All my life, I’ve attributed my growth to my friends. How I changed was affected by those around me. I picked up the guitar not because of my own influence, but because I saw a friend rocking out on stage to Sweet Child O’ Mine. I started singing because one of my good friends started to sing. I enjoyed SFS and BYU because of those around me. Thus, it is no exaggeration of any sort when I reiterate that who I am today is heavily affected by the people around me.
However, I noticed a change once I entered college: more of my life was in my own hands. How I pursued my beliefs, standards, religion, and even lifestyle was almost entirely up to my discretion. Whatever I decided, I would face the full consequences. With such a drastic change from a dependent young boy living under his parents’ roof, I was burdened with responsibility, and I actually had to take charge of my life for once. The extra-curricular activities I would choose wouldn’t be for my IB CAS hours, but because it was completely my desire to pursue the activity. The people I met would reflect my ability to get out of my comfort zone, a skill that was in higher demand at such a large school like BYU compared to a small community at SFS. The actions I took would be actions I decided to take, whether it was on a whim or a premeditated decision.
Then came the biggest decision of them all: my mission. Would I spend the next two years of my life in a random country, spreading a religion even I wasn’t so confident in? Or would I spend the rest of my BYU career in an awkward abyss between “devout Mormon” and… “less devout Mormon”, to put it politely?
It was a fork in the road that I knew was coming up as I entered BYU. I always told myself I’d choose when I got to the fork, but it was never that easy. It’s never easy to give up your life to wholly dedicate yourself to one purpose, and one purpose only. While I spent my whole life trying to master a plethora of activities like basketball, music, school, and service, I knew that going on a mission, I would have to narrow my focus to God. I would do what God wants and needs me to do, and I would obey it wholeheartedly.
The nature of this decision was entirely different to that of other dilemmas. I would categorize the differences to three compartments: Influence, Foreseeability, and Effect. Knowing the influence and foreseeability and having a guaranteed effect is very calming, and it is only nature that humans feel that way. We are comforted by patterns, thus our natural human obsession to find pattern in everything. The more we know about the pattern, the more we can predict it, and the more we can predict it, the less anxious we are about it. Things make sense that way. All my decisions prior to this one were heavily influenced by other people, and I knew them well. I knew where the influence was coming from, and thus, could foresee the events that would follow fairly well. Consequently, I could assume to a somewhat high degree what the effect of said action would be. Thus, nothing would be wildly new to me, and unpredicted results would be more rare than it is occurring. Taking in account of all this, the decision to go on my mission was the toughest decision process of my life. The influence came from almost nowhere. Of course being a Mormon automatically tasked me with such an option, but choosing the affirmative was entirely by my own influence. While some may say that your own influence is the best, I argue against it because it is hard to fully know yourself. I, for one, hardly know myself, and find more and more to discover every day as I change. Furthermore, I knew not what the mission entailed aside from the typical answers of “proselyting” and going “door to door”. I didn’t know what life would be like. I didn’t know where I’d be living, or what language I’d be speaking, or who I’d be living with. Naturally, that made it a scary decision. Lastly, to this day, I have no idea how I will turn out after the mission. I won’t know the effects. All I know is that it may be life-long, and while that may scare many, myself included, it is awe-inspiring to see that one decision could affect my whole life.
And I decided to serve. I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what I was thinking. But I knew “Yes” was the right answer. I felt some of the effects already: relationships with friends would tighten, my values strengthened alongside my focus, and I was genuinely happy.
But why? Why did I decide to sacrifice two whole years of my life for one cause? Of course, it was to strengthen my beliefs and religion, and to bring others unto Christ. Those are given. But ultimately, I decided to serve because I wanted to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to go through the next two years, completely able to choose the effect. I wanted my own growth to be of my own accord, and not of another’s.
I wanted to return what everyone had given to me: assistance, care, and love. I wanted to show everyone worldwide that who my friends have made me into is someone who is diligent, kind, charitable, loving, selfless. I wanted to show everyone that they made me into a good person, and I wanted to swing that back to everyone else.
So from Fall 2014 to Fall 2016, I will be in Chile doing my best to serve the Lord and everyone else. It is a sacrifice I am willing and glad to make, and I hope I come back a better man.
To find out more about missionary work, go here: http://www.mormon.org/values/missionary-work
To find out more about the Chile Concepcion South Mission, go here: http://missionhome.com/?missions=chile-concepcion-south-mission