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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Retrospection: Mission

This continuation has been a long time coming. I started my retrospection posts a long time ago, and I think it’s time to keep going.

I think where I last left was when I finished my freshman year of college. I had broken up with my one and only girlfriend and left for the MTC a little later.

I went into the MTC planning to be my very best. I think all missionaries do. I said goodbye to my home, my parents, and my life for the next two years.

Things went well in the beginning. I had great experiences in the MTC. But one thing that came back very quickly was the draw good looking guys had on me. There was one missionary in my district that was very attractive to me. Still to this day I think he’s very hot, in a skinny boy way.

But any time I let myself stray I would pick it back up and keep going.

Three months in the MTC is a long time. And packing twelve people in a tiny room for ten hours a day can make a person crazy. I found myself very ready to leave by the time our three months were up.

When I entered the MTC I found myself going slightly numb emotionally. My creativity began to decline sharply. I think I wrote between 3-5 poems in those two years. That is unheard of for me. But I couldn’t access any of the deeper emotions. I couldn’t touch the part of me where all those colors and ideas were kept. It was difficult not to have that outlet for the next couple of years.

Finally, three months ended and we left for Europe. This new culture took me by storm. I think I went into a sort of emotional shock. For the first couple months I didn’t quite know how to relax. I am grateful for the trainer I had, because he was a strong believer that if you weren’t enjoying yourself then you were doing your mission wrong. He really helped me to loosen up and try to find some joy in the mission.

My mission was hard. Few people ever wanted to talk to us. English classes were our sanctuary. That and p-days. Winters were long. Sometimes we didn’t see the sun for a month at a time. It was a grey and lonely place in the winter.

To be quite honest, I spent a lot of my mission feeling like I wasn’t doing well enough. I felt like a failure a lot. And from the first day to the very end of my mission I had to deal with extreme anxiety. Every day as we stood next to the door to pray before going to work I would be physically ill with anxiety.

Because of all this it was difficult to get letters from friends in other missions where they couldn’t get enough of it. Where they loved their missions and never wanted to come home. There were some days that I was absolutely miserable. I didn’t want my mission to last a single day longer than it was supposed to. This added to my feeling of failure, one that still hasn’t completely gone away.

That being said, my mission changed me in ways that I would never regret. I was driven into the ground some days, sent to my knees at the end of the day pleading for peace and for help. I gained a deeper relationship with God than ever before. I am grateful for the things I experienced, the people I met, and the person it helped shape me to become.

As for my attraction to guys, my mission had its difficult points. I had a couple companions that I was attracted to. And I had to constantly battle to keep my emotions in check. It was difficult, but it was also a revolutionary time for me. I had been in the mission for about a year when I finally had to admit to myself that I was attracted to guys. I couldn't deny it anymore. It wasn’t a horrible and devastating. It was much more of “alright, I can’t lie to myself anymore. I like guys.”

Once I admitted it to myself, however, I went to work trying to get rid of it. I felt that if I could gain absolute control over my attractions and impulses it would eventually go away. I even snuck out a copy of the church’s twelve step addiction recovery program from the mission office. I spent much of the next year trying to change myself.

I remember getting the emails about Prop 8 while I was there. I remember being infuriated by the conflict going on. I especially hated the email about the protests at the temple. Looking back, I was definitely more impassioned about everything because of the skeletons in my own closet. But I still feel like the debate was vicious, on both sides. I know the members will say that the adversary was working on the side of gay rights, but in my mind all he wanted was hatred. And both sides gave it to him in abundance. 

Really, I am very grateful that I was out of the country for that awful time. I was much too fragile to be here for that. And I think God knew that. 

Regardless of how I felt about politics or my inner feelings though, I was drawn to certain guys. There was one missionary that I had served with that I thought was cute. Sometime after we had served together we were playing ultimate Frisbee at the park on p-day with a bunch of the other missionaries. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I saw that he had lost his greenie weight and looked pretty good. As we played he and I joked, and if I didn’t know any better he even flirted with me to a degree. This made my blood run hot and I flirted a little back. I think at one point we even touched hands in between plays. Even now the memory grabs at my breathing a bit. Nothing ever happened, but it was definitely a defining moment.

By the time I finished up my mission I felt like I had gained some control over my attractions. In the last couple of weeks I even thought that they were gone. I finished my mission and came home on a high note.

America is wonderful. I love this country and I missed it like crazy. Driving home from the airport was like being thrown back into a world of vibrant colors.

Within a week it was obvious that my feelings hadn’t gone away. But I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it. I got back a week before the new semester, and in a few days I was off to Provo to reunite with happy valley.


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