Seeing Aaron go was very difficult because we have spent our entire lives together: in school, at church, on swim team, and we even worked together for a while. Unlike many feuding siblings I know, we actually like hanging out together too! What I will miss most about Aaron is his friendship. My brothers and I together make such a great team. With him gone, I feel as if a big chunk of my life is missing, so–to echo my other family members–saying goodbye was HARD.
But there was another reason why last weekend was so difficult. Throughout the going-away festivities, I did what any single 22-year-old does best: make everything about herself. While everyone around me–friends, family, peers, church leaders that I had grown up with–was celebrating Aaron’s life decisions to go on a mission, several people were incredibly callous when I shared mine with them. This has happened before, so I was not surprised, but it didn’t make it any less hurtful. When I told these people what my post-grad plans were and where in the world they would take me, I was either warned that I would be endangered or mistreated (based only on the fact that I was going to a Muslim country) or that I would be wasting away the precious years of my youth. These people I spoke with seemed to be unwilling to celebrate my life decisions–in fact, many failed to understand why I would want to do something like Peace Corps at all–and I felt foolish as I tried to explain my reasoning. I didn’t expect people to jump up and down about my life goals, but to dismiss them right in front of me was a different story.
I spoke with my mother that night. Unfortunately, I had let these few people infiltrate my mind and give me some serious doubts about whether this was the right thing to do. Really, these doubts had existed for a long time, but now they were blown out of proportion. Would I be safe? Would I be happy? What if this was a huge mistake and I came back broken and miserable? Why didn’t I just find a 9-5 job or settle down and get married? Why didn’t I just do something less costly, less risky, more secure? My mother, who is excellent in these types of situations, said something to the effect of: “Ignore those bigots and do what you think is right.” As usual, it was excellent advice.
The day I was scheduled to fly back up to Oregon I came across this Celtic proverb: Those too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours. It seemed to apply almost too well to my situation. People are always going to oppose you. People are always going to think what you’re doing is wrong. People, because of their own limitations, will never be able to understand what is taking place inside the minds of others. And then, for the first time, I realized: Aaron probably went through the exact same thing! Who am I to declare, because he had a big happy farewell speech and a party one afternoon, that he didn’t have the same difficulties in his decision-making process that I am encountering now? He probably–no, most definitely–had the same worries as I do. He may have even faced some opposition. My admiration for my brother only increased when I realized that his decision must have been just as difficult and yet he was still so excited to serve.
My theory was further confirmed when, the following Sunday, one of my friends returned from her mission and gave a homecoming talk in my ward. She described how apathetic her family had been prior to her departure for her mission–her non-member parents and brothers had given her little to no support in her decision–and how greatly that tempted her to just make her life simpler and stay home. I had another breakthrough when I realized that even though people who didn’t understand me were quick to tell me they didn’t support my decisions, at least my family does. I can’t emphasize enough how reassuring it is that my mother and father–and the vast majority of other people in my life who have been encouraging throughout this process–support me in my decision to serve my country in the Peace Corps. I realized further that they have always supported me, and how lucky I am to have their comfort.
In conclusion: don’t let people who lead small lives deter you from living large. A second conclusion: everyone struggles in life, so just leave them alone. And the most important conclusion: my family ROCKS.