When I moved to Hawaii, EVERYONE told me it would be to find my husband.

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Well, joke’s on you ALL because I was literally just featured in the school magazine’s “Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette” article. (Laugh-cry emoji, I know–I feel the same way.)

But there is a love story I need to tell, especially because it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

To understand this love story, you need to understand that my volunteer mission a couple of years ago–though one of the happiest times of my life–was very hard, and I learned a lot about myself and the world and just, you know, life.  One thing I learned is that I have anxiety.  I don’t think I thought anxiety was a real thing before my mission.  I thought people were just lazy, and that when I felt stressed it was because I was just being lazy or scared or I had procrastinated.  I didn’t think anxiety was real, to be honest.  Then I realized that I had it, and that those times in my life–nervous breakdowns in class over really little things, a convulsing meltdown the week of AP exams junior year, anxious overeating my freshman year of college–were not normal levels of stress.

A few rounds of counseling and other treatment later, things are better.  Generally, I do pretty well and I know what triggers my anxiety and I know how to keep myself in optimal conditions to minimize it.  But some days are still hard, and some days I don’t even realize what is wrong until I’m out of the funk and then it clicks.

Sunday was one of those days.  Nothing was wrong.  I mean, yeah, I was a little congested, and I was running late to church so I hadn’t showered, but nothing was wrong.  I had had a blast the night before with amazing friends.  I felt great about myself.  But something was wrong on Sunday.  I went to the first hour of church (sacrament meeting) and ran into a friend and said, “I think I’m about to split.”  I didn’t say what was really on my mind–“Sunday school is ALWAYS a struggle for me, especially if the teachers do A, B, or C, and it’s linger longer today and that’s just too many strangers for me to deal with, especially of the male variety.”  Instead I said I had a slight cough and I went home.

When I got home two of my roommates were also home (church is really, really close to our house).  They were grabbing cupcakes for the third hour of church, Relief Society.  Keep in mind that these roommates are the leaders of that organization, and there I was, laying on the couch, telling them that no, I wasn’t going back to church today.  They didn’t ask questions.  They just told me they loved me and they hoped I felt better.

I ran to the store for something I’d been out of for a week (not normal Sunday behavior, and I’m not condoning breaking the Sabbath, but this was NOT a normal Sunday) and took a shower.  When I got out of the shower, my roommates were home and had saved me a piece of cake from the class I’d skipped.

I sent a Snap to friends because, hi, their love–spoken and unspoken–meant the world to me.  Like, I ugly-cried on the couch.

Paul told the Corinthians that we’re nothing without charity.  That we can be talented and eloquent and a million other things, but without charity we are nothing.  Marvin J. Ashton asserted,

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.

Now, I’m not perfect at that, but I’m trying to be better.  I think if we look for what we love about people and how to help them, we’re able to see past the motes and beams.

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Let’s love each other better.

 

The text came in at 12:05, and I thought it was about work so I answered.

“What are you doing?” the message read.

Within fifteen minutes my friend had picked me up, and within an hour we were at a temple south of here.  It was a beautiful night, but dark (1 am can do that to you) and as we drove back I could just barely make out the Wasatch front lining us on the right.

“The mountains are so pretty,” I said, like everyone says.  They’re what friends from Utah missed most during our mission in Virginia.  But I don’t love the mountains because of their beauty; I love them because of what they represent: fortitude and strength and resilience and thousands of years of growth.  They’re a visual reminder from God of, Look, it’s okay, I’ve got you.  Living in this valley is bit like being cradled in the hand of God.

I feel this is true because I always feel a bit like a baby.  The more I know, the more I need.  And all around me are these people who help me.  I didn’t know them three years ago or even 9 months ago but they feel like angels sent from God.

Maybe that’s part of why I came here in the first place.

After I stayed up until 6:10 am,

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my best friend met me on campus with a Mountain Dew.

Later we met for an early dinner and talked about #thefuture (vague hashtag referring to housing next year, grad school, careers, and what we’ll eat tomorrow).

Still later she gave me advice on how to respond to a friend’s text about a boy, and then offered to bring me Mountain Dew again tomorrow because, as of 1:08 am, I have had 3.6 hours of sleep in the past 24. She is the world’s greatest.

When I’m sad that a romantic relationship hasn’t worked out with whatever boy is currently on my mind, I’m reminded that I’m so blessed to have a best friend like Karisa.

 

These parents of mine

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from Pinterest, naturally

Today I sat in my dad’s office and watched my parents exchange business cards.  One of them had just gotten a new one or something, so they swapped and it was really funny but I didn’t have time to Snapchat it.

I tease my parents a lot: “Remember that time I broke my arm and no one believed me?”

Dad: “Yeah, I think we made you go to your siblings’ soccer game.”

Mom: “I know, I know, we’ve scarred you all…”

All joking aside, they’re great parents, and here’s one thing they did really, really well—they encouraged us all to read.

When I was younger we’d go to the local library all the time. I’d write book reports, sometimes for school, sometimes for fun, about stories I read.  In the summers we’d do the reading programs.  For fun, we went to the movies and dinner and the beach, but more than anything we went to Borders.  Night out to dinner? Definitely going to be a Borders trip afterward.

And this is what they did really, really well with encouraging us to read: whenever anyone was in trouble (e.g. sent to their room, grounded) nothing was allowed except reading.  There was no TV, no music, no phone, no hanging out with friends…but reading was totally kosher.  And that, my dear friends, is how one of my brothers ended up reading this random novel my mom had picked up the previous year but no one had touched yet…which is how we all discovered HARRY POTTER and our lives were forever changed for the better.

So last week I took three finals on Monday and first thing Tuesday morning I went to the library to treat myself.  Picked up a foreign film, two classics, and a book. Because that’s fun to me.  And amidst studying for finals, packing to come home, and now being at home, I’ve been switching between Jon Meacham’s book about the friendship between FDR and Churchill, and a biography about Sandra Day O’Connor, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Now, back in my house, I’m reminded of all of the books I’ve yet to read, just within my own house. I never did finish The American Political Tradition back when I started it as a sixth-grader and learned what “hindsight” meant.  Or Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.  There are dozens of religious books written by professors I can take classes from at BYU (how cool is that. Three weeks ago I went to a lecture with 300 other people to hear a world-renowned scholar expound on the relationship between understanding the nature of God and understanding the nature of man, and all I could think was, “My mom has books by this guy.”).  And of course, my mother’s nightstand is layered with novels and self-help books and fitness books and all sorts of knowledge.

It took me a long time to realize how good my parents are at fostering a love of learning, but I’m so grateful that they are.