Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Did It All


Can I tell you how legitimately excited I am about this, despite my current "meh-ness" about the fact that I'm not technically done with schooling? Seriously. I'm done with my undergraduate career! No more GEs, no more dreadful English professors, no more 2-mile radius! Oh, blessed day!

As you read the rest of the post, please listen to the video at the bottom of the post. Why? 1) It's OneRepublic, 2) It's the theme of this post, 3) Just do it.

Reflecting on my BYU experience, there are a lot of thoughts that come to mind. In many ways, I feel like I did it all at BYU -- I experienced Jimmer-Mania, witnessed the Provo Tabernacle Fire and the subsequent transformation into the Provo City Center Temple, studied and worked in Romania and Mexico, hiked mountains, camped, climbed, watched football games, presented at academic conferences, single-handedly destroyed sexual freedom (long story associated with presenting at the conference), campaigned for the President of the United States, studied suffering, developed meaningful relationships with professors, shook  Cecil's hand, and claimed a permanent spot in the JFSB for studying. All in all, a pretty good four years.

This even with my disdain for all things Zoobie.

Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up. 

In my four years at BYU, my family has gained 2 brothers-in-law and one niece/grandchild. I take no credit for any of that...except for one brother-in-law...sort of...

In my four years at BYU, I have become more firmly rooted in my political ideology in part because of what I have learned about my religious convictions. In 2007, Senator Harry Reid spoke at BYU and said, "I am a Democrat because of my religion, not in spite of it." That has carried me through a lot.

In my four years at BYU, I have determined that my life will be one dedicated to helping those who have been dealt an unfair hand as a result of biology and environment. If sociology and my Mormonism have taught me anything, it is that such a mission is exactly what Christ would do. I may not know a whole lot, but I know that the course of life I am pursuing is what God wants and expects of me. I have gained that assurance in the last four years.

The only way you can know is give it all you have.

Perhaps the most meaningful thing I have done at BYU has been the work I did in Romania. It was redemptive. It was illuminating. My beautiful kids shape the way I view the world, the family, and my life choices. The little boy in the hospital reminds that someday, somehow, I can have a family. My little blue girl reminds me that happiness is found in loving someone else. My mischievous boy reminds that love ought not be conditional. My little girl in the hospital reminds me that God knows my kids, loves my kids, and has a place for them. My Romanian friends remind that faith, life changing faith, is worth any sacrifice. Romania left me with a desire to be a child with a mind. 

Perhaps the most remarkable thing that has occurred in my time at BYU has been the ways in which I've seen God direct and redirect my life. I initially started at BYU as a history teaching major. That lasted about as long as it took to walk out of the SWKT. Something wasn't right about that, despite my love for teaching, education, and history. After the mission, Political Science was the plan. Again, that lasted only as long as my time in Comparative Politics -- 1 week. While in Political Science, I took a Social Problems class taught by a man who would become one of my most solid supports and mentors for the next three years. Suddenly, I knew where I belonged. It wasn't in law, politics, or business. It was in sociology and social work. This was it, and God was good with that.

I feel like I was guided to apply for the jobs and experiences I did -- Camp K, Romania, and Teach For America. Interestingly, Heavenly Father thought that there was something better for me than Teach For America. I didn't understand it at the time, but I'm beginning to understand why I am staying at BYU for another two years. I'm understanding why I didn't go back to Romania when I was almost certain that I would. I'm beginning to understand that sometimes the things that God wants me to do defy all logic. 

BYU, it's been an interesting time. True story. And, that intrigue is going to continue for at least two more years. Am I thrilled about it? Not entirely. But, if the last four years are any indication, the next two will be pretty freaking amazing. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Beginning in an End

I'm graduating! Oh happy day! Praise the Lord!

My undergraduate career is drawing to a close, and I could not be happier. It's been a long time coming. Seriously. My time at BYU has been good. Yes, we've had our disputes, most of them revolving around the line between culture and truth. I think Brigham and I are ending this part of our lives on fairly amicable terms. Actually, there still may be some frenemy (friend+enemy) feelings left.

If you had asked me in October, November, or even early February what my plan was for my post-BYU life, I would have told you that I was going to Kansas City to teach middle school English Language Arts as a part of the 2013 Kansas City Teach For America Corps. Teach For America has been my dream since getting home from my mission, and that dream became a reality on 1 November 2012 when I was accepted as a part of the Corps. The decision to join the Corps came easily, especially after watching President Obama's historic reelection and listening to him call Americans to do more for each other.

In accordance with that decision, I enrolled in classroom management classes and dove into lesson plans, classroom organization ideas, and developing outcome goals for my future students. I took the PRAXIS, found a couple potential apartments, and had planned out my road trip back to the place that has become my second home. Side note: The PRAXIS = DEATH. I did, however, get a 190 out of 200, so I'm OK with that.

Then, in February, one of my best friends invited me to his wedding in Idaho. My parents were out of town for the weekend, so I had their house to myself. During and after the wedding, I found myself mulling over my life plans, goals, and desires. I knew what I wanted, but Heavenly Father thought it an opportune time to interject His thoughts. "Maybe you should reconsider going to graduate school at BYU," He said. "Hmph," said I. I was in a place where I had a lot of bio-psycho-social concerns and needs not being met or adequately dealt with. Realistically, I didn't want to deal with most of them. Vulnerability hangovers are not my thing, and everything Heavenly Father was suggesting I do required a lot of vulnerability.

When I returned to BYU, I was a bit angsty and incredibly frustrated about these redirections. I talked a lot of things over with a couple of my professors, both of which are incredible men and mentors. In the end, I had a decision to make. I needed to decided if I wanted to apply to BYU's School of Social Work and most likely accept the offer. Mind you, this was now almost a month past the application deadline. The admissions committee gave me a week to get ecclesiastically endorsed, write a letter of intent, secure three letters of recommendation, and apply for scholarships. Poop. Thus began one of the most stressful weeks of my life to date. On 15 February, I turned in my application. On 19 February, I found out that I had been officially accepted into the MSW program at BYU. Quickest turn around of my life.

I did not anticipate staying at BYU after graduation, let alone staying for an additional two years. In reality, I'm still kind of coming to terms with that idea. I'm not entirely sure why Heavenly Father thought it would be a good idea to stay here. And, no, it wasn't so that I could get married. Heavenly Father knows me too well to do that to me at this stage of my life. Staying at BYU has made less sense in the last month than any other option I have ever considered. Ugg. I do not get this omniscience business.

These next few days will be punctuated with endings -- the end of social theory class, the end of sitting through another terrible English lecture, the end of sociology classes, the end of finals as an undergrad. They are also many beginnings wrapped up in those punctuated endings. I'm beginning a hunt for housing outside the two-mile undergrad radius, I'm beginning work with my social work mentor, I'm beginning final preparations on manuscripts for publication, and I'm beginning to explore parts of my being that have long been kept silent. Those are some big beginnings.

In the end, this experience has been an exercise in faith. I'm not sure what is going to happen in the next two years, let alone the next few weeks and months. And sometimes, that's OK.