I have been praying for a really long time for answers. Why isn't swimming working out for me? Why am I struggling so much in school? I feel like I'm working so hard, and I'm giving it everything I've got! Why can't I just do well at something? I'm not an ugly girl.... why can't I ever get asked on a date? Why don't guys like me? Why couldn't I just have gone to Hawaii? I understand that everyone has to struggle. Everyone has to go through a rough patch. But why is mine lasting so long?! What am I supposed to do?! The only good thing going right for me where I am right now is the people around me, my friends, teammates, roommates, etc.
So, in the first minute and a half of conference, this announcement was made by President Monson: the minimum age to serve a mission has been lowered to 18 for all worthy males, and to 19 for females.
I've wanted to go on a mission since I was twelve years old. But I'm only nineteen.... no offense to those 21-year-olds, but that seems really old from where I stand!:) Or at least too far away... I've just always watched how the men in my life are changed by their missions. They usually come back with a greater sense of clarity about life, a greater understanding of what's important. And it's not just that; I've always loved to teach. I love commenting during Sunday School class, seminary, etc. In fact, in 9th grade, my teacher pulled me aside and told me that I needed to stop commenting so much because nobody else in the class would comment if I would comment on everything. (First of all, what a buzz kill! I didn't comment for the rest of the year, and the class was totally silent, and I felt stupid and embarrassed... I know it's important for everyone to participate, but don't criticize the one person who does and risk destroying the class for them... just saying...)
Long story short, when that announcement was made, my heart and stomach dropped and it seemed like the whole world just stopped around me. (Which was a little dangerous considering I was on the freeway, but that's not the point.)
It was just a little too perfect. Could it really be that my prayers for months have been answered in the first ninety seconds of General Conference? It just felt so right, and throughout the rest of my drive, it was all I could think about.
Whenever I've considered my many options, there have always been reservations. For example, when I think about my issues while swimming, I've thought about leaving BYU, and moving back home to the environment where I know I would train the way I know will help me improve; I'd eat right; I'd be in a very familiar and safe environment, and I'd be two miles from school and near everything I already know. But as much sense as that made with my schooling and my swimming training, I just couldn't feel comfortable with the idea. There were nonstop reservations, mostly involving the fact that I finally had a team; friends who I can train with and interact with, and who I love so much. I don't think I could go back to the whole train-by-myself thing, no matter how much I know it will help me. I just couldn't make that decision.
But when I thought of going on a mission, not to run away from anything but to serve the Lord with 100% of myself, there was not a single reservation. NOT ONE. And that is VERY rare for me. I'm sure doubt will come, but all I have to do is remember what I felt like the moment the announcement was first made.
My mom actually called me after it was made. She was crying, because she knows all the struggles I've been having, and how much I've always wanted to serve a mission. It also affects my little brother!!! He turns 18 in November, and if we both turn in our papers in February, we can both be in the MTC at the same time, probably June or July.
One last thing. My team is in Hawaii this weekend for a meet, and I was pretty much devastated that I couldn't go. At the time, it was one of the final blows to my already unstable mental condition with swimming. But looking back, if I had been in Hawaii, I would have heard ABOUT this announcment, but I wouldn't have heard it. When I first heard it, the Spirit was soooo strong that it was literally tangible. I was warm, I was happy, I was at peace. I haven't been able to stop smiling since, and that hasn't happened for a while. There is a much greater Spirit in hearing something like that when it happens rather than being told about it later. For the first time, I'm GLAD I'm not in Hawaii. :)
Right now, there's an overload of people on Facebook and every other social media of girls who are all like, "Oh my gosh, I'm turning in my papers tomorrow!!" That's not a bad thing, but I know there's skepticism about whether people are just excited, or really meaning this.
I am not just excited. I am not just idly saying that I'll serve a mission in the heat of the moment. This is real. This is an answer to prayer. I am meant to serve the Lord in this way; I have never been more sure of anything in my life.
I know there will be struggles and doubts as it comes closer. If I do this, I will likely never swim competitively again. I will not be able to have the experiences as far as dating that I've only dreamed of to this point for 2 years. Some of my friends that I know and love now will move on, and I'll never see them again. The world will change. I will change.
All I know is that I know this is true. This is what I'm meant to do. I cannot deny it.