Home | Posts RSS | Comments RSS | Login

What a month - Victory in Seasons of Courage

13 October 2013
Life has been... difficult. I feel like I had a much easier time adjusting to school back in January than I've had this time around. That said, I'm also much busier than I was in January (to my glee and dismay.)

I'm only taking 12 credits this semester, but they are tough classes. I'm in a Spanish class that's killing me. I'm not sure how I'm managing to stay afloat (answer: not very well). That's 4 credits. I'm in a religion class that's not as fun as I'd hoped. And I'm in a Transatlantic Literary History class (6 credits), which I absolutely adore, except that I feel like we're only glossing over stuff I'd really like to know more about. I also have an internship that is the best thing ever. It's ten hours a week of pure awesome and after 8 years of constant indecision I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. Kinda. Mostly. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about it, since I signed a fancy non-disclosure agreement. So, yeah.

In addition to the school craziness, two weeks ago my grandfather passed away. It was relatively unexpected and emotionally agonizing. I mean, I get it: having a family member die is no picnic. It's hard on everyone. But I have this awesome guilt complex where I A) felt guilty for mourning him because I didn't know him super well B) felt guilty for trying not to mourn him C) felt guilty for not getting to know him better D) felt guilty for not finding him sooner E) felt mad at my family and how I didn't get to grow up with him F) felt guilty for feeling mad and G) mourned for Sparrow and his loss, because he adored his great grandpa.

Aaaaand, we found out this week that our house is almost done. This is awesome and SUPER EXCITING but also super stressful as I now have less than two weeks to pack my entire house. "But Kris," you say, "why didn't you start packing when you started building the home?" Well, because then I'd have packed my entire house back in May. Also, because they kept pushing back our closing date, it started to feel like we would never move and so I put off packing until things were solid. They are only just barely solid. So I am looking forward to October 24 but I also don't have time for this crap. Just sayin.

I know this post is all run down. I feel very run down. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude but I am very overwhelmed. Last week I wanted to quit everything but most especially school and my internship. That is not okay. School brings me such joy (or it did) and the fact that it's hurting me this semester is like my brain betraying me. This probably makes no sense. I hate feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I'm almost caught up on everything I missed from the week of the funeral, but I still feel like I don't have a good handle on time management. I ended up dropping Sparrow and my violin lessons for both September and Octber and I hate that. I just need more time.

In good news, I had an awesome experience. So, every year the BYU Alumni Association sponsors an essay contest. First prize is $1500 and even the honorable mention is $300. The theme this year resonated with me and so I decided to enter. I submitted the essay the day before my grandfather went to the hospital and found out I won the honorable mention as we were leaving the cemetery. So it was like Grandpa approved of my essay. I was able to get special seating at the homecoming opening devotional and was invited to a swanky, fancy luncheon afterwards. It was SO FANCY. I had to wear a dress and it was exhausting to pretend to be an adult the whole time. But I lived. President Cecil Samuelson and Elder John Groberg presented me with my prize of $300 and an awesome clock which is engraved with my name on it. It was a really neat experience. The girl who won first place did a fantastic job. Actually, everyone did. I was told they had a record number of entries this year (150) and 6 of us won. After reading the essays of the other winners, I'm not sure I really deserved to win. But I'll take it anyway.

And here is my essay:

Victory in Seasons of Courage

On a cold morning in January 2013, I set foot on the campus of Brigham Young University and immediately burst into tears. I was terrified. The time had come for a new season of courage.

Eight years earlier, I had been accepted into BYU as a new student. I was seventeen years old and utterly petrified of college: of the people, the professors, the work, the impending sense of “if I don’t choose the right path NOW, my life is going to be a disaster.” Drowned in a sea of anxieties, I dropped out. I married, had a baby, and spent my time wishing that I had been able to accomplish the work I had set out to do at BYU.

My son was now five years old, and in the middle of his own first season of courage; he had been accepted into a special needs kindergarten and was working hard to learn skills that developmentally “normal” children take for granted. One day he came home from school, exhausted, and asked me: “Did you ever have to go to school and learn so much that your head wants to go ‘kaboom!’?” I answered him truthfully: that I had once had the chance, but I was too scared of how hard it looked, so I quit. My son studied me as if seeing me in a new light. “Mommy,” he said slowly, “if you are scared to try, you won’t get anything done.”

If you’ve never been schooled by a five year old, it’s a sobering experience. I told him I would try if he would, and I once again turned in my application to Brigham Young University.

George H. Brimhall was a man familiar with the necessity of courage. He was raised in a poor family with nine siblings to care for. Determined to make a better life for himself, he read everything he could get his hands on, and never stopped learning. Through perseverance and hard work (and moments, I’m sure, when his head wanted to “go kaboom”), he became president of Brigham Young University, and maintained the position for seventeen years. By all accounts, he is one of the main reasons BYU is such a successful school today.

Brimhall was familiar with adversity. His family struggled; his first wife had been struck with childbed fever and had to be institutionalized. He had excruciating chest pains, poor health, and was plagued with “useless anxiety,” as he called it. Initially, he wanted to turn down the offer of the presidency, gently suggesting that there were others more qualified than him to head the school. However, instead of backing down, Brimhall eventually recognized that he was entering into a season of courage. He could choose to step down and submit to the beatings that life was throwing his way, or he could step up to the plate and fight back. He later wrote: “If we dodge the hard things in life, the great things will dodge us.”

Each of us here at BYU is in the midst of our own season of courage. It takes courage to choose to attend school rather than lie on the couch. How many of us would rather be taking a nap than taking a test? How many would rather hang out with friends than hang out in a chemistry lab? “It takes courage to resist the bribery of self-interest,” Brimhall said. Even if you don’t feel particularly brave, by fighting your own apathy, you are being courageous.

For some, this particular season of courage may seem like an endless winter. For others, their courage may only be needed to persevere through a mild summer. Regardless of the length of the season we are facing, we must never give up. As Brimhall counseled: “No one should let loose of that which they know to be good in an hour of discouragement. That is the time to hold fast. The clinging on amid the storm is indicative of a strong character, while the letting loose would be an index to the reverse.”

Like George H. Brimhall, I am plagued with my own useless anxieties, but I also recognize that this season of courage will prepare me for great things. I can set an example for those around me, including my courageous son. I am here to fight my own failings, so that I may score in the game of life. Let us all hold fast, clinging on amid the storm, that we may be victorious in our season of courage.

End essay. So clearly, I am in my own season of courage right now. I will step up and fight back, but dude. It's harder than I thought.