journey

Horoscopes, God and trying to drink from the caffeine-free fountain of happiness

Photo by Chansereypich Seng on Unsplash

When I met Carter, I assumed that because he was a Scorpio we were meant to be. To add to this, his Myers Briggs personality was INTP, supposedly the ‘golden’ other half to my own personality type. When I told him about our supposed magical compatibility, he scoffed, asked me to massage the invisible knot in his upper back, and then proceeded to text me like I was his overdue homework. Needless to say, despite all the stars in the astrological sky aligning, our companionship was less than stellar.

I guess now would be a good time to tell you my star sign is Cancer. “I knew it! That’s the first sign that sprung to mind!” — is probably what you were not thinking. Growing up I would read out of a giant horoscope encyclopedia like it was the bible and dream of being the peacekeeper it said I was destined to be. Did I really share innate qualities with the 19 million living humans that shared my birthday? Not to mention, the other millions of humans who were born between June 21 and July 22? Because if so, there would probably be a lot more peace.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe horoscopes can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with Scorpios like Carter who needed a sports massage, not a girl with weak wrists, to eliminate the immortal knots in his back. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to Moonchild and wear jewel-toned sweatpants on rainy days just because the psychic in a magazine said so.

My very miniscule obsession with horoscopes stemmed from the fact that a star sign doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and religious cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, a star sign doesn’t have pre-requisites. I found out they could fill, at least a little bit, that void of direct guidance from God.

So yes, the crux of all this preamble is that actually my relationship with God is on the rocks and that scares me.

God seemed to be a constant fixture of my life growing up. My birth was God-sent, maybe not prayed about to begin with but definitely prayed about afterwards. I was given a name and a blessing when I was brought to church for the first time and it seemed I spent as much time on Sunset Road chapel as I did at school.

I turned to God every day. I would talk to this mysterious being, imagining him sitting on a throne as I poured out my heart and soul to him every night. I begged him to give me guidance and to help me through difficult times. I thanked him for all the little things I was given, including the trees and the bees and the beautiful sea I grew up next to.

Then I was introduced to Jesus. The son of God, a man who was perfect, understood all my pain and suffering because he chose to. Because he loved me, I would be able to overcome my pain, my mistakes and my weak physical body and thus reach heaven spotless.

But unlike horoscopes, belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing deity is a little bit more complex.

Because when your horoscope tells you that you are going to have a successful marketing pitch that will be approved by the whole team, you don’t get a migraine trying to figure out how it could be so inaccurate because you are just a waitress and you don’t think suggesting a new soup really counts.

On the flipside, when you feel like God tells you are going to meet people that will change your life, and that you should look after them, you get a migraine when you realize they just want your money and will stop at nothing, even you, to get it. Sounds overdramatic. But this happened, and it wasn’t pleasant.

That is when you wonder whether God is inaccurate. Or possibly non-existent. Because I can take full responsibility for my own actions — if something bad happens because of my human mistakes and my naiveté, then fine. I mean, that sucks, but it’s fine. But what if you got some kind of undeniably powerful spiritual experience like never before? What if you simply cannot deny that you had an experience that defied logic and science, and was a direct God-given instruction? You would follow it right? But after following it, what if it felt like it completely destroyed the ground under your feet? How do you explain that? Can you just believe, just like before?

I’m aware that people reading this include my fellow Mormon friends. I’m aware that I spent 18 months telling people to trust in God and keep holding on, even though it’s hard. I’m not saying I don’t believe, I’m saying I’m hurt. And in order for me to process that hurt and move on, I had to take responsibility for the events that transpired, and believe that people are people and bad things just happen by chance and by consequence. It wasn’t planned by God, or anything like that. The spiritual experience, though I believed at first was undeniable, needed to be denied and deleted.

So, I stopped wanting to get answers from God about a year ago. When I met God, I assumed that because he was a Heavenly Father I was meant to be his child. To add to this, his son was perfect, supposedly the ‘golden’ antidote to my own personal sins. When I told God about my gratitude of being raised in the church, he blessed me, asked me to serve a mission overseas and tell the people of my miraculous witness of his Son in my life. Needless to say, despite my fiery testimony and tenacity, my success in being heard and accepted was less than stellar.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe that a God above can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with other Mormons despite the cultural and racial divides that seem a bit too big to cross. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to God’s child and wear longer shorts on Summer days just because the apostle in a pamphlet said so.

My belief in God stemmed from the fact that being his daughter doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and socioeconomic cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, it seemed like God didn’t have pre-requisites. I found for the most part, being God’s child, could fill, at least a little bit, that void of not fitting in with my community, not fitting in with my ethnicity, and the country I was born.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe in order to drink from the fountain of happiness (which according to Utahns, is made out of caffeine-free soda) and achieve identity and belonging, I should just stick with star signs.

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journey, self-esteem, Uncategorized

I’m not going to write you a love song

 

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Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not. Sara Bareilles is not going to write you a love song. And nor will I. The last year or so has not been a love song. And it’s a bit hard to write about it.

I have suffocated 61 blog post drafts, starving them of the air of publishing that they crave. They weren’t perfect. They didn’t have enough references. They were too personal. They were too ugly. So I’m giving myself an experiment to write for 1 hour and publish whatever I come up with.

I haven’t written in a few months. I used to pride myself on how words could just flow out of my fingers and orchestrate what I felt were linguistic melodies. But I hit a stump. I made a couple more “friends” and “followers” who I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my innermost opinions and thoughts. Whilst writing may seem like an art form, rarely is it describing something perfect. I write to describe the misshapen, the ugly, the unfit, the things you don’t post on Facebook for likes. I only write when the sun is fast asleep under its cover of night, with the only sound being the clank of every keystroke on my laptop.

But what if the things you are feeling are so devastatingly ugly, that it feels only right that no one should see it? To a degree that no human being, nor a God above could knock on your door and read the profane slogan on your cheap t shirt and think, “Oh yes, I still respect her for purchasing that.” In fact, rather than inspire and uplift, it disturbs? When you worry about reactions of family, you worry about friends, past professors, people you’ve dated, bosses and people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn. What do they think of me? Am I marketing myself properly? Am I showing the world that I am a product ready to be purchased, in exchange for love, money, companionship and a career? Am I authentic? Am I too filtered, am I too real, too Mormon or not Mormon enough?  Am I too single or am I too taken?

I started my blog as a method of self-help. When I felt like all the things I had worked for prior to my mission popped like insects under a magnifying glass, I still had writing to save me from feeling like an absolute failure. I had not danced for over a year when the stage used to be my solace. Refused to dine in the kitchen that I had grown up cooking in, refused to take out the weeds of the garden that I had grown up getting dirty in. But I had a laptop with the letters S and H missing and that worked for me.

In my 61 drafts I wrote about my battle with the pill box that couldn’t fit the number of pills I took, about escaping my problems via Boeing 747 and feeling unable to speak my mind to the people I loved. I wrote about how heartbreak hurt more when it was between God and I, not between me and a boyfriend.  I wrote about how I felt jealous, crazy, hurt, lost, lied to, betrayed. I wrote about how NCMOs made me feel like a bag of dehydrated bones – not because I was being used (or rather, not because we were using each other), but because I was heartbroken at what I thought was going to be, but realizing I was looking at Instagram and not the real thing. And that maybe they couldn’t see me either.

But it wasn’t all bad.

I wrote about how love took on itself many different disguises, and was mimicked by many, but I found it and it was just as stunningly beautiful as I had known it to be before. I wrote how God and I are on speaking terms now, and whilst He still speaks to me in a language that is non-audible, I’m beginning to understand sign language.

I wrote about how The Atonement really did heal me every Sabbath Day, without fail, and if nothing else makes sense and giving up coffee in the morning  just cannot be done, then know that at the center of all things is a Christ who suffered your sufferings.

I learned from Paulo Coelho, via my roommate, that if I just spoke my feelings, in conversation, I would be able to get proof that what I was thinking was true. I wrote about how even though gay and transgender people will probably always face a straight and narrow path in the LDS church there are many in the church with hearts that understand, even if that doesn’t change more pressing concerns and anxieties.

I wrote about how if you try to learn Korean from a friend she will end up teaching you more ways to speak than just Korean. And that if you make a goal to talk to a stranger every week, that stranger who you met at a vending machine may just give you and your friends a ride to a party, free of charge and with plenty of entertaining conversation topics.

I wrote about my pilgrimage to Mormon mecca, and how it was not as holy as I had expected, but it was home at first sight and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, and that I was not strange for believing in a being that was all powerful and all mighty but perhaps could not create a rock that He could not lift.

I wrote about not having the garage that has five mountain bikes, well-used fishing rods and sleds but rather beautiful old photo albums, flat basketballs and well-read encyclopedias.

I wrote and I wrote. But those 61 drafts of real real real life will probably remain unpublished and unread (at least for awhile). Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not.

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journey

Playing games in a mental hospital

There are a couple of games you get tired of quickly. One is noughts and crosses. Once you’ve exhausted all options you realise that whoever places their mark in the middle is going to win if they want to. Another is scrabble. It was entertaining for a season to see people get a kick out of spelling out swearwords and nonsense but after a while its just not that funny. Connect 4, however, no matter how repetitive, was one of Carl and I’s favourite games.

I know I don’t really need to explain to you how to play Connect 4. But just to debrief, its a simple, two-player game where you take turns dropping colored coins from the top into a seven-column, six-row vertically-suspended grid. The aim of the game is to connect four of your own coins of the same color next to each other vertically, horizontally, or diagonally whilst also blocking your opponent’s attempts to do the same. In combinatorics, it is found that there are 4,531,985,219,092 ways to connect four of your coins. Most people only need to suss out a couple before they find a winning strategy.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have Connect 4. We had some shady little knock-off, something along the lines of 4-In-A-Line or Link-Them, which ticked me off a little every time I read the box. We had a shelf full of random games, gimmicky figurines and romance novels but this time when I went to collect the games, Link-Them was missing. To my great chagrin I fished out the old dingy card set which I knew had a few too many aces and not enough Jacks. But Carl was optimistic as always and didn’t really care that the cards that he was snapping were not of the same integer. With Connect 4 he never actually won anyway, he just liked the coloured coins and dropping them into their slots.

It wasn’t a date, although it wasn’t uncommon for volunteers to be asked to get married, perhaps on the hospital lawn before morning tea. He probably didn’t remember that I had been visiting him for weeks and was a bit confused why I was sitting across the table from him, avoiding placing my elbows where day-old coffee spills and drips of mayonnaise laid to rest.

What Carl didn’t know was that I was secretly attempting to ‘play Connect 4’ with the personalities that inhabited his frail body. As irreverent as that thought may be, it was fascinating, riveting but equally devastating to see him fight with the minds that all wanted control over who he was inside. It pained me to see him day by day never getting any better, not really getting any worse, but stagnant at a four-pronged fork in the road every second, minute and hour of the day. He was never visited  by family and the hospital had on and off been his home for several years. But he seemed content at least, and pretty okay with his life.

Carl One looked a little bit like this. Incredible, creative genius. Whatever Carl One said was pure mushroom magic to him but unfortunately, unintelligible utter gibberish to the rest of us normal human-folk. It was a shame that we did not understand because he probably had come up with ideas that would have shaped humanity but instead they incurred more crosses on his check board and time in recreation therapy.

Carl Two, however, was a vindictive professor that would tell him things that should never be thought of let alone whispered in public.

Carl Three was intensely competitive, a superstar ping pong player and training for the next Olympics. He was “almost there” he told me. Just “a little more practice”. Carl Three was in cahoots with Carl Two, you couldn’t really have one without the other.

And my favorite Carl was Carl Four. Kind, caring, and a little aloof. Carl Four would read rule sheets most people ignore in board game boxes, would open the door like a gentleman and always encourage me that I would one day become a good ping pong player…even though we both knew I should never be allowed near a ball that bounces and I was a disgrace to my ethnicity.

Strangely enough, the four Carls, whilst unable to come into agreement with each other, were capable of seamlessly orchestrating escape plans that actually worked. When I came into the hospital one afternoon Carl had been sent into intensive care, as he had gapped it across the hospital lawn to a restaurant, ordering and demolishing a three-course meal, only to disappoint the waiter with his cashless pockets.

Sometimes I would wonder why the hell Carl was in the mental hospital in the first place. What had caused his mind to birth people out of fractions of himself? What had happened to him? What did his family do to him, and how dare his parents treat him like this! Or more importantly, how on earth was he going to integrate back in to a society that struggles to even accept ‘single’ personalities, let alone a quadratic one?

But my job wasn’t to think about Carl and his future and how he would, if ever, return back to the real world. My only job was to keep him company and occasionally find him clothes to wear when it was cold.

And whilst Carl lived there day by day, abandoned by family to choose his own expiration date and adopted half-heartedly by volunteers like myself wanting to get an edge on our resume, it didn’t matter to him that he wouldn’t ever get married or find a job or reach Nirvana. It didn’t matter to him that he never won any board games because at least he was amazing at ping pong. It didn’t matter to him that gas prices were increasing and there was a housing crisis on the rise or that half the population had not turned up to vote because he was so grateful to me for getting him a new puffer jacket and it would be great for Winter although Carl Two was adamant it was unnecessary. He was (mostly) content.

Carl played Connect 4/Link-Them/4-In-A-Line all the time. But out of the 4,531,985,219,092 ways to win, Carl was not able to find any. But somehow he was happy anyway.

 

(Names have been changed.)

 

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journey, Uncategorized

Happy Father’s Day: I’ll carry your cello

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Photo by Charlie Hang on Unsplash

It’s Father’s Day in New Zealand, and to be completely frank, I’m 11,379 kilometres away from his grave, I’m constantly sweeping up the broken fragments of memories I have into a paper cup with holes punched in the base and I know I don’t really look like the girl he called his daughter.

Emo #rantover.

A disclaimer, I’m not actively grieving. I had a really amazing day today, and I’m incredibly grateful for where my family is at now and the wonderful additions that I couldn’t live without. It’s crazy to think that families are constantly evolving, and there is alot (alot) of good that can come out of difficult, tricky, awkward situations, if you so choose to let that good grow.

But I was inspired to write this after seeing a couple posts on Facebook about Father’s day.

Okay, so maybe up until last year or so it was a day I would squirm in my seat at church, while children gave balding men paper-cut out ties coloured in with budget crayons and Cadbury roses taped on top.

But maybe I learned something from his death that was valuable.

I played the cello when I was 13. I was 149cm, barely able to go on the rides at Rainbow’s End and too naive to know that the reason why I was benched was because my performance was possibly sub-par, and not because we had too many players on the team.

Somehow, the music department thought a bunch of us were worthy of a “music scholarship”. We had to fill out a registration sheet before class started saying what instrument we played, and nonchalantly I ticked that I was a pianist. I was probably the laziest piano student alive, and when class began and they found out there were 15 pianists out of 25 students, they decided to pass out the other, less popular, instruments. And so 4 of us got cellos, and free lessons. I think minus 1, we all detested the cello. Hence the dubiousness of us being worthy of the scholarship.

The cello is an awkward instrument to play. It’s big, you essentially straddle it, chicken wing-it and attempt to make some music.

I took the cello home every Friday and returned it back to the school on Mondays, so that I could “practise” on the weekends. Because it was heavy and awkward to carry, my mum would pick me up and drop me off in her car every week. It was a hassle and a half because we lived barely 15 minutes away on foot, and traffic around pick-up/drop-off times at school was heavy.

One Monday morning my mum couldn’t take me to school for some reason so my dad was enlisted to complete the task. We headed to his old Toyota Previa van, loaded my cello and hopped into the car.

But it wouldn’t start.

I looked up at my dad who in frustration, turned and twisted and tried to start up the car.

10 minutes passed.

Then he looked back at me and said, “I’ll carry your cello.”

It was ticking now on 8.45am, so I was already late to class. There were two possible ways I reacted to this, and I’ll give you an option to choose what happened.

  1. I thanked my father for his kindness, and we walked all the way up Sunrise Ave together, as we talked about my friends and my teachers and then when we got to school, I thanked him again, gave him a kiss and a hug and he went back home.

or

2. I bitterly stormed off up Sunrise Ave, my father trailing behind with my cello. I tried to hide my face as I saw other students, other parents dropping off their kids in cars, thinking how embarrassing it was to walk to school with my father. At age 13 even. When he handed me my cello I mumbled a thanks (which meant no thanks) and he walked off back home.

It was probably two weeks after this incident, that I saw him take his last breath. And I have spent the past 8 years reflecting on it.

As a child, as a teenager, and even as an adult, for some reason it is difficult to understand or grasp how grateful you really should be. You have an idea of the ideal: that there is something you are entitled to, for being a child, a student, a wife/husband or a parent.

Sometimes you may think:

  • my boss doesn’t treat me right
  • people don’t organise plans as well as I do
  • she doesn’t love me like she used to
  • they don’t drive like I do
  • they should make their bed the way I do.
  • I put more effort into this than anyone else

which all translates to simply:

I deserve better than this. 

And maybe you do.

But maybe you should just appreciate everything you have been given and work with it. How painful, it was to realise this after he was gone. But how sadly beautiful, to realise how lucky I was to have him in my life, maybe only after he was gone.

So to my dad, I don’t know if my blog is read up in the world you rest in but I want you to know that I’ve gone months without feeling sad about your absence and then suddenly it will hit me like a truck running a red light. I want you to know that I will make it my goal to see you again, what that really entails is a mystery to me but I think… it will all work out. Happy Father’s Day.

Love from Kelly

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Uncategorized

Am I hot? The Detrimental Effects of Social Media on Body Image

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credit: Flaunter .com

If you’re anything like me, yesterday might have looked like this. Your alarm went off, signifying a new day and a fresh batch of notifications.  Mmm yes, tastier than poached eggs on rye – and yes I’m going to stand up on my chair whilst I take this photo of my breakfast. During class, you snapped your friends the can’t-be-missed premature bald-spot of your unfortunate classmate Stephen. Lunch was accompanied by another Instagram photo of a wildly #unsatisfying vegan kale juice. The burger-flavoured chips that you demolished the second after, did not get featured for some reason. Alas, the day continues. I checked Facebook four hundred and twenty-two times yesterday. And that was a slow day.

There are 2 billion active users on Facebook, 1.5 billion users on YouTube, 700 million on Instagram, 328 million on Twitter, and 255 million on Snapchat. You could say that social media is a permanent fixture in our lives. Don’t believe me? Just look at all of those people who announce their departure of Facebook via dramatic status update followed by the anticlimactic clicking of “deactivate your account”. They always make their way back (I don’t have facts to support that, only personal experience that I won’t delve into much further). What I’m getting at is that we can choose from a variety of platforms to represent ourselves, to socialise, to voice our ideas and in some way, form an identity. I mean, the internet might as well have its own flag, and we are all netizens. However, while we have more and more people flocking to the land of Facebook and Instagram every day, reports of users experiencing a perception of a distorted body image are also increasing. What we put out on social media paints itself as reality, but it can be a mask and far from it.

Am I hot, or not?  

I’m an avid Instagram user. I post several times a week and post a photo on my story almost every hour. My most liked photos, if I’m being completely honest here, are ones where I’m dressed in my most expensive dresses, with more makeup than RuPaul’s drag-queens and a carefully selected filter that air brushes all the acne that poor dietary choices and genetics entails. Eighty likes never seems to be enough when a previous post has received more, and to my disappointment, I scan my news feed to see hundreds of highly contoured girls candidly poking at their salad and not sweating on breath-taking hikes. All of their photos rack up hundreds, if not thousands of likes.

And what goes on in my head is this:

I’m not good enough.

I’m not famous enough.

Am I even hipster?

My room is legit a tip and I haven’t showered.

I didn’t wear this outfit outside.

Its a pretty dire response, and I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking this.

When you uploaded a new profile picture, how many of you never checked your notifications? A survey was taken in Australia which collected data from 438 young teenage girls in their first years of high school and again, two years later. They were asked if they had a Facebook profile, how much time they spent on the site and how many friends they had to gauge their involvement. Survey participants also filled out a questionnaire about their body image and surveillance (how they look at their bodies) to check for their drive for thinness. It was found that the number of friends greatly affected the girls’ body image as they were able to make greater comparisons with more people against idealised images, including those they did not personally know in real life, but were friends with on Facebook.

If you walk down memory lane a couple of years back you would remember the controversy of how photo-shopping photos in magazines led girls to body ideals that were not only unhealthy, but impossible.

Instagram is the new fashion magazine. Only, the photos are self-selected and there are literally millions of accounts to follow, and photos uploaded Every. Single. Second. And instead of paying 4.99 for a magazine, you get it for free. Straight to your phone sitting in your butt pocket.

On top of this, it could be argued that by constructing an online persona with carefully selected photos, people (girls in particular, but men are not immune to the habit) are advertising their bodies as independent from themselves. They put aesthetically pleasing images of themselves for the purpose of others to like and critique. This coupled with high rates of body surveillance is a recipe for low self-esteem. It forges a culture of looking at our bodies from a viewer perspective, acting and behaving to fit into what we perceive as attractive to the eye.

Comparison with others who seem to have similar resources and lifestyles to users is common because it can seem that a peer’s lifestyle is more personally attainable . We begin to objectify others’ bodies, seeing them as images instead of their lives as a whole. Alarmingly, even the inspirational, age-defying, hugely popular women who post “fitspiration images” and assure us that fitness is purely for health, were associated with a drive for thinness, bulimia, muscularity and compulsive exercise. 17.5% of 101 “fitspo” account holders were at risk for being diagnosed with an eating disorder, because of the nature of their posting style they were driven to eat in a specific way to have results they could post. Extreme levels of exercise and diet can lead to injuries, social withdrawal and fatigue.

 

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Okay, okay, so I’m actually a huge fan of Kayla Itsines. #Goals?!  But the stats are what I look up on the internet when I’m  too lazy to complete the BBG pre-training program…it makes me feel slightly better?

I mean, we could just go back to where it all started. Its October 2003 and Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg hacks into Harvard House websites to compile a series of photos of students that he uploads to a website that he’s created. The programming and algorithms are his main reason behind creating a rudimentary “Hot or Not” website where students can vote which student is hotter, just by the profile photos of his fellow students. The site is visited over 450 times in one day, racking up 22,000 votes. He called it Facemash, and it was the precursor to his much more successful development of Facebook later. But the controversy surrounding Facemash was not just about breach of privacy. It was the fact that students could vote on the level of attractiveness of each other.

And that’s the thing. Essentially, its the evaluation of physique that posting begs for. And if there are 2 billion Facebook users today, whose to know how many Facebook users there will be tomorrow? The harmful impact that social media has on body image is unprecedented, and most likely be proliferated through time. And whilst there are positive aspects to the fast-paced nature of social media such as spread of awareness and mobilization of social issues, only those with the social prowess will be able to beat the algorithm to spread their information.

So just like road signs aim to keep drivers and pedestrians safe, perhaps social media platforms need to form tools for users to use social media in ways that will be healthy. The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the United Kingdom conducted a UK-wide study called #StatusOfMind in 2017 which surveyed 1479 teens/young adults asking them about their feelings towards various social media platforms. Questions explored the impact these had on the individuals’ mental and physical health, body image, relationships with others and social life. They suggested that in order to help young people regulate their usage of social media and prevent negative mental health outcomes:

  • a ‘pop-up’ notification could be presented to warn users of heavy and unhealthy usage of social media.
  • social media platforms themselves could also screen their users by their posting style to find out who exhibits symptoms of depression and anxiety, and discretely notify health advocates and communities to support these users.
  • social media platforms could also pledge to highlight when photos of people have been edited to help users realize that what they are seeing is not completely natural.

These tools could greatly improve the way young people approach social media and thus positively affect their mental health, self-esteem and image. But even so, just the way we regulate our own usage can go a long way.

I mean, yesterday night I used Facebook to contact friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I used Youtube to link my friend a video about cute cats, which may or may not have changed her life but probably didn’t ruin it either. I used Instagram to raise awareness of a cause I am passionate for, after tapping through Instagram stories of my friends. And I went to sleep, having clocked 1000 visits to social media.

 

 

 

This post was originally my assignment for my BYU writing class. It was modified from a research paper. All views are my own personal opinions.

 

 

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Mormonism, Uncategorized

When an excommunicated member talks to me about Jesus, I listen

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credit: Evan Kirby

I was touched by a beautiful post that made its rounds with my circle of Facebook friends last week about standing by Elder James J. Hamula. For those of you reading this who aren’t Mormon, have never heard of Mormons or try to avoid Mormons who knock on your door at 8pm in the evening, you probably have never heard of Elder Hamula. He served in my church in New Zealand, and from what I remember, he is a loving, spiritual man who has cared for and led many people to Christ.

Last Monday, Elder Hamula was excommunicated by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He was sustained a member of the Quorum of the Seventy in 2008, served as Assistant Executive Director of the Church History Department and later as the Executive Director of the Correlation Department.

The church confirmed to the Deseret News that the excommunication wasn’t taken because of disillusionment or apostasy. Or in more basic terms, it wasn’t because he lost his faith or taught doctrine incorrectly or the like.

To say I knew him personally would be an overshot because I don’t. At the time that he served in New Zealand I wasn’t the best at paying attention to leadership – not because I was defiant, but more because I was a distracted teenager who never really grew out of that phase when you need to stuff your face with Cheerios during the first speaker or color in something because your fingers start twitching (because you ran out of stale hoop-shaped cereal).

But someone I do know is Ashley.

Ashley was a lover of animals, a mother of two, and an excommunicated Mormon. When I wasn’t eating her Twix she wasn’t supposed to have, or getting scolded for the tears in my skirt, she taught me about Jesus. And I listened.

I met Ashley the day after I turned 20. I was a very fresh, very naïve sister missionary that had been sent to the suburbs of Nottingham, England. I knew nothing about the world except crumpled school reports, part time jobs and overpriced berry smoothies.

It had taken us several visits to Ashley’s place for her to finally be available for us to come inside. She had been taught for over 5 years by squillions of missionaries, and she was sporadic in her attendance at church due to health problems. The plan was that my companion and I (the other sister missionary who I was partnered with) were going to talk about Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a topic we often brought up as a starting point. We were advised by the bishop and ward mission leader to visit Ashley, who needed to be taught all the missionary lessons before she could get re-baptized. Her baptism would be an important ordinance that would turnover her excommunication and mean that she would be received fully back into the church.

We followed Ashley as she shuffled us into her living room that smelt of steak pasties, floral perfume and animals. I fell in love with her affectionate cats that purred to the slow rhythm of her obstructed breathing. She was in her faded fluffy bathrobe, eyes glazed: a sign of fatigue, stress and depression.

Ashley had been excommunicated some many years before self check-out systems at Tesco’s and when Old Market Square was just Market Square. She had always believed in Jesus, and prayed to God everyday. But she had made some mistakes, that cost her her membership in the church.

But that didn’t change her testimony. Ashley was a God-fearing woman, full of hilarious inappropriate jokes and her pet name for everyone, “duck”. Over the course of the next five months I learned all about Ashley- how she joined the church, how she fell in love with the wrong person, how she suffered pain, how she lost her membership. She was brutally honest, full of half-healed wounds and disturbing scars that I would have judged as unworthy had she not taken off her broken shoes and let me walk in them- at least for a minute, to get a glimpse of the heart ache, pain and suffering that she had been through in her life.

One of the best memories with Ashley was reading scriptures with her. We would text her a chapter to read and then catch up with her later and see what she thought. She was always full of wisdom, able to pick out a meaning that struck her heart strings. I was super eager to send Ashley reading assignments and texted her to read from the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi chapters 22, 23, 24 over three days. After those three days, to my shock and embarrassment, I realized that 1 Nephi ended at chapter 22. When we visited Ashley later that evening, she laid out a feast of sweet and sour chicken (a very Ashley dish) and then proceeded to mime a big flick on my head for being the ignorant missionary I was. This was followed by a huge Mama Ashley hug, merciless teasing and laughter. Ashley never let me forget it.

But apart from my overall lack of scriptural knowledge sub-par for a Mormon missionary, there was something about Ashley that made me realize she knew Jesus a lot better than I did.

Ashley taught me what repentance was. And forgiveness. And she knew it was possible through Jesus Christ. She told me that she was a changed woman. She wouldn’t necessarily go back and undo what she had done, because through her mistakes she was able to gain wisdom and understanding that she otherwise wouldn’t have gained.

She told me, “Sister Huh, God will always find you. He will never leave you. He has always found me, again and again. But its only through Jesus, that you can go back to Him.

On December 12, 2015, Ashley was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I still remember her muttering under her breath that the water was way too fetchin’ hot as she got into the font (an error on my behalf, sorry Ashley) but coming out from the water beautiful and fresh, like the purest person I had ever seen. Her embrace, drenched and saturated and everything, was the sweetest moment of my mission.

Ashley asked my companion and I to wear hot pink because that was what she was planning to wear to her baptism. We turned up in our hot pink outfits, and we should have guessed, but Ashley turned up in purple. This was the kind of person Ashley was, and I loved her to bits.

Sunday morning of December 13, 2015, Ashley took of the Sacrament as a baptized member of the church. Symbolic of the body and blood that Christ sacrificed so that we could be forgiven of our sins and return to God, I contemplated on how eternal, unconditional and ever reaching that love really was.

Sunday morning of October 5, 2014, Elder Hamula gave a talk in General Conference about the Sacrament. He said:

Through mortality, every one of us becomes soiled with sin and transgression. We will have had thoughts, words, and works that will have been less than virtuous…

By the shedding of His innocent blood, Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of justice for every sin and transgression. He then offers to make us clean…

Indeed, the ordinance of the sacrament helps us faithfully endure to the end and receive the fulness of the Father in the same way Jesus did, grace for grace.”

I stand by what Elder Hamula says. Every one of us becomes soiled with sin and transgression. We all make mistakes, some with consequences more costly than others, more publicly ridiculed, judged and misunderstood.

But it is by the grace of Christ, that we are made clean. And everyone is given that opportunity. Let’s refrain from the shock and augmenting the scandal that comes with excommunication, whether or not they are high-profile. Instead, let’s love and celebrate the Atonement of Christ, the ability and gift that we have to repent and to change.

 

 

This post is my assignment for my BYU writing class. The name Ashley has been changed for the privacy of my lovely friend. It was tailored mainly for my Facebook friends, which is largely Mormon. All views are my own personal opinions, and not representative of the Church. 

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Friendzoning my Asian Heritage, journey, self-esteem, Uncategorized

Friendzoning my Asian Heritage Part 3:  Asians…they really do look the same

10900121_10206171513272886_6090044855332663958_oI had walked past the stores many times before. I was fresh off my LDS mission, feeling like an alien in the endless cityscape of Gangnam. Huge buildings blocked out the hazy sky, orange taxis ran red lights and millions of South Koreans were folding away receipts and selfie-stick-ing. What I wore in Korea a year and half earlier was now horribly outdated and needed to be mourned, cremated and scattered in the River Han. Shops were endless and if you wanted to find authentic, true love you would, in the form of deep fried swirly donuts and ttokbukki spicy rice cakes. Love at first sight it was.

Mina and I’s lunch date had turned into a shopping trip, and after an attempt to try a discount outlet store, we headed to the main street where the real shopping could begin. There was no guilt, because this was Korea! Swipe your credit card, breathe in. Grab your purchases, breathe out. Phew.

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“How do we get to those shops up there?” I asked Mina, pointing over to the multi-storey shops with flashing signs. I thought I had visited every store in Gangnam, but had failed to open my eyes just a little bit wider and see that most of the buildings had several levels.

“They aren’t shops, I’m pretty sure most of them are plastic surgery clinics. Do you want to get it Kelly? Maybe for your eyes?”

As a 21 year old this question was getting quite old. But at 10 years old it made me want to projectile vomit at whoever was talking to me. Volunteering to have a middle-aged man in a white coat snip my eye lids and sew them up like it’s Year Seven soft tech?  I can see quite fine, thank you very much.  My eyes do not need any kind of correcting.

However, that didn’t mean I was void of insecurities. And at 4 years old these seemed to bubble to the surface. My peers ensured that I was aware of how different my face was by pulling their eyes, (or for a redundant effect, pulling mine) and blurting out incoherent supposed Chinese.  “I spy with my little eye” had snarky, under-the-breath connotations whenever we played it. But I had looked at myself in a mirror, told myself I was a solid 5 and eventually they got used to seeing a face that didn’t look like theirs.

But it wasn’t just the eyes that were different.

I could see that some people were like Coco Pops, some like the color of my cereal milk Pre-Coco Pops and some like speckled sandpaper. Examining my own body, I looked like my unvarnished wooden fence. A little yellow, a little white, a little dry and flaky. Probably suitable for burning.

But this would not do. No way. I needed to research this more and find out why my looks had so impacted on the quality of my 4 years of life.

My go-to source of all truth and knowledge was my kindergarten teacher. If anyone knew whether chocolate chips or chocolate buttons would taste better in cookies, if there really was a God or whether the universe’s expansion was accelerating… it would be Cris. I studied her face, wondering how in the world did Cris’ nose connect to her eye brows and if this was necessary, why didn’t I have it? No matter how hard I tried to tell lies to all my friends my nose wouldn’t grow and I had to revert back to my honest, God-fearing self.

Eventually my fascination with the differences between my facial features and their facial features became deeply rooted in the ventricles of my heart. It accompanied the thousands of comments I received the next years of growing up about how my body didn’t meet people’s expectations:

 

Age: 4-10 Theme : weight

“You face is too chubby. You look like an onion. You have to eat less if you want to peel those layers off.” (props to whichever Korean person said this to me, it is both rhetorically sound and cutting edge)

Age 12-15 Theme: the woes of puberty

“Those pimples are there because you touch your face. See?” *old woman touches the pimple*

Age 15-16 Theme: weight

“I’m on a plastic cup diet. You should try it. Basically you fill this little cup half with rice, half with something else and that’s what you can eat in one day.”

Age 16-17 Theme: eyes

“If you stretch your left eye with your left hand, and stick your tongue in the side of your right cheek, your eyes will get bigger.”

Age 18 Theme: weight

“I’m sending you a video with a 10 minute daily routine that gets your legs in the ratio of 5:3:2, thigh: calf: ankle. Tiffany from Girls Generation does it.”

It wasn’t too long before I was poking plastic rods into the crevices of my eyes and carefully patting down double-sided strips of tape that increased my eye size by 1 meagre millimeter. Only an all-seeing eye, a fellow Asian eye would notice the tiny sliver of tape holding together two folds of eye lid skin like its life depended on it.

But I got tired of that pretty quick. Purposefully forming an over glorified wrinkle on a face is a lot harder than you think.

And the exercise, all of the space-age routines just weren’t giving me the shape of legs that I was supposed to have by now.

And the weight, it just didn’t seem to budge no matter how hard I restricted my diet and counted my calories.

Maybe, a permanent solution didn’t seem that extreme.

“So what do you think? Are you going to get it?”

 

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Mormonism, op-ed

LGBT+ issues: How will you react on Facebook?

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Welcome to the comment section on Facebook. This section has the ability to bring out of obscurity the most intelligent, passionate arguments seen in modern media but also doubles as a breeding ground for the uneducated and unethical. Opposites attract, after all. It’s a wonderland of ideas from the edgeless confines of the internet, equipped with emotive language and no shortage of expletives.

A fair warning, I’m going to be talking about LGBT+ issues. Kindly hang your carefully curated biases on the coat rack- you can collect them later when you’re finished reading. Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you what side of the white picket fence you should sit. But if you’re sitting on the fence itself I am telling you that it’s splintering and you aren’t going to be able to sit on it comfortably much longer. The world is calling you out to react. In particular, on Facebook. And we could definitely do a better job at it.

You’ve probably heard the news already. It’s the first Sunday of May and that means it’s fast and testimony meeting. 12 year old Savannah gets up to the pulpit before anyone else and lets the words that she’s rehearsed finally Come Out and echo into her chapel in Eagle Mountain, Utah.

She gives her testimony, her belief in God, her attraction to other girls and a desire for normal romantic interactions that should be supported by a loving God.

But before she can finish, Savannah’s Stake President turns off the mic and asks her to take a seat.

When the news got out, friends and ‘phobes from all corners of the internet metaphorically congregated in that chapel. Some covered their eyes, some stood up in uproar as they watched the events unfold through a low quality video on their Retina screens.  Now again, I’m not concerned about whether you support Savannah’s testimony or not but what really makes my fingers itch with keyboard warrior-itis (yes, it’s contagious) is the plethora of unfair comments to issues like this.

To illustrate let’s look at the following comments I’ve grabbed from the CNN Facebook comment section in their July post about Savannah. 

 

Micheal Mills gives an emotive Christian view but there’s nothing too extreme about it:

“We can’t force God to accept what He dislikes. We should be the ones to obey His word and not us trying to force our beliefs on Him.”

 

Jacob Robinson’s comment however, the second most popular comment, contains more intense language:

Here we are, fake gay. Kids are now so in tune with what their parents complain about that they think it is “cool” to be gay when they have no idea or shouldn’t have any idea of what being gay is. When I was 12 I just wanted the new GI Joe stuff.”

 

And Rod Allen’s comment leaves little to the imagination:

“Only cnn would report this trash! All you care about is ratings and this proves it! Cnn reporters are all scum! #fcnn #cnn=fake news #trashreporters

 

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing in the last 2 comments that resembles Christ in any way and this would be a problem if said commenters were indeed Latter-day Saints or other Christians.

More and more media is published which challenges Christian standards and protocol and we will have to eventually respond to the call to “write a comment…”. But the manner in which we respond is so important, if not vital to our call to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”

And I understand that it can be difficult to respond to controversial left leaning issues. (By the way, I’m not disclosing my political stance, but if you wanna talk about it, just flick me a message). I know, because I was called out to the Facebook Hot Seat last week. A long time friend of mine wanted my opinion on The Savannah Incident.  Add a spin on this, this friend used to go to church with me, and I have always felt in a small part personally responsible for her departure. So you can imagine my predicament when she simply asked if I had any thoughts on the subject. Whilst she probably meant it in a nonchalant way, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking she might as well have asked, “Are you all just old-fashioned bigots?!”

In all things, my suggestion is to simply look at your green CTR ring or your friend’s What Would Jesus Do bracelet. What would Jesus do? What would our loving Savior really say?

Most of you reading this are students and I assume despite the academic integrity you possess, majority of you are on social media for at least a little while when you say that you’re studying. You have the power to represent the Savior in everything that you do online, so why not rise up to the challenge and speak with the power, authority, love, kindness and fairness that Christ embodies?

I want to see Latter-day Saint comments in the comment section Liked, Wow’d and respected, not Angry’d or proliferated by a dozen of replies that debate incessantly about errors in judgment, discrepancies in language and are ignorant of other perspectives present in society.

The comment section is not a playground for the faint-hearted. If you want to stand up for truth and righteousness, you’re going to have to think twice, thrice or ten fold if you want to make an impact and thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways.”  

 

 

This post was originally my op-ed assignment for my BYU writing class. It was tailored for a Mormon audience, hence the jargon that might not make sense if you aren’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All views are my own personal opinions, and not representative of the Church. 

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journey, Uncategorized

A quarter life catch up with Deity

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If God decided to have a quarter life catch- up session with me next week, I would assume it would follow a similar format to my prayers but the protocol would be to:

  1. firstly meet up in His office,
  2. talk frankly face to face about how I’ve been doing the past 21-22 years
  3. debrief on a couple of things I am very thankful for
  4. ask some questions

and then maybe I would listen to His response.

In terms of a couple of things I am very thankful for, the list is as follows:

  • Letting my skin soak in semi-hot sand in Summer and Instagramming it in winter.
  • Returning to good terms with Auckland Transport when I saw their USB ports on the NEX buses.
  • The silent banter between me and the person on the other side of the pedestrian crossing. We both know we could totally cross it even though the little man is a flushing red, but we don’t want to be those impatient millenials who don’t save unwanted gifts like our parents.
  • Conversations with café customers. They would ask me what the muffin flavours of the day were and I always would have a pointless squint at the cabinet followed by a quick freak-out because I couldn’t keep telling them it was chocolate and pear.
  • Self medication via meme tagging
  • Incredible best friends. Especially a soul sista who let me vent every Sunday night, nap in her room, draft friendzoning messages together and eat non-stop. I borrowed her parents and siblings who treated me like family, and deserve far more than high-calorie brownies.

My interview with God would most likely end then. I would be ushered out. Its not that He wouldn’t want to keep talking, its just that He knew what questions would be asked next and it wasn’t the right time to tell me the answer. So I would walk out of that interview room, take off my heels and half-heartedly wash the makeup I had carefully applied before locking my bedroom door, laying there on the pilling carpet for days. I would ignore the fact that I was putting my face where my feet treaded and yearn for an answer, swallowing my screams at Deity for some sort of sign.

“If I’m supposed to be learning something here, could you please tell me what that is? Because I don’t want to keep doing this anymore. I’ve had enough. Game over. I’m ready to walk out.”

I waited for a couple of minutes. No answer.

That was it then. No more talking to God.

I remember I ran outside to sit on the stretch of grass infront of the property in the middle of the night. Why couldn’t He answer me? He had answered me before. I’m sure of it. I testified of it. I spent 18 months trying to tell people about it!
I leaned into the cool grass, which provided me more security than my room with walls that seemed to be made out of crepe paper. I would watch as one or two cars would cruise by, unscathed by the events of the day, silently passing through neighborhoods that weren’t theirs.

And then I would close my eyes and cup my hands together and try asking Him. Maybe?

Just one more time.

 

 

 

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