Tuesday, October 4, 2016

School Impact

      While contemplating which stories have most defined my life, it took only a few brief moments of introspection to realize how vast a role going to school has played for me. From the time I was in Kindergarten, up until now, as a senior undergrad, going to school has been central to everything I have done and become. It is for every memory that I decided to capture pictures illustrating my days of school and what it’s felt like to have so many learning opportunities whether they were happy, sad, or otherwise.

     For the first picture, I decided to represent my years in school K-12; at first I had a hard time thinking of a time that could easily define my years as a grade-schooler. When I was a kid, I lived and breathed for recess. Playing on the playground, running around kicking soccer ball in the fields, and playing with my friends were what tied everything together and made my learning experience enjoying. In the picture, myself and one of my best friends, who I met back in sixth grade, are posing and playing on the playground- totally at ease and happy to be there.

     In the second picture is a representation of my first year at Utah State University as a Freshman. It’s blurry, I hardly remember it; but, it was fun, it was easy, and it was full of the freedom that comes from moving away from home for the first time. Being surrounded by strangers was oddly exhilarating for a girl as shy as I used to be.

     The third picture depicts my sophomore year. That year was extremely hard and extremely dark. Almost all of my friends left college- going to other schools or other countries far away. It felt like every waking moment I was huddled over my books, laptop, or calculator. Studying engulfed my life as an Accounting Major, and I truly hated every monotonous minute of it.

     Naturally, my next picture would have been of my junior year of college; except that I made a rash decision. I decided to leave and serve a Christian mission for my church; like my friends, my own mission took me far away- Japan, to be exact. That’s when my life started to get brighter. I left everything that I had known and loved behind and learned through the school of personal experience. It was like a whole new world, and it was in those years away from school that I learned to truly be myself and to chase my own dreams.

     Eventually the time I spent learning and teaching in Japan came to an end; I returned to study at Utah State again. However, this time I did something so drastic that my dear dad almost cried- my major was changed. In a lot of ways, it felt like I was starting on a new path in school even though the progress was apparent. The fifth picture depicts that new trail; there was dirt, twigs, and difficulty along the way, but it was liberating to finally be studying a subject that wasn’t thrust upon me. Back then, it seemed like there was still a long way to go to reach the top.

     In the sixth picture, I am at the pinnacle of my senior year- sporting Aggie blue and standing in the new Huntsman hall. The wall behind reads: “Accomplished Alumni,” an aspiration of mine as a senior in the Business School. Many of my days are spent in the business building, studying ardently and filled with day dreaming more ambitiously than ever before.

     The last picture represents my future after school. I’m seen standing again with my best friend; and surprise- he asked my dad for permission to marry me the week before  this picture was taken! As for now, I don’t know what the trail up ahead consists of, but my life in school, and the people who I met and became friends with along the way have made me a happier, healthier person-  the person that I had always hoped to be.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why Is Swearing So Bad Anyway?

      Lately, I have been surprised to find myself finding humor in swear words and becoming more tempted to think and use them. Now that I’m an adult, it has been exponentially easier to be exposed to poor language through conversation, novels, and media of every kind.
   Unfortunately, it was surprisingly simple to lose sight of why filtering my language was necessary in the first place. In a short space of time, expressing exactly what I thought and felt in any situation seemed appealing, even if it was with coarse language. The idea of expressing yourself honestly isn't inherently wrong; however, I recognize that using swear words in order to do so was contradictory to what I was taught from my youth. After some reflection, my mind and heart became more open to examining both the "why" and “why nots” of swearing; overall, it was a humbling, repentant, and inspiring experience.
       Retrospectively I’ve come to realize a few things. First, being encouraged to refrain from swearing is in no way equivalent to having my mouth taped shut. We are free to say exactly how we think and feel without using overly strong diction that will hurt, embarrass, offend, or upset someone else. Filtering our choice of vocabulary is as much of a choice as not filtering our vocabulary; the difference is that it takes a lot more self-control, respect, and love for others and God to prevail in that endeavor.

     Secondly, by not reverting to the carnal, common, natural harsh words used by most men and women today, we will be able to have cleaner and more virtuous thoughts. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 it says, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. Then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of god.” Isn’t it worth a little more self-control in phraseology to be able to comfortably stand before God? The alternative thought makes me shrink. Why would we let any destructive habit, be it swearing, or something else, potentially incapacitate our ability to live with God again someday? Again, this idea is about more than a swearing habit itself. It’s about our mindsets. It’s about thinking clean. Acting clean. Being clean.

     President Hinckley put it this way, “A filthy mind expresses itself in filthy and profane language. A clean mind expresses itself in language that is positive and uplifting and in deeds that bring happiness into the heart.” (Be Ye Clean, 1996)

     That statement may branch out into other questions- is swearing always used in negative contexts? Is foul language always used in short bursts of uncontrollable rage, revenge, spite, or envy? Honestly, the answer is no. That’s not always the case. Sometimes inappropriate terms are used in joking for laughs. But isn’t laughter good? Doesn’t it make us happy? Doesn’t laughter always equal happiness? Truthfully, no. I have found that the kind of comedy that needs cussing to make it funny isn’t very uplifting humor. More often than not, it is vicious, sarcastic, or demeaning. I believe that we would all feel better about ourselves and our peers if we refrained from using foul humor just for the sake of laughs.
     President Hinckley again elaborated in his talk from twenty years ago, “Be clean in language.
 There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. I spoke to the young women about it. 
I speak to you also. It tells others that your vocabulary is so extremely limited that you cannot
express yourself without reaching down into the gutter for words. Dirty talk is unbecoming
any man who holds the priesthood, be he young or old."

     That comment feels no less painful than a time-wizened doctor ripping a band-aid off! It stings, but only because it’s true; despite all of the advancements and progression in the world today, there is still a lot of filth and sleaze. But why would we want to contribute to that? I believe that we can each express how we truly feel in a smart and polite manner without reverting to swearing. Rude, crude, and lewd language is unbecoming to any child of God, not just priesthood holders. Because Heavenly Father created us, He loves us, and He wants us to be our best selves. We absolutely cannot be our best selves when we are reaching into the gutter for words.

     In the words of President David O. Mckay while quoting E.D. Boardman,
“Sow a thought, reap an act,
Sow an act, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap an eternal destiny.” (Conference Report, April 1962, 7.) His idea can be applied to the vocabulary that we choose to use every day. If we sow better words into our daily language, we will be able to have better thoughts, better actions, better habits, better character, and ultimately better destinies. In the long run, something as simple as not swearing can make a significant difference in our lives. By not swearing, we can better ourselves in countless ways.

     “And finally, pick up a commandment you are still struggling with and give it an honest chance to bless your life” (“Purify Our Minds and Spirits,” Ensign, November 1980, 38–39). After delving into the topic of swearing, I have come to understand the impact and ramification of my words. I hope that my research, study, and prayer can help others to understand the impact of not only their mindsets, but the way they think and speak.

      Despite all of this exploration, I can’t help but think that sometimes swearing at someone may be kinder than other choice words we consciously incorporate into our daily verbiage! Each of us should try harder to be a little kinder with the words we use.

     In closing, I mentioned before that as a kid I was frequently offended, even judgmental of others who swore. I realize now that stance was just as wrong if not worse than almost getting into that habit myself. In a beautiful primary song sung frequently by my niece when she was a toddler, “Jesus said love everyone. Treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, others will love you.” Jesus loves me, and he love you too. He loves all of us. We can feel his love and be more like him as we choose to love others as he did in all that we do and say.

   In my life, my opinion of swearing has reached both ends of the spectrum. From being really offended as a kid when people would utter even the mildest obscenity to my current state of thinking that such obscenities displayed an openness of thought, mind, and humor (despite trying to refrain from swearing myself.)

I'm Not in Utah Anymore

     I remember stepping out the door the first morning of living in suburbia Hannan, Japan like it was yesterday. It was so humid that the air reeked with water from the ocean, people, and the random rain forests that seemed to wind their way through the little neighborhoods and up into the mountains. Little did I know, stepping out that intricate glass door, that I would be waltzing into a world different from anything I had ever known.

     It all started with the old man on the beach. At around lunch time, my Japanese companion and I were taking a nice bike-ride past the beach. We had been visiting every hospital in the town that day, trying to find a man whose information everyone refused to entrust us with. However, with the beautiful weather and the casual breeze from the sea to keep us cool, our rotten luck in finding our friend didn't really affect us. At least, not until we ran into the old man.

     As we rounded a natural bend in the side-walk, we came to an abrupt stop at a red light. That's when I first saw him... The toothless little old man peered at us, squinting from in the blazing sun. Without any warning, he enthusiastically started waving his arms and yelling indiscreet words at the top of his lungs.

     Realizing that we were the only other people on the street, I became a little concerned... What was this total stranger doing waving at us in the first place? I was taken aback when the old man victoriously raised the objects in his hands to show them off to us. In one hand, glinting in the light, was a gigantic spear that looked comically too-big for such a little man to be carrying, but what was in the other hand threw me off even more.

"Gaijin! Sore ha tako da! Sawatte kudasai!!!" (Hey foreigner! This is an octopus! Come feel it!!!) The strangeness of it all took a suddenly gripped me as I apprehensively asked my friend, "Why is he asking me to feel his octopus? Should I touch that thing? Why does he even want me to touch that?!" Sister U. lightly laughed and made a comment about how I should respect elderly folks' wishes. So without further ado, I trudged towards the neon orange net, weary of the gigantic tentacles and glazed over octopus’s eyes that lurked inside the old-man's bag. Slowly, trying not to process what it was I was about to do, I reached out and touched the octopus.

     Before I could even register how odd our situation was, the old man laughed and hopped about from foot to foot in glee, ranting to himself about how the octopus was now "lucky." Then, without further ado, he waddled away without another word.

    That was the first of many times while living in Japan where it hit me that I was "Not in Kansas anymore." Let alone the conservative, sheltered, middle-of-nowhere place that was my hometown in Utah.