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.