Life after the mission.
Right after my mission, a friend lined up with a really nice guy. I was excited to be so quickly jumping into the next phase of life. “Look at me world! I’m normal!” I was also totally freaked out. You know those Vines where someone is slipping on ice and they’re kinda running in place and look ok for a second, but inside you know a painful crash is eminent? That was me.
After a handful of dates, this nice guy invited me to join him in Park City for dinner at his parents' home with a bunch of his friends. As we all sat around a big dinning room table and ate, the conversation turned to a rehash of all the important pop culture events of the last year. It was late December and I had been home for two weeks. Obviously I couldn’t contribute an ounce to the conversation. As I sat quietly I felt stuck deep inside myself. I started to panic that they were thinking I was boring. As irrational as it was, the anxiety built and built. Eventually I apologized to my date and left because “I was tired.”
As soon as I got into my car I burst into tears. Hard, gasping for air, big, ugly tears. I spent a few minutes trying to find my way out of the neighborhood to the freeway, but through my tears I soon realized I was lost. I pulled out my phone to map my way out, but of course in this mountain neighborhood I had ZERO service. Nothing. To make matters worse, my battery was minutes away from death. I looked in the mirror at my puffy eyes and blotchy red cheeks streaked with black mascara and decided going back to the house to for directions wasn’t an option. I really only had one option. I pulled over and said a prayer. I will admit this wasn’t your standard sweet prayer. I think I said something along the lines of “Heavenly Father. I gave you 18 months of service. I need you to give me two bars of service and I need it now.” I looked at my phone and right before my eyes… one bar… two bars. Careful not to move the phone an inch, I quickly entered my home address as I spewed a stream of “thank you.”
Then I drove home.
Yes, this is a ridiculous story, BUT in my eyes it is no more less of a miracle than Moses parting the Red Sea. It also is a pretty good metaphor for my transition home. I threw myself into things, flailed around, crashed, prayed, got back up, and then braced myself for the next hurdle.
If you just got home, there is a good chance you are familiar with My Plan, the Church’s program to help missionaries adjust to life after the mission. Before Q.NOOR, I was an associate producer at the Church and all the My Plan videos were my babies. Interviewing RMs around the world taught me a lot about coming home, but two things stick out in my mind as universal truths.
1. Stay close to God.
Remember how badly you would prayed that your investigators would seek God on their own? Remember aching for them to have a personal relationship with Him? Well now it is your turn.
Life, is hard and busy AND distracting. Insist that you have some Heavenly Daddy-daughter time EVERY SINGLE DAY. Get creative. Yes, you have so many more distractions now, but you also have so much more freedom regarding when and how you spend time with your Heavenly Father.
Continue to seek revelation frequently and continue to ask on revelation He gives you quickly
2. Breathe and trust the Plan.
Soon you will do something that you remember teaching your investigators was wrong. Maybe you miss a couple days of scripture study or maybe you mess up with your boyfriend. It will happen and it will suck, but it will not be the end of world. It also doesn’t make you a hypocritical lousy weak RM. It just makes you a human.
You will make mistakes. You will sin! GET OVER IT! Seriously though. Get over sin. Use the cleansing power of the atonement to repent and then use the enabling power of the atonement to move forward.
Remember the Plan of Salvation is a not travel itinerary between locations. The little circles we draw are just places that He helps us become more like Him through the Atonement. The Plan of Salvation is the Atonement. Very literally it is the plan for how He will save us.
I’m not going to pretend I know what you should do to smoothly adjust. This is an extremely personal process. Everyone has lots of advice but it really is something you need to figure out between you and Heavenly Father. However it is always smart to try to learn from people who have traveled a similar path. Below are a few tips and tricks from the Q.NOOR community. If you haven’t already joined us on Instagram, please do. There are thousands of really chill and smart women there who would love to help you.
- Use PMG to help you set goals and make plans to adjust. Be kind and patient with yourself. @Reesie_pices
- Come home mentally. Being homesick as a missionary makes it hard to be a good missionary and being mission-sick makes it hard to be a good RM. It's okay to miss your mission and think about it daily (I still think about my mission almost every day!) but wishing and moping about not being back there doesn't do any good. So go out and have a life! Keep loving people, keep talking to everyone, keep serving people. Try new things, meet new friends and cherish old friends. Mostly, just keep progressing. @sadiebanksphotography
- I think I struggled a bit with feeling self-righteousness. It would have been helpful to pray to have more love and compassion for others. Everyone has struggles and we don't need to judge, just love and lift up. @bethyover1004
- Oh man I was totally awkward for a few months. I just felt I had nothing to talk about with anyone. But I guess my advice would be to still go to social stuff and hang out and go on lots of dates cuz even if you don't feel like it. That helped me start to enjoy the next phase of life. @printitengineer
- My advice is accept that you'll feel really weird for a long time after you come home, and that that is okay! @lauren_haws
- A sister in one of the wards I served in gave me the best advice the day before I flew home: don't put yourself on someone else's "RM Timetable" - when you start doing "RM things" like dating, getting back to school or even watching movies and listening to music that's not "Jesus music" is up to you and the Lord. It helped me loads! @megredner
- I would say, remember to use your family and friends as more of a support system. ASKING for help, love & support goes a long way! It's not just you and the Lord anymore - your fam and friends are there to help & they want to. @eleanor_cain
- While I was a missionary it was really important to me to stay true to myself. Meaning I wanted Sister Sumsion and Katie to be the same person. So when I came home I wouldn't have an identity crisis. Coming home was a time of testing. Testing my testimony. Testing my commitment to commandments. Testing whether Sister Sumsion and Katie were the same person. So my advice! Focus your energy on NOT changing rather than changing. Focus on staying the person you have become as a result of your missionary service. @ktsumsion
My last bit of advice is GO TO THE TEMPLE! I’m not saying that because I sell temple dresses. I’m saying that because it is a super easy and straightforward way to physically join Him in His work, just like you did as a missionary. Yes, you need to find ways to contribute to His work while in jeans, but while you’re figuring that out, take some breaks in the Temple. Let temple service help you to focus on helping others come unto Christ rather than yourself for an hour or two. Your little heart, and the people you help, will thank you.