Nothing But Nostalgia

Six years ago, I started my freshman year at BYU.

319_47882894408_6398_n

That was me. Not one of the statues. Not the red-haired girl on the left. But the wide-eyed, innocent youth on the right–so optimistic, so eager to prove himself in the real world.

Fast-forward four years of school, two years in the Philippines, a summer in the UK, five different apartments, seven sets of roommates, nine finals weeks, three jobs, forty-six blog posts, and countless slices of pizza, I find myself at the opposite end of my college experience.

Sometimes it feels like not much has changed since I started at BYU six years ago. In many ways, I guess I’m still that same wide-eyed, innocent freshman who liked to pretend that statues were real.

DSCN2273

But in many more ways, that wide-eyed, innocent freshman has died, never to live again. My eyes are now narrowed into slits of distrust, wary of the world around me and the people who occupy that world.

Nah, I’m kidding. I just wanted to be dramatic. The point is that a lot has happened since that first day of college back in 2008. Now, my entire college experience nothing but a memory, I can’t help but feel sentimental.

When I first started college, BYU seemed like such a magical place–like Hogwarts, only with less booze. But when classes like Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts were sacrificed in favor of classes like American Heritage, biology, and psychology, it didn’t take me long to realize that BYU is not such a magical place after all.

Magical or not, however, BYU has been my home away from home for four out of the past six years, though it felt like home more at certain times than it did at others. College was a time of constant change, and each new semester was like a new book of the same series, a series called Matthew Does College or something more creative that I can’t think of right now. And as is the case with all book series, some books were more well-written than others. Some books had me up all night, wanting to see what came next. Other books found me reading out of sheer obligation, dredging through each chapter and looking forward to the final pages.

My experiences at BYU spanned what I believe to be the entire spectrum of the typical college experience… again, minus the booze.

College is about taking the first baby steps into the real world, which is exactly what I have done in the past six years. So despite the advice of TLC, I did go chasing waterfalls, and I did not stick to the rivers and the lakes I was used to.

2603_71309652532_7143730_n

580258_10201269616608781_1973953057_n

People might assume that, just because I went to a private church college, my college experience was sheltered and uneventful. Those people would be right.

Nevertheless, my college experience, unlike the BYU population, was diverse. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I both laughed and cried, both struggled and triumphed. I reaped the benefits of hard work and suffered the consequences of procrastination. I made decisions that will shape the rest of my life, for good or for bad.

Yes, I made mistakes–mistakes that I can never take back. Mistakes that I will always regret.

1259_63630443568_8697_n

Above is photographic evidence of a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life. That poor grass. How could I have been such a monster???

And I can’t help but ask myself, why does everyone make so many mistakes in their college years? In my opinion, it’s because college is this whole awkward phase where we wanted to expand our horizons or something philosophical like that. I know such has been the case in my life. For example, I once went skydiving… off the roof of my apartment… in a dream. Not that impressive I guess.

I didn’t do everything I wanted to do during college. I never visited the hot springs down in Spanish Fork. I never walked up to a random person and greeted them like I had known them my whole life, hugging them and saying, “I haven’t seen you in forever!”

Nevertheless, I had my fair share of new experiences. I scuba dived myself into a bloody nose, ice skated my way into a broken heart, and roller skated my way into an injured leg.

And as I look back at my time in college, a number of images flash through my mind, images that remind me just how… unique… my college experience has been.

I see myself buried in a pile of leaves.

376_38381916145_2782_n

I see myself swimming in a sea of red jello… because I’m pretty sure that jello is the official Utah state food.

3011_173855595025_4368623_n

I see my vision being obscured in a cloud of colors, chalk dust that turned my shower water a nasty shade of purple.

539570_10150887223604409_1080993467_n

I see all the people I met throughout the years, people I couldn’t imagine my life without.

1391913_10152291466544409_1310882186_n

I see my first set of roommates, a group of the most different personalities you could possibly imagine. And yet, somehow, we (kind of) learned how to get along.

2609_82473349408_2750965_n

I see my last set of roommates, who also got along even though (or perhaps because) we hardly ever saw each other, due to our conflicting schedules. Only we were able to gather together one final time at the end of the semester, united because three of us had a 7 a.m. final, and the other one was just crazy enough to be awake at such an ungodly hour.

7amfinal

I see myself becoming part of a scooter gang. . .

543650_10151525591700187_1703736741_n

Because apparently that’s a thing.

I remember making this gem of a music video.

I see everything from fake engagements. . .

1000248_10201818282163910_300252107_n

. . .to actual weddings.

1455978_10152050730744283_1489867829_n

Everything from my first day. . .

319_47883819408_4884_n

. . .to graduation day.

DSCN2251

Moments when I laughed so hard that I cried.

1001356_10151497827482479_1562224924_n

60479_10201726749672125_887920161_n

Moments when I cried so hard that I just had to laugh.

crying

I traveled the world and found myself in the process.

1006328_10201865318934195_919632701_n

But I never lost touch with my roots.

2794_111503064408_8007836_n

I know that all those memories are just that… memories. Nothing more, nothing less. That time of my life is over. At times that realization makes me very happy, at others a little sad. But either way, it is time to move on.

And even though I’m not quite sure where life is going to take me now. . .

DSCN2175

. . .I do know that life is taking me someplace new. Everything has changed. In the blink of an eye, I have gone from being a poor college student to being just plain poor. So don’t tell me I haven’t evolved!

As I begin this new phase of my life, I feel like it’s time to leave certain things behind. Preferably, I would leave behind my insecurities, my weaknesses, my emotional baggage. But since that is easier said than done, I have decided to start by leaving behind this blog. That’s right, this is the last post I am ever going to do under this blog domain. Call me dramatic if you must, but every post in this blog has been connected to my college experience. Now that my college experience is over, I feel like it is time to end this blog as well.

I realize what this means. It means that the number of people who read my blog will plummet from three to zero, a drastic change. But anyone who is interested in still following my story can direct themselves here. Granted, I haven’t written anything in my new blog yet, but new posts are forthcoming.

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to read my musings, from my most popular musings to the musings that were much less popular (there were too many to link to just one). I hope you have enjoyed this journey as much as I have.

And now, I bid you farewell in the most appropriate, dignified way I can think of:

Bye, see ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya!

And I mean that.

Single and Proud: A Single Person’s Guide to Being Single

tumblr_lphhtrRjtM1qc4utoo1_500

Mutant and proud? Try single and proud. I wish I could walk through walls, or be a shape-shifter, or eject metallic claws out of my knuckles.

But no, I have to be single instead.

Living in a world where everyone around you is literally getting married and having babies, it is easy to feel like a mutant of sorts while you remain stubbornly single. Like there is something abnormal–maybe even repulsive–about you that keeps others at bay.

This post is for those of you drowning your sorrows in a pint of either ice cream or alcohol (or both).

This is for those of you who feel perpetually alone: Single with a capital S.

This goes out to those of you who can honestly say that this is the story of your life:

This, my friends, is my guide to making the best of being single.

Stay in shape

anigif_enhanced-buzz-654-1390167881-25

Resist the temptation to let yourself go just because you’re not with someone. Regular exercise will increase confidence, reminding you of what people are missing out on by not being with you.

Develop a hobby

anigif_enhanced-buzz-30495-1381333444-0

Find something that you enjoy and that will keep you busy during your downtime. Reading might be a good option. Books help you escape to a world where your relationship status doesn’t matter. Find a genre that strikes your fancy. If you have a hard time finding books you like, keep trying. It’s not like you have much else to do anyway! I used to think I didn’t like reading, but then I discovered young adult literature. That’s my preference. What’s yours?

Don’t talk to other people too early in the morning

This should be a given. Early mornings are no time for talking, at least not for single people. Don’t be afraid to treat roommates like they don’t exist early in the morning. If you are not careful, your reaction to everything that everyone says, no matter how pleasant it is, could be this:

tumblr_miv6lbhY7K1rpgk87o1_500

 

So please, think of the children and keep morning talk to a minimum.

Find outlets for your bitterness

As a single person, you are bound to feel intense bitterness about your lack of a significant other, especially during this time of year. That’s normal. In my opinion, the best option is to channel this bitterness in a healthy way. Avoid passive aggressive Facebook statuses. That won’t get you anywhere and will most likely just solidify your position as a single person. Instead, use your bitterness to develop a cynical, snarky sense of humor. There’s no more room in this world for people who think life is just a bunch of rainbows and lollipops, so don’t feel bad if you falter in your optimism every now and then. Also, don’t be afraid to intrude on couples and ruin their romantic moments. Sit in between a couple that is in danger of turning your living room into a make-out party.

tumblr_logutlFoYP1qej4mpo1_500

Call couples out for being ridiculous when they say that they keep picking each other’s Apples to Apples cards because they are so “connected.” Couples have an uncanny knack for making things awkward for single people, so do what you can to turn the tables and make them feel awkward. If worse comes to worst, that couple will not want to get together around you anymore. What a loss that would be.  Not.

Travel the world

tumblr_lmz03sV8pe1qivqs0o1_500

Life is too short to miss out on seeing the world. If you’re single, now is the time to visit the places you’ve always wanted to visit, see the things you’ve always wanted to see. All of that becomes at least two times more complicated the minute you get married and have to help support a family (in that you have to pay for a minimum of two people to travel instead of just one).

Don’t let life get you down

ndoDjX8Life will sometimes kick you in the face, which can be hard to manage on your own. But no matter how hard things get, always force yourself to bounce back and keep on keeping on.

Enjoy your freedom

anigif_enhanced-buzz-18558-1392080711-29

Enjoy your lack of familial responsibility while you can. The only one who owns you is you! You answer to NOBODY. You are in charge of your own life and nobody else’s, and that’s something that can be enjoyed for a limited time only. Cherish it!

Comfort and rewards

parks-and-rec-treat-yo-self

 

This is easily the most important one. If other people aren’t going to give you the treatment you deserve, then take matters into your own hands. When I first started college, I would always buy myself some chocolate milk after taking a test. If I did well on the test, I rewarded myself with chocolate milk. If my test score wasn’t so great, I comforted myself with chocolate milk. Since chocolate milk is basically my version of alcohol, it worked both ways. Always find simple (and preferably cheap) ways to comfort and reward yourself.

Of course, these are just a few tips for staying sane at the loneliest of times. Find a way to accept your single status, maybe even embrace it. That’s not to say you should give up on relationships altogether, but there’s no use in stressing over a situation that you can’t always control. Just remember that people are often the worst, and you are not to blame if you seem to be going unnoticed. But maintain hope that, one of these days, somebody will like you, and you will like them back. It’s a rare phenomenon, but it’s been known to happen. I think.

It’s all easier said than done, I know. I myself have been guilty of falling into the single trap, allowing my lack of a relationship to define my life. I have allowed myself to drown in a sea of bitterness and self-pity, losing hope that I would ever find a special someone. But I invite all you single people to join me in my efforts to make the best of a less-than-desirable situation.

And, just as a side note, I hope that someday even I will find love in a hopeless place: my cold, black heart. It’s what Rihanna would want, after all, and I hate to disappoint her.

tumblr_lt43drqmvE1qewmu6o1_500

Don’t disappoint Rihanna. Find love in a hopeless place.

Happy single awareness day!

Thou Shalt Not Judge

Last week’s post was about wanting other people to accept me for who I am. This week’s post, in contrast, is about accepting other people for who they are.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.–Luke 6:37

Let’s start with a little activity, shall we? Below are some images of people who could easily be described as being “different.” Think to yourself the first thing that pops into your mind when you see the people in these images.

giphy-12

alien-chases-guy

tumblr_m9ytpm3fqZ1rqhztwo1_500

It is natural to make snap judgments, especially about the people/creatures in the above images. But that doesn’t mean we have to cling onto those judgments. Because we don’t know the stories behind what happened in the above pictures… well, except for Ursula. But when it comes to Ursula, we must resist the temptation to assume that all human octopuses (octopi?) are evil creatures that steal the voices of innocent mermaids!

My message for today is that we must strive to accept people regardless of their mistakes. We must strive to accept everyone. That’s right, everyone:

  • Smokers
  • Drug/Sex addicts
  • Raging alcoholics
  • That person who gave you the stink-eye at the bus stop
  • The friend who wronged you seven years ago…

Accept people for who they are and what they feel… that includes every aspect of who they are and what they feel. I was going to include gay people in the above list, but then I thought… that list consists of people who have done something wrong or hurtful. And I don’t believe that’s the case with homosexuality.

Just like everyone else, gay people might make mistakes, but the fact that they are gay is not the mistake. Why do we feel the need to judge people for what they feel?

Our good God in heaven has created humans to be beautiful creatures: both male and female. Or, if you believe that we evolved from apes, that’s cool too. Either way, the fact is this: people are hot. Anyone who thinks otherwise can answer to Katniss and Gale of The Hunger Games.

peeta-katniss-gale-love-triangle-hunger-games-catching-fire-640x327

How DARE you suggest that one of us is not attractive. Sluts!

Even though I’m straight, I can appreciate the beauty of both genders–perhaps because I myself am so attractive! If I were to see myself walking down the street, I would be quite intrigued! I’m kidding, of course… I mostly wanted to confirm what everybody has probably concluded from reading my blog: despite my insecurities, I can be quite vain. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, back to the topic of homosexuality. Some people believe it’s a choice. I myself used to believe that as well. But every gay person I’ve talked to would give anything to be straight. I mean, why would you choose to be mocked, judged, ridiculed, ostracized, etc.? That doesn’t even make sense, you guys! Let’s be honest, the straight life is so much easier. Nobody will judge you for being attracted to the opposite sex.  And sure, there are some gay people who say they would not change a thing about themselves and claim they would never want to be straight. But those people don’t deserve to be judged either. How dare people accept themselves for who they are, after what has probably been a lifetime of feeling bad about themselves because the world tells them they should? What monsters…said nobody ever.

PLUS, here’s the thing. So a person is gay, right? Who a person is attracted to doesn’t define who that person actually is. A gay person could be the kindest, most loving, most hilarious, greatest person you’d ever meet. Focus on those aspects of his or her personality, not on what sex they are attracted  to.

If a gay person is mean, by all means, keep your distance from that person. Just as long as you keep your distance from all straight mean people as well. Because mean people are the worst! And meanness is something that affects you in a negative way. Homosexuality is not.

What, do you think if you befriend a gay person that you will become gay too? It’s not a contagious disease! That’s not a thing! Guys, there is no reason to treat gay people any differently than you would treat anyone else. They have experienced many of the same things as everyone else has… they have gone to school, they have had both good memories and bad, they have loved, they have been hurt. And in a lot of cases, they are a lot more compassionate because they have had to deal with a lot more pain.

Gay people, as well as anyone that possesses characteristics that the world sees as being “abnormal,” deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else. In fact, I might go as far as to say they deserve love more than other people. It is a heavy burden they have to bear, and they need all the love and support they can get in order to feel wanted in this narrow-minded world.

You might wonder why I’m even writing about this post. Well, this video explains part of the reason:

No one should have to feel that they need to end their lives. And no one should say such a callous and disgusting thing as, “(A gay person) was going to go to hell anyway, so he was just speeding up the process (by committing suicide).” NO! Unacceptable. I refuse to believe that anyone who claims to be a good person could say that with a good conscience. Just… no.

You may not necessarily support the way someone lives their life, but here’s the thing: it’s their life. So let them live it! And just worry about your own life in the meantime. We need to stop trying to make everyone else into alternate versions of ourselves. That has never been successful and it never should be. To think everyone needs to think exactly like you is very Hitler-esque, in my opinion. That’s right, I said it!

I’m sorry if I’m getting too bold by saying all this… but I’m not really that sorry. It’s just, I’m so sick of people treating others badly for such dumb reasons. Whenever I hear all these narrow-minded and hurtful comments, I feel… I just… I just want to…

46

Sigh

We shouldn’t be concerned about whether a person is asexual, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trisexual (oh, wait…) Sexual preference does not make the person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect when it comes to accepting everyone. I tend to be narrow-minded toward narrow-mindedness. Perhaps I should be more accepting of bigotry and self-righteousness? I don’t know, is that a thing?

I know this post has been mostly about not judging people based on sexual attraction, but it can also apply to a number of other characteristics as well. The important thing is to remember that people should not be categorized by who they like or the mistakes they make, but instead by the life they are trying to lead as well as the way they treat others.

The thing that really sucks about this is that I know writing these things won’t make much of a difference. But I’m tired of the most wonderful people feeling bad about themselves because of sexual attraction, past mistakes, shortcomings, etc. At least now I can say I’m doing my part to battle the idiotic bigotry that goes on in this world.

Can you?!

45

Meanwhile, Back in Reality…

Every once in a while, there comes a point where we have to wake up and smell the rancid manure that is real life.

Recently I have found myself in an awkward position. I am less than eight months from graduating college, and I have no idea what I want to do once I graduate.

Should I go to graduate school or just start looking for a job right away? Should I stay in Provo, move back to Arizona, or find somewhere else completely different to live?

Maybe I should just find a random woman on the street and demand that we get married at once! After all, everyone around me is literally getting married and having babies. The other day, I was talking to a girl who was sitting behind me in class. I turned back to the front of the classroom to listen to the lecture, and the next time I looked back, the girl all of a sudden had a baby in her arms! Where did that baby come from? Did she give birth in class while I was turned the other way??? Why are people so obsessed with getting married and having babies????! Admittedly, I guess it’s all a part of religious culture. Even I have been known to make a joke or two or six thousand about being pregnant. As a result, people often claim that I’m baby hungry. But I in fact have absolutely no desire to eat any babies!!!

I think the best thing to do in such a time of uncertainty is to make a plan and then go for it. I for one like to seek God’s approval after making a plan. Other people might not take that route: that’s completely up to them! But religious or not, it is best to work toward something, even if it ends up falling through. And who knows? Maybe in the process you will be taken down another, better path.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan, many aspects of your life are simply out of your control. I have learned that the hard way throughout the years. Sometimes there is a distinct and even painful difference between what we expect life to be and what it actually turns out to be.

Les-Miserables

That’s pretty much the tune I was singing last year. (No, I did not literally go around singing like Fantine. Even though I can relate to Fantine–remember that one time I went into prostitution to support my child???–I do not feel the need to walk around singing about how difficult life can be. That would be a tad melodramatic.) There were a bunch of crappy things going on that were completely out of my control, and my life pretty much fell apart at the seams. It was awesome!

But you know what? Things change. And I’m doing much much better now. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m in a better place now. That’s not to say I have died and am blogging from heaven–I mean a better place emotionally. In fact, if I were to pick a song to describe my transition from last school year to now, it would be this:

Is it embarrassing that I feel empowered by a Katy Perry song? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter because it definitely captures my change in attitude over the past year. So even though life didn’t go exactly as expected, I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Another example of unexpected outcomes was from my study abroad trip. (I know I said I’m done blogging about that, but I promise it’s relevant). I went on the study abroad just expecting to see new places and, I admit, to possibly… find love. Don’t mock me!!! There were eleven girls and two boys, OK?! The odds were definitely in my favor (like the Hunger Games)!

Instead, I left Europe with some unexpected outcomes, most of which had to do with connections. The first type of connections have to do with possible future jobs. In an economy where who you know is so important, it’s exciting to have a couple ins with employment opportunities. Even if those connections don’t amount to anything, I feel like the application process will provide me with valuable experience. And if these connections do amount to something, even better!

Of course, the main type of connection I was referring to earlier was that of interpersonal connections. I certainly have experienced that as a result of my study abroad. Even though the closest thing I got to finding love was a CONTROVERSIAL fake engagement, I established many close friendships–especially with my beloved study abroad roommate Jacob. I went to Europe looking for romance, but I ended up finding a BROMANCE! We are quite hilarious… like two peas in a pod! He is the Marcie to my Peppermint Patty… you know, minus the thick glasses and strong lesbian vibe. *

In fact, here’s a picture of us!

JD-Turk-jd-and-turk-24924126-400-300

Can you tell we’re best friends? Anyway, part of why I’ve been doing so great lately is because I have someone who I can talk to and just be my complete, unfiltered self around. That is really refreshing. So although I didn’t go on the study abroad expecting to find a brother, a brother I got, and I am very grateful!

That just goes to show you that our preconceived notions of life can be quite different from what ends up actually happening. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What does the future hold?

So what lies in my future? Well, if I were to choose, it would go something like this:

I will be a psychologist specializing in the study of child stars… but not in a creepy way. Instead, I will have won the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering what it is that causes child stars to eventually ride wrecking balls naked and set their dogs on fire. I will of course have come up with the solution. That combined with the prize money will enable my wife Emma Watson Gilliland and I to live in a beautiful mansion in Wales. My close friends and family will of course be living in our guest homes.

"Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!"--Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

“Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!”–Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

Assuming all that doesn’t happen, however, I’m willing to accept whatever the future has in store for me… come what may!

*This is a quote from an episode of Scrubs, as much as I’d like to claim it!

Europe–Chapter 1: The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side (of the Ocean)

999847_10152088930714409_824040656_n

The first stop of my summer study abroad trip was Ireland, home of the fifty shades of green (not to be confused with the trashy novels, Fifty Shades of Grey). Prior to my trip, I had heard many rumors about the Land of Ire, some of which included:

  1. It rains constantly, but it’s a different kind of rain–a magical mist of sorts that covers the Irish grounds and really makes the green countryside sparkle.
  2. Ireland is just swarming with gingers.

Only neither of those rumors turned out to be true–at least, not during my trip. I suppose it really does rain a lot in Ireland, as was evident in the blinding green scenery that stretched as far as the eye could see. But it certainly didn’t rain much while was there. No complaints, though… too much rain depresses me.

1002175_10152088930304409_1002906388_n

Also, I do not remember seeing an overwhelming amount of gingers. Then again, I’m not very observant. For all I know, could be a ginger and I just haven’t noticed!

The point of all this is that you often have preconceived notions of a place, but once you travel there, you find that the place is completely different from what you imagined. The same can be said, I suppose, of people… we develop these snap judgments of people, only to have those judgments proven completely wrong after taking the effort to actually get to know a person.

Ireland, as well as the United Kingdom, was nothing like I imagined… it was much better! My brain did not do it justice! Though I would not say Ireland was my favorite stop of the trip, it definitely was a great first stop. It was a pleasant introduction to Europe.

The people I was traveling with ended up being a pleasant surprise as well. Throw a group of college-aged strangers into Ireland, and what do you get? A little awkwardness at first, sure. But I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable with some of the other students in my group. And we might not have been good friends yet by the time we left Ireland, but we were definitely on our way.

"Are we friends yet...?"

“Are we friends yet…?”

In Ireland, we saw miles of green pasture that provided a home for more sheep than you could count.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

We visited cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean.

577222_10152088931559409_804559783_n

We met the Three Sisters, a triad of mountain peeks that supposedly represents three women of different ages.

1157444_10152088931829409_789237716_n

Can you find the Three Sisters in this picture?

We saw castles and abbey ruins.

539042_10152088933274409_1355779652_n

Some of us kissed the Blarney Stone and gained the gift of gab!

(No picture necessary or available)

And for crying out loud, we stopped in a seaside town named Dingle! The town name kind of speaks for itself.

Dingle!

Dingle!

Of course, a trip to Ireland would not have been complete without going to a pub. Since none of us drank alcohol, we did cheers with glasses of water. And pub food was definitely something to write home about (and I think I did a couple of times). Speaking of pub food, I had the opportunity in Ireland to try something new… black and white pudding. If you don’t know what’s in black and white pudding, you probably don’t want to know. I actually didn’t mind the white pudding. I would not, however, recommend the black pudding. I’m not being racist or anything; it’s just a matter of personal taste.

A traditional Irish breakfast... complete with black and white pudding!

A traditional Irish breakfast… complete with black and white pudding!

Our last stop in Ireland was the great city of Dublin. Here I slept on the top of a bunk bed… nothing unusual, only in our particular hostel I happened to be sleeping on a bed that had no rail and was right next to a large window. If I had rolled a bit too far to my left, I surely would have plummeted to my death! Oh well… what’s life without a little risk, right?

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

I also found out here that it is often when you wander aimlessly while traveling abroad (or even stateside for that matter) that you make some of the coolest discoveries. (This would later prove valuable in enhancing my London experience). Here’s a photo of something we ran across while trying to find our hostel:

What the giant-hand statue?!

What the giant-hand statue?!

All in all, Ireland was a great experience. Looking back, it’s almost a shame that this had to be the place where we overcame our jet lag and dealt with the awkwardness of not really knowing each other. Perhaps under different circumstances I could have enjoyed Ireland even more. On the other hand, we had to start somewhere.

And I can’t think of a better place to start a six-week European adventure than in Ireland!

Next stop: Wales!

Facing My Fears at the Happiest Place on Earth

I recently had the opportunity to go to Disneyland with my family for a weekend. This was by no means our first time going to Disneyland. It is one of our favorite family vacation spots, so we usually go there every two years or so.

A lot can be learned about life from a day at Disneyland. The long lines for the best rides remind me that sometimes we have to wait a while before receiving the reward. The spinning teacups remind me that sometimes life makes you want  to throw up. (Sorry for those who like the teacups, but they’re simply not my cup of tea… no pun intended). Space Mountain reminds me that we cannot always see the upcoming twists and turns that life will bring us.

scdisn_castle

Now, I don’t usually spend my time thinking about what Disneyland teaches us about life. I may be introspective, but even I am not that introspective. However, something happened during this past trip that kind of forced me to think more deeply about Disneyland’s role in my life.

Well, I guess it didn’t actually happen at Disneyland… it happened in a hotel. It was morning, and I was lying on my air mattress (we’re classy) waiting for everyone else to wake up, when all of a sudden, it felt like something was in my left eye. I tried a couple different ways to clear my eye–water, eye drops–but nothing seemed to work. In fact, if anything, my eye just kept feeling worse.

I tried to brave it and went to Disneyland with my family. We rode Tower of Terror a couple of times and then went on the California Screamin’ roller coaster. Both of those rides take pictures of you during the ride, and all my pictures consisted of me either winking or pretending to pray, as I could only open my right eye by this point. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), we did not buy any of these pictures, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Eventually, the pain became too much for me to handle. Basically, this was me:

I was now having a hard time even opening my non-injured eye–for some reason it hurt my left eye just to open my right eye–and my watering left eye was causing my nose to run like a waterfall. After stealing about half the park’s supply of napkins and covering my eyes with sunglasses, I decided I really couldn’t take it anymore. So my mom lead me to the park’s first-aid area… and I mean she literally lead me, as in I had to hold on to her arm because I could no longer see anything.

It turns out the Disney first-aid couldn’t do anything for me, so I ended up having to leave the park and go to urgent care. It took awhile before I got called out of the waiting room, and after that, I ended up waiting an additional 45 minutes or so before the doctor finally came in to see me.

Now, the thing you have to know is that I have this irrational fear of anything to do with eyes. They’re nice to look into and everything, but if anyone gets anything close to my or anyone else’s eye, I freak out. I can’t even watch someone put in contact lenses.

Therefore, when one of the nurses irrigated my eye for five minutes with a syringe, I was uncomfortable. When the doctor came in and put dye in my eye , I was starting to panic a little. But when she started poking at my eye and looking under my eyelids with a metal tool in order to search for a scratch or foreign object, I wanted to die.

eye

What was more, as all of the waiting and eye-poking fun was happening, there was a talk show playing in the room–not just any talk show, but one where a doctor was talking about all the ways you could lose an eye. He even brought up the possibility of an eye rupturing, at which time I was truly starting to panic. I mean, seriously? What kind of sick torture was this?!!

Eventually, it was discovered that I had an eye infection, and I was prescribed a number of drugs and eye drops to ease the pain. Now a couple of weeks have passed, and all is well in eye land.

Still, I can’t help but question the timing of this whole thing. Was it really necessary for me to get an eye infection at Disneyland? Couldn’t it have waited until I was back in Provo, when I had nothing to miss but work? Did there really have to be a show talking about eye loss playing while I was having an eye problem?

I can’t help but feel that the universe is out to get me. Either that, or God really does have a sense of humor, and it can even be kind of twisted sometimes! Either way, I was owned that day.  Well-played.

So I guess Disneyland isn’t always just the happiest place on Earth. Sometimes it can be just plain scary, and I’m not talking about It’s a Small World because the fear associated with that ride really just goes without saying. My point is that I am convinced I somehow got that eye infection from Disneyland. Maybe I should sue!

I’m of course kidding (mostly), but I have to say I was getting pretty upset at missing so much quality Disney time. The good news is that, when all was said and done, I was able to at least go back to Disneyland for a couple of hours after my impromptu trip to the emergency room. Being upset about the time I missed wasn’t going to help anything, so instead I just enjoyed the time I had left.

I think that philosophy can be applied to life as well. Instead of feeling bad about what we’ve missed out on, we should enjoy the opportunities we do have. There’s no point feeling bummed about the past because that just wastes time and keeps us from enjoying the present.

And there will always be other Disneyland trips.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing

When we were young, all of us were instructed to look both ways before crossing a street. As adults, we continue to do this because it’s just common sense. If you don’t look both ways before crossing, you increase the risk of getting hit by a car… and that’s no fun (or so I’ve heard).

Well, today I would like to make a suggestion. Just like we should always stop and look both ways before crossing the street, it is also wise sometimes to stop and look both ways when you reach certain points in life.

What do I mean by that? Do I mean that on certain occasions (graduations, weddings, etc.), you should just randomly stop and turn your head left and then right (or right and then left, if that’s more your style)? No, because that would be weird. I’m not talking literal stopping and looking here. What I mean is that, sometimes we reach certain points in life when you need to look to the past and the future before moving on with life.

12SafetySign_StopAndLook_project1

It may seem like I’m writing philosophical nonsense, and I’m in no way denying that possibility, but let me explain. I have reached the end of another semester at college. This past semester has been… interesting. My natural instinct is to say that it has been the worst.  Then again, I call everything and everyone the worst, so why would this be any different?

The truth is that this semester has been a rough one–not necessarily academically (though I did have one class that I hated with a fiery intensity hotter than a thousand blazing suns), but definitely in all other possible aspects. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but I will say this: I don’t think I have ever felt more ready to put a semester behind me.

Now I find myself at somewhat of a crossroads. I have gotten through this difficult point of my life. Are my troubles over? Definitely not. But I have stuff to look forward to–a study abroad in Europe, time with the family, and great living plans for next school year–and that’s what has gotten me through so much. I have a couple of months before all these exciting things happen, though. I see these two months as a rare opportunity to reflect on my past while looking forward to the future… in other words, it’s my chance to look both ways, so to speak.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Those are not only the first words from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities but also the perfect description of this past semester. I have experienced both success and disappointment, friendships strengthened and friendships weakened, surprises both pleasant and unpleasant. I tried to fix my problems but felt I made things worse more often than not. I have laughed, I have cried, I have made mistakes. Sometimes I wanted to have meltdowns similar to the one below, minus the mascara.

To be honest, like Liz Lemon, there were times where I wasn’t sure if I could take it anymore: “it” in this case being life in general.

Yet I survived. I kept moving forward and it was worth it in the end. It might not have been the best time of life, but at least it’s done. And the best part about experiencing hard times is that feeling of relief you get once it’s all behind you.

A part of me felt like, if I could just reach the end of the semester, everything would be great. This of course isn’t true. You can’t just go through life waiting for that time where all will be perfectly fine, because it just won’t happen. You could think, “Once I graduate, I’ll be happy,” or “I just need to get married, and then all my troubles will be over,” but the fact is that we’re always going to have problems. Having problems is just a part of life.

Even though all my problems haven’t magically ended with this past semester, I can take what I have learned from this past semester and apply it as I move forward in life. Then I can keep in mind where I want to be in the future and apply that as well. Therefore, I am taking a look in both directions–past and future–before moving forward in this crazy road they call life.