Ah, now, for those of you who are still reading, I hope to share this in a way that can be learned from and (hopefully) beneficial to you and myself. Im going to be super brave and be as real as I can get. I don't really believe that sugar coating will help in this circumstance.
Today is October 1st. This is the day that I came home from serving an LDS mission 365 days ago! It's truly hard to believe that so much time has passed.... I can't help but think back on the day as a sad, scary and confusing time in my life. You see, I left my mission for "medical reasons". I still had a year left of my mission that I was "supposed to" still serve. This put me in the category of missionaries who are "honorably released". But to tell you the truth, I didn't feel very honorable. I felt very much like I was dis-honarble. To be perfectly honest, I actually felt like a complete failure. I was "supposed to" serve 365 more days. I was. And everyone knew it. I was a medical mess, a medical mystery and medically I could not get "fixed", which meant that my destiny was that I could not return to my mission. I felt like a failure. I found myself embarrassed to even say that I served at all, knowing that I "came up short", or that I would have to explain WHY I didn't "finish"... and lets all be real, if its not a valuable "excuse" or reason, people in this culture tend to think down on you. Shame on you, shame on everyone. But, seriously. I never thought that I would be one of "those" missionaries.... You see, in all honesty, the missionaries that come home after the full 2 years or 1 1/2 years... they get treated like royalty. I frequently see videos, pictures, parties, homecoming talks, etc. of these people. Everyone is so happy for them, including myself, and they seem to be beaming with the spirit and with enthusiasm for coming home. Its wonderful to see, and I am so glad that they are deemed so highly for what they have done!
However, the missionaries who return home early, we get, well, a very different experience. We come home and stay off our computers, stay inside to stray away from questions, we don't have a homecoming party, talk, or video. We just quietly come home one day and try to adjust to the things going on around us, and in my case, within us.
NOW, let me make one thing clear, It's not the parties, or the talk, or the video that I really really wanted- however that would've been so fun- It was that I wanted someone, or most people to accept, like they do for "full time missionaries", what I DID do, as apposed to what I DIDNT do (those 365 days). I frequently hear of missionaries coming home and everyone asking them to share their awesome mission stories, and people laughing and being inspired by what they did. For me, the only questions I got were, "Why are you home?" "Are you okay?" "Are you feeling any better?" and my personal favorite "When are you going back out?". NOW let me just say that I was glad that people were concerned, that they were genuinely concerned, however, it seemed that my mission- though "only six months" was too short a time to get any of the positive attention that others received.
I came to believe that since everyone around me only addressed my health, and that my mission was scooted aside, that those six months I spent as a missionary weren't important. Since it was never a topic of conversation, I figured it would be okay if I just didn't mention it, or if I did, I wouldn't mention that I came home early. I found myself having a hard time thinking that anyone from my own mission would even remember I was ever there, and truly believed that my mission parents thought down on me... I had convinced myself that just needed to move on from that little "mission spell" I had. I have hundreds of pictures from my mission, pictures I love and cherish, and I still haven't loaded them up to Facebook or anywhere public. Why? Well, society told me that what I did "didn't count". So I stopped counting it too...
Fast forward, to now. I am married. To a returned missionary- he served "full time". He is married. To a returned missionary- who served "not full time".
And let me tell you what I have learned in 365 days... "Full time" , "Honorably released" and other terms that LDS members have coined and use to describe missionaries put us in false categories.
My husband and I frequently talk about our missions and we share many of the same spiritual experiences from our missions, we have equally as many "cool stories" to share with one another, and although I "only" served for six months- that for those six months- I was serving "full time"!! That is all I did, 24/7. I don't think it gets more "full time" than that.
These terms that were used SO MUCH when I first got home, were extremely hard for me, because I felt that I could not be both. I truly felt that I could not claim to have served "full time" and be "honorably released" all at the same time. It was a hard time for me.
Now, as I reflect on what has happened in the last 365 days, I have decided what I want to feel today, on October 1st, exactly 365 days from returning home. I have taken some observations as to how I have had to approach my life since all this has taken place. They are simple, yet they are quite profound to me all at the same time. I share them with you, hoping that through all these emotions that something may help you. That these things I have been learning will not only be selfishly for me, but for you as well, that God can effect more than just one person through these times for me.
One: God knows what he is doing, everything happens for a reason.
Two: It's not about what others think or even say, do what you feel is true, righteous and correct.
Three: Life continues to teach, shape and mold you into what you need to be, missionary name tag or not.
Four: You can be proud for what you have accomplished, however "small" it may seem, it is still deemed an accomplishment.
Five: Sometimes you need time: to heal, for thoughts to deepen and for understanding to flourish.
In 365 days, my opinion has changed dramatically as to how I treat my mission experience. And although at one time I believed I was a failure, I can happily say that it was not a waste of my time or energy to spend six months serving the lord.
I confess to feeling like a failure, but I also confess to rising higher, and learning from this experience. I don't have to hide them. If I embrace them, and move forward, the world is at my feet again.