|Joni = Elizabeth|
(Thanks for the inspiration, CJane.)
It was really an accident that I ended up in England that summer. I had wanted to go on a study abroad but was only working part time. I was on the "Newman Family Scholarship" at that time - get good grades and you get your tuition and books covered. As a result, I felt rather beholden to my parents and regretted asking for any financial boost. So when Liz came up to me after class one day buzzing with excitement about this program and how it was perfect, I was a little surprised.
"This is a hiking trip, Liz. We aren't really the outdoorsy type."
"But it's only day hikes. And there aren't as many mountains there as here. And it's England. And we'd get to go everywhere. It's all about reading and writing and England. It's perfect."
How could I argue?
So with approval and a financial plan from home (I have the best parents ever), I went in to be interviewed for the program.
John Bennion didn't really strike me as the outdoorsy type either. His organized chaos style office, mild mannered, bumbling presentation rather confused me. I wasn't sure of what to do with him. He explained to me that they were looking at roughly five different categories in determining whether or not I was a good fit for the program. Things like how the courses would assist in my degree. My writing experience. My general interest. My physical preparation. I passed with flying colors in all areas but one. Physical preparation, naturally. Bennion didn't consider the mile or so walk from campus to my apartment each day quite adequate, even though it required a pretty steep uphill climb each morning.
|Top of Ben Lomond|
Now, I had grown up in the theater and surrounded by those who believed differently than I did. I considered myself decently aware of the world and not just tolerant but accepting of different ideas. Until this summer, though, I had not ever really come into any amount of real, open contact with Mormons who asked questions. In retrospect, I find this a little sad. The very foundation of my faith is built on asking questions. Joseph Smith founded the church at all because he had questions. The entire Doctrine and Covenants is based on asking questions and expecting answers to them. But now I was surrounded by people not satisfied with accepting everything that was given to them. They wanted to know.
|Food on the go.|
And let me clarify, I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with that option. I still don't. I have many friends, including those I met on this trip, that followed a path similar to the one described and they have been very happy with that choice.
It wasn't until I went on this trip that I realized that I had other options. That I, as a woman, as a Mormon woman, had choices.
I learned from Liz Knight and her totally refined wanderlust. She had been everywhere and seen everything and had done it with a backpack and a lack for apparent care on how it all looked. After the trip was over she rented a car and went where the wind took her. My obsessively organized mind was shocked at how free that sounded. I wanted to see the world for myself. All of it.
|The beginning of Aed the Whelpe. Epic penny flute band.|
I learned from Laura with her quiet strength and quirky sense of humor. She was engaged and trying to plan a wedding while there. I respected how comfortable she seemed to be with who she was.
I learned from Bennion. Bennion who, like Grandpa Sycamore in You Can't Take it With You never ever criticized my way of life, only questioned it. He helped me to see how many possibilities the world holds. Helped me to both love and challenge myself.
|Brooke loves Stonehenge.|
While I was in England, I don't think I realized how badly I needed those other women (and Bennion) in my life. Because my life, as it happens, never even had the chance to follow the traditional path I had outlined for myself. A profound strain of introvert in my blood has made me a horrible dater. Supreme independence hasn't helped either. And I realized that if I only ever had a few children instead of a large family it would probably be better for my mental health. I realized that I love teaching. I realized that sometimes the Lord has a path for you that others will never understand.
|Strapping the man himself into a corset. Good sport.|
I learned how very important it was for me to have a personal relationship with the Lord. And I learned how sweet, how very sweet, it is to discover that relationship.