater (The Hobbit & Into the Woods), walking on the beach, eating too much, making tamales, indoor skydiving, going to disneyland, road tripping, wedding crashing, and holding babies. It's my idea of a perfect holiday.
Now it's back to the grind. I've had a lot going on since I got back. I got a promotion at my job so I've been working more hours. I just started working on a project with Fundacion Paraguaya that I am really excited about. I hosted a taco party. My sister moved in. Oh and I got the stomach flu so for 3 days I laid on my couch and watched Gilmore Girls. The best news of all is that THE BACHELOR is back on. Nothing gets me more excited than watching the Bachelor with my friends. Onion girl? Really?
There is this sad feeling I get every time I finish a good book. I invest hours into reading the story, falling in love with the characters, picturing the towns they live in & imagining how they must feel as major changes happen in their lives and stories. When I'm nearing the last pages and the author is wrapping up all the loose ends, eloquently telling you the moral of the story and summarizing all that the main character has learned and become, I feel this little pang inside my heart as I turn that last page and know that the story is finished. There is no more mystery and there is no sequel, it just ends and you are left with the memories and the experience that you felt alongside the characters in an imagined world.
There is something about endings that break our hearts a little. For me, that heartbreak usually comes at the end of a really captivating book, a trashy television series where all the characters have eventually fallen in love with each other at one point, a magical film series like HP or LOTR or most importantly TWILIGHT, or when my favorite bands break up. Lately though, I've experienced a lot of endings in my personal life. Coming home from my mission and facing real life has been one of those endings that has been the hardest to adjust to. The magical world of Italy feels like a dream sometimes, or like a really good book that I got to live in for 18 months. At first, turning that page and coming home felt a lot like a starting a brand new book where I was the main character and all my dreams would come true without even needing a fairy godmother. But like any good story, there is always a plot twist.... Darth Vader is your father, Blair and Dan get together, your wannabe boyfriend is a vampire, you see dead people... or something like that... gotta keep it interesting right?
In these last 5 months I've had a lot of life 'plot twists' where I felt like that moment in so many movies where you are sitting in the car and you see those headlights appear out the window and you just know what is about to happen the instant before it does. The character is sitting there, in some blissful or transcendental moment, and then, not even a second later, their entire story has changed. (If you don't know what I mean, you definitely haven't seen enough movies... but try seeing Disturbia, Charlie St. Cloud, Raise Your Voice, The Vow, Another Earth, or Remember the Titans...) One story ends abruptly and another begins. But from ending after ending & changed plan after changed plan I feel like I've become something different than anything I'd imagined I would be. I've felt this constant strength and sense of growth that I never knew I had the power to muster up. Despite how much I've hated these plot twists, I've loved the feeling of strength.. I've loved the feeling of knowing that my story is still developing and that I've become something more than what I was before, that I understand a little more about the important things in my life, that I have great worth and great potential and that I'm evolving.
I never thought that I would write about all of this, mostly because I feel like the people that care about me most know how I've been feeling and seen how I've grown on a personal level.... But through this whole process I've met so many people who have gone through similar periods of pain, loss, happiness, growth, understanding, love, hope, and disappointment. I've had people ahead of me who have helped me see beyond my present circumstances and I've had people follow after me that I've been able to help in return.. and all of this has made me realize "WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER GUYS"... Not in the HSM sort of way where we all know the same choreographed dance moves that we perform in the high school gym after some big winning basketball game... but in the way where you start to realize that we are all each other's consequences. You start to realize that what really matters in this life is our connection to one another. I've learned more about love than I ever did during the times when I thought I was in love. What makes this life so beautiful is that we can love one another and bind ourselves to other people through our experiences and through sacrifices, through good times and hard times.
When I look back on my life and see where I've come, I have felt immense gratitude for the experiences I've had, for the adventures I've sought out and for the times when I have seemingly given up everything familiar to me to discover something new. I've thought about when I moved away from home to come to BYU, I've thought about my study abroad to Jerusalem, I've thought about my jobs at BYU and being an EFY counselor, I've thought about my mission and so many other opportunities I've been blessed with. All these experiences and opportunities have made me realize that what has made them so beautiful are the people that I've come to know and love through it all. These connections that we make, that we hold on to, that we sacrifice for, that we fight for and hold dear to us, these are the things that make life so beautiful and wonderful and fulfilling.
So I guess that after all of this what I am trying to say is that, yes, endings come... and they suck... but they aren't really endings are they? These endings are just plot twists, changes in the plans that make life interesting, things that develop our character and give us opportunities that we never would have had if our circumstances had gone the way we planned. These plot twists in my life have lead me to pursue a career that I love, to work for a non profit organization that provides opportunities for people to escape poverty, to take chances and meet new people, to apply myself more to my studies and really appreciate my education, to spend time in museums and read books, to get a gym pass and use it (?!), to teach myself how to play the guitar and so many other things that have enriched my life and lead me to make more connections and love more people.
To sum all of this up I want to share a scripture that encouraged me to evaluate my life and essentially write this blog post.
"And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness" - 2 Nephi 5:27
Happiness is a choice. Love is a choice. Hope and Faith are choices. Through it all I've learned how to live after the manner of happiness, to choose love, hope, and faith when my circumstances fought against it. I hope this doesn't sound like I've got it all figured out, because I really don't. This isn't some "MORAL OF THE STORY" or "LOOSE END TYING" moment of self realization... because honestly I still have a lot of loose ends and things I don't understand...
It's like, finally the words of Britney Spears make sense to me
"I used to think I had the answers to everything. But now I know life doesn't always go my way, yeah... Feels like I'm caught in the middle. That's when I realize, I'm not a girl, not yet a woman. All I need is time, a moment that is mine, while I'm in between."
& let's end with that... because no one has more wisdom than Britney.
It still feels strange to me to be making a winter playlist. Time is passing so quickly and I feel like I am still trying to live in fall. Even though the weather here in Provo, UT hasn't been so wintery (& I'm not complaining about it) I think it's time for me to admit that it is actually winter.
When times of trial come, it is easy to blame God.
It is easy to ask "Why?"
Growing up, I had always held the belief that all things were a part of God's plan.
Well, maybe they are and maybe they aren't.
Watching this video I was deeply touched by this woman's experience and her reaction to it...
"It's not always about us, we aren't going through this because we need to change, or we're not good enough. I became someone, you know, more capable of helping others and of having compassion and of understanding at an intimate level, you know, what other people go through. And I found a great deal of joy in using the things that I've learned to help other people"
Trials are a part of God's plan, for it is through opposition that we learn and grow and develop eternal qualities. But that doesn't mean that trials are planned by God. Trials are a part of the human experience, they do not always come from God, instead they come from being human. They come from things outside of our control, sickness, injustice, nature, the choices of others and so many other things that come with being human. Sometime trials come from elements very much within our own control. But I don't believe that God purposefully plants trials in our life to change us through pain and suffering.. instead he allows us to take those trials and those moments of suffering to him, and in return he turns them into something beneficial, something divine. He changes us into something more divine.
"The Lord was not going to allow me to fail, and I know that thats not unique to me, that He does that for everybody."
Because God is just, and because God gives us our agency and the ability to choose our paths for ourselves, we are presented with many different options of how our life will turn out. Like this dear woman expressed, sometimes the choices we would make for our own life are taken from us, either by circumstance or by the agency of others, but that does not mean it was God's will. But because he loves us he gives us the atonement. He gives us a way of changing all the bad into good. God will never let us fail.
How grateful I am for trials. I am grateful for the way they make me better. Sometimes I am even grateful that God doesn't always take away those trials and those sufferings when I ask him to. Sometimes I am grateful that he allows me to work through it on my own because he knows how strong it will make me. Sometimes. With all that growth, personal development and individual strength we are then able to turn outwards and strengthen others. We are all in this together. Let us all strive to be a little kinder, to think of ourselves a little less and seek for those in the refiners fire. Let us strengthen and lift the hands that hang down, for none of us are without suffering.
When we stop asking "Why me?" and start thinking "Who else?" our trials can be sources of great joy. As we face our trials with faith, hope, and charity all things will work together for our good... and the good of others, too.