#AwkwardRM

Today is a little strange. Two of my former companions are flying home – one is already home in Utah, the other on a plane somewhere between Salt Lake and Denver. Elders I served with have finished their two years and are headed back to Idaho, Utah, Korea, and Georgia. Sisters leaving the place I’d give anything to go back to.

And I’ve been home for two transfers. Two transfers ago, I was on a plane home, crossing the country, trying (and failing) to hide my tears as I left the mission field. I didn’t realize that as hard as it is to go to the field, it’s ten times harder to leave it. You leave your heart where you served, and it’s a mark of a good, fruitful time spent, whether you served for only a few months or for two years.

Yes, I still count time in transfers. I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

I’ve settled into the ‘new normal’ – this strange blend of missionary life and returned missionary (RM) life. I still get up at 6:30 each morning. Except for Saturdays. Saturdays I sleep in. 6:30, my knees hit the floor, and I’m talking with my Father. Between 6:30 and 8:00, I’m rushing about, trying to get ready, eat, and on my way. Instead of studies at 8, I’m in a desk studying American poetry. The first few weeks were a little strange – I felt the need to start and end class with a prayer, to be home by 9pm, to be in bed by 10:30. All of my household chores needed to be done on one day.

My ‘new normal’ is filled with the awkwardness of a newly returned missionary. I feel the need to hashtag it because it’s such a real thing. It’s ‘trending’ in the Church. It’s almost as if you can spot RMs ten miles away here at SVU, just the way they respond, the way they speak. I had the opportunity to make some new friends this past week, two of whom are RMs – and have been for a while. It gave me hope to know that the love of the field never really fades as I listened to them relate funny stories or sweet experiences from their missions (they served in Utah and North Carolina).

What is an #awkwardRM, you might ask?

It’s that person who just returned home from months of service, where you’re too busy thinking about others to think of yourself. You spent all of your energy on the gospel and sharing it – you couldn’t get distracted by what was going on in the world. You spent all day, every day, focused on the work.

It’s the girl or guy who can’t quite figure out what flirting is. Or how to do it. Or when they’re being flirted with.

It’s the person who only responds to their last name because it’s been so long since they’ve heard their given name.

It’s the person who makes scripture jokes, claims something is “true doctrine” when it’s funny, or references events that no one else was there for.

It’s a person who might be struggling with English because they struggled with another language for so long they’ve forgotten how to speak their native language. Or they blend two or more languages together. They like to pray in their mission language because it’s become more comfortable.

It’s the person who feels awkward when you hug them because they’re used to shaking hands. And you don’t hug people of the opposite sex if you’re a missionary.

It’s the person who feels strange being without someone all the time for the first little while, then revels in being alone.

It’s the person who has habits so deeply ingrained in them that they probably won’t ever shake it, like praying at the threshold of their house before they leave, wanting to start every conversation with a prayer, counting in transfers rather than months, touching their heart when someone talks about missionaries, and asking, “is there anything we can do for you?” at the end of every conversation.

It’s the person who is homesick for a place because of the people who aren’t related to them, the people they never talked to, and those they came to love. They miss the little family of elders and sisters they’ve created in a faraway place. And sometimes they’re homesick for the food.

It’s the guy or girl who gets a huge grin on their face when they get a text, facebook message, or email. When you ask who it’s from, they say, “oh, it’s from [Elder or Sister So-and-So].” One of their best friends because they know exactly what they’re talking about.

It’s the person who idolizes their mission president and his wife, and will proudly tell you that theirs was the best mission in the world. The mission president can do no wrong, and has become the latter-day Yoda of their little world, a giver of knowledge and a source of great wisdom.

An #awkwardRM is a lot of things.

I’m sure my family and friends are tired of me talking about my mission. It’s just become such a huge part of me and who I am. It’s incredible to be back in a place I love that I hadn’t seen in 2 years. It’s familiar and warm and comfortable. And it’s given me the opportunity to reflect on who this #awkwardRM is.

I am just as much a missionary as I was in the field – my calling is simply different. Instead of being the support role, I am part of the inner workings. As a missionary, we brought people to church and taught, helped people fulfill their callings, and helped out in the community. We were always a bit on the fringe of it all, but simultaneously in the thick of things. Now, I am in my own calling, reaching out to help the missionaries, I am part of the community.

I have to laugh at the stigma that is surrounded by returned sister missionaries. Lots of them come home bolder and more audacious. I mellowed out in the field, that’s for certain. I’m quicker to observe than speak and learned how to be bold, yet still loving. A new thing for me, for certain.

After 18 months of focusing on others, I’m able to focus for the first time on me, and who I want to be. You change a lot over the course of a mission, and when you get home, it takes a bit to get your feet under you and figure out who the ‘new you’ is. What the Lord’s plan for you is, what your plans are. It’s an adventure, it’s scary, it’s exciting. It’s like greeting a familiar stranger when you look in the mirror for the first few weeks. You know you know them, but it’s about time you sit down and really get to know them.

I still make really strange scripture based jokes, I need a schedule to feel productive, and I have a hard time with media, after being away from it for so long. It’s the new normal.

Sister Hall collected photos of all of our tags before we went home. This was the photo I sent in for her, with my favorite hymn.

Sister Hall collected photos of all of our tags before we went home. This was the photo I sent in for her, with my favorite hymn.

In short, I’m so thankful to be home, but I am even more thankful for the time I had as a missionary. It was the prelude to the rest of my life, a foundation of learning. You don’t realize it til you’re home, but it’s the beginning of the rest of your life. It gives you the tools necessary to be successful, both in your own personal life, and in helping others. You learn to look beyond yourself, to allow yourself to be led by the Spirit, to help the Lord in His work.

I’ve thought a lot about where I want APG to go, what I want it to be. I just know that I feel strongly about keeping it running, continuing to write, and to share. I’m still figuring it all out, but want to invite you along for the ride. It’s a blessing to me, and I hope that it might be a small blessing to others. So, prepare yourselves. It’s A Peculiar Girl #awkwardRM style.

As always,

Meg

{if you’re an #awkwardRM like me and in need of some inspiration, here are some resources that have helped me adjust to the ‘new normal’ of post-mission life}

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