William Feather said, "One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure."
This pretty much sums up my 2016. At the beginning of the year, I chose my word as adventure. I was ready for whatever would come. My year started out overall great! I was about to graduate, I was taking a pottery class at the college, I had a great job watching the best kids ever, I was surrounded by people I loved, etc. A lot was going on, but I felt free.
At the end of July, my mom and I were headed home from Utah. I looked to my right, and there was a lady that passed us texting. All the sudden, she swerved to the left, overcorrected, and spun two and a half times eventually hitting the side of the mountain. We immediately pulled over and ran to the car. As we waited for the ambulance, we sat and talked with her trying to keep her awake and calm. I got her talking about her family and young kids. She told me that she was a horrible mother and her children deserved better. This broke my heart. I've always wanted to help people, but this was a turning point for me. My mom and I knelt by her. We proceeded to tell her that she is a child of God, that she is worth everything, and that there is no better mother for her kids. The woman looked up at us with tears in her eyes. There was a glimmer of hope. Words can't even begin to describe that simple look that she gave us. We tried to keep in contact with her but we never heard from her again. But, I do know that whatever I choose to do with my life, I want to help people and see that glimmer of hope once again.
After helping with the crash, a chain of events happened. I was watching my brother for a weekend while my parents were away at a wedding. About 5 minutes after we shut off lights to go to bed, someone tried breaking into our house. I had to call 911 and was terrified that I wouldn't be able to protect myself and especially my brother. I am just grateful that we were fine, and they never got in.
The next event was simple but added to the list. I was hiking in the Snake River Canyon with some friends. It was spontaneous. I wasn't prepared by wearing the right type of shoes, so I went barefoot. I ended up slipping and almost broke my toe. When I got home and my foot finally had feeling back from being cold, I could barely walk. That wasn't exactly the best thing in the world considering I was leaving in less than 2 weeks for a humanitarian trip to Kenya, Africa and knowing I would need to walk a lot for that.
Then I went to Africa! It was the most amazing experience of my life, but it was a very hard 2 weeks. I saw poverty, heartache, loss, and more than you can imagine. That is not something that you can do and come home the same person. I made friends there. I got to know my Heavenly Father better. I learned my own strength. I saw how blessed I am. And, I will never be able to see the world the same way.
Traveling for more than 60 hours total in a couple week span is really hard on the body. After I got back, I struggled with the jet lag, and of course my body adjusting back to normal. Even more so, I struggled with the re-entry period. I cried for days. I cried about wanting to go back and missing everyone. I cried, because I had too many things and just wanted to simplify. I cried, because I was still processing all of the emotions of seeing all of the struggles that the Maasai Tribe goes through every day. And I cried, because I knew that no one could help me. I had the group that I traveled with and all of the people in Kenya that I could still talk to, but there are no words that you can use to say what you are feeling when going through all of this at once.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was finally starting to get back to normal, or at least the closest to normal that I could get. One of my friends came home from college for the weekend. I was so excited to finally hang out with her again! I went with her to pick her brothers up from school that Friday. On our way home, we pulled up to a stop sign. There was a bus stopped to our left without a stop sign, no blinker, and nothing indicating that it was turning. Just sitting there. We waited for what seemed like forever for the bus driver to go, since it was her turn. We all were talking out loud and decided that she wasn't going to go, and we were not going to wait all day. We looked both ways seeing that it was clear and proceeded through. Out of nowhere, a truck slammed into us on the passenger side, where I was sitting, crushing the front end of my friend's car. Our concentration must have just been on the bus too much to see the truck coming. I ended up with the worst of the injuries with a minor concussion from hitting my head on the side window, bruising, and damaged muscles in my neck and back. That was and is a slow recovery.
Finally being able to mostly function normal again, I was starting to look up. The end of the year was in sight. I was thankful that I had had a few weeks to just relax and breathe. On December 20th, I was just going about my day, when I got on facebook and found out one of my closest friends passed away. Makayla Peterson was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. Makayla and I shared a trial that not many people understand. We both experienced what is called Trichotillamania. It is a form of OCD where you pull your hair out from stress and anxiety, like biting your nails, chewing on your cheek, or constantly tapping. It is estimated that 2% of people in the world have it. I have had it since I was 7. The way that it happens with me is not as servere as others. I mostly just pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows. Makayla had it just over 2 years and had to shave her head because of it. When I found out about her, we clicked instantly. I would send her photos without any make up on, and she would send me photos without her wigs on. We would joke around with each other about it. We would cry about it together. We would be each other's support system through it all. In the beginning of 2016, she was struggling with her self-confidence badly. I wanted to lift her up and give her some encouragement. I finally got up the courage to post about the condition I have on social media. Half of the picture I had make up on and the other half I didn't at all. It took so much strength to finally be open about it and show my face. It helped her eventually put her wigs away for good, along with other people encouraging her also. When I found out she had passed, it was like I had lost the person that was holding me up through it all. She inspired so many people, especially me.
So, why do I tell you all of this?
I wish that I had some big lesson that came from all of these events, or I wish that my story could change lives. But, all I can really tell you is that through it all, there were two people standing by my side and knew what I was going through. They are my Father in Heaven and my Savior. Sometimes life happens. You don't exactly know why you have to go through all of the stuff you do. I tried so hard to keep faith in God. I tried with all of my might to push myself up off the ground when I fell. And let me be honest, I fell a lot. I tried with all that I had to not ask 'why?' and know that everything happening to me was for a reason. I truly couldn't handle anymore. I was at my breaking point. But, my Savior picked me up. He carried me through. He let me cry to him more than I have ever cried before. And, He loved me and strengthened me through the hardest 6 months of my life.
Never think that you are alone. Never think that you aren't good enough. Never give up.
Douglas Malloch said, "Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees."