First I'd like to start this off wishing my best friend in the entire world a happy birthday. Madison King you are the best and I love you. Have the best day ever.
But yikes.. I was caught red handed yesterday by one of my "fans", if you can call them that, for not keeping to my weekly report. The days end up mashing together when the week starts on Sunday and before I know it it's Thursday and I haven't done half the things I needed to do. As crazy as my week gets I somehow manage to pull through, not on time or routine, but I finish what I need to and this week has been no exception.
My second full week of school and it doesn't get any more enjoyable, if anything it gets worse; the situation just isn't great but you didn't come here to read my complaints.
February, this year in Brasil, as many of you may or may not have known is Carnival. I don't know the history behind it but the only things you need to know about it are it's colorful, loud, and WILD. Just about every aspect of my city is decorated for the occasion and it seems to be all anybody can talk about. Samba, the type of dance, is also a huge part of Carnival. The Samba School of Dance is the world famous parade that happens in Rio. Fun Fact: The picture at the top of this post is where the parade happens! Obviously, I went there while I was in Rio and it is HUGE. The floats, the costumes, and the actual space where the parade happens are indescribable, they're unlike anything I have ever seen. The huge celebrations don't just happen in Rio. This past weekend I went to a Block Party. I'm not going to go into detail about what these parties entail but it's nothing good. Lots of drinking, lots of dancing, and lots of people. Being that I don't drink there wasn't anything entertaining for me to do. I did realize though how loosely alcohol can be sold legally in Brasil: from the back of trucks, Mcdonald's parking lots, and shopping carts (all the drunk people pushed their drunk friends and their alcohol in coolers around the road. It was quite a sight to see).
Aside from my sodom and gomorrah experience I had the most incredible Sunday. Thanks to my AWESOME family (specially my dad, thanks for the best pep talk) I had the chance to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting. Wow, if you think it's scary to do it in your regular ward in your first language, try in a different language; this had to be one of the scariest, most nerve racking moment of my life. I ended up getting to church a little early and sat practicing what I would say over and over again in my head because I knew if I didn't I would end up speechless behind a microphone in front of a group of people and how embarrassing would that be. After a couple run through's, Yggor, sat down next to me! If you don't know who Yggor is, he is one of the first investigators I met when I first got here! He is the sweetest kid but he stopped coming to church after the missionaries who taught him were transferred. I messaged him a few weeks earlier asking if he'd some to church again with me and he adamantly agreed, what a blessing it was to see him there and have it be so unexpected. After getting through the opening procedures the bishop opened up the meeting. I told Yggor today was the day. After rehearsing in my head for another good amount of time, he gave me the last push I needed to get up there. This experience has got to be one of the most fulfilling. I have reached a point in the language where I not only feel comfortable talking with others in a conversation, I can stand in front of them and talk to them.
The past few days I have been thinking a lot about the opportunities I've been able to experience and the opportunities that I haven't. The things that have worked out and the things that haven't. The people who've stuck around and the people who have left. After asking myself why did these things need to be taken away and more times than not pleading with God to change the circumstances, I realized something I hadn't before. Sometimes we ask God to change our situation, not knowing he puts us in the situation to change us. I can say I know for certain that God will never take anything away from us without the intention of replacing it with something better. We are so blessed. No matter what we are going through now or what we have already experienced, knowing that God is already causing all things to work together for our benefit is one of the most amazing things I have come to understand in this life. What has been initially intended to bring us down will turn around in our favor and God's glory. Understanding this important truth of life allows us to look back over everything that we've been through and have peace, because not only did God bring us through our hard times, He made us stronger and more resilient that we've ever been. Heavenly Father loved us enough that He was willing to hurt us by having us lose things, so that we can wake up and get on the right path. I hope we can all learn to embrace the hard things and become forever grateful that some things never went the way we had in mind because with God, they have been profoundly better.
I can't thank you all enough for supporting me and letting me involve you in the very personal aspects of my life. This has truly become an online journal. I love you all so much and I am so grateful for each one of you. Have a safe weekend!
And just like that another week has passed and Carnaval has officially ended. Thank goodness for Carnaval honestly, It's been a 5 day weekend and I needed it. I have been so busy going to and from places with old friends and meeting new ones everyday; it's going to be a real bummer when I have to go back to school tomorrow. But on a much happier note.. CARNAVAL! Wow. Definitely one of the most cultural things I have experienced in Brasil. Schools of Samba all over the country prepare for this week by practicing routines and music numbers to walk in a parade in front of thousands. It's like glorified marching band. Followed by these schools of samba are the samba dancers. These dancers use huge "floats" to help portray a story, political/social message, or show their pride for Brasil and they are nothing less than extravagant. The things you see and hear about Carnaval around the world are accurate; Carnaval is amazing and I am so lucky I could be apart of something that makes Brazilians proud of who they are and where they come from.
I'm sure the majority of you know Brasil is still a developing country with several political and social issues. Many people take advantage of the wide broadcasting of Carnaval to evoke these problems and in many instances provide probable solutions to accommodate these issues. Seeing the people of Brasil struggle with things I will never in my life have to experience has been such an eye opener and surprisingly such a blessing. Through the poverty, violence, and struggling government I realized that there's something different with the Brazilian people and the people I've grown up with my entire life: The willingness to change. People complain about stress, but some people would rather complain than change. Change is hard and scary and requires effort. It's easy to be frightened at the thought of jumping off life's high speed but oh so consistent treadmill, especially if you aren't sure what to give up in order to better your life.
Look around you. How many people do you think are settling for the consistent, for the comfortable. Probably the majority. People settle into okay relationships, okay jobs, okay friends, and an okay life. Why? Because okay is comfortable. Okay for most people pays the bills and provides a warm bed at night. Some people are fine with okay, and guess what? That's okay. But okay is not thrilling, it isn't passion, it's not life changing or unforgettable. Okay is not the reason you risk absolutely everything you've got for the smallest chance that something absolutely amazing could happen. Find your passion in life; find the thing that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going. The meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away. Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful in the long run as staying stuck where you don't belong.
And with that I wish you all a wonderful week.
I have decided February shouldn't be a real month; it should be a half month or an extra long week with how short it actually is and especially because of how quickly the month in it's entirety has passed. Aside from how fast the time has gone AMAZING things happened this week. The best things always seem to happen on Sunday. The picture for this week is of me and my friend Yggor. I met Yggor the first week I arrived here. He has 16 years and promised me and the missionaries he would be baptized when he has 18. If you know me you know how stubborn I am and I was not going to take that for an answer. After running into him all over the city for a good month I knew I couldn't let him get away. After lots of prayer, lots of teaching, inviting to church and reaching out weekly, I am so happy to say Yggor was baptized this past weekend. One of the things that brings me the most joy in this life is watching the conversion of others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing more special in this life than bringing others back to Christ.
Besides my awesome experiences at Church this past Sunday I'm sad to say not much else has happened during the week. I have gotten back into a routine and have it planned almost exactly to the hour; I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing especially because it feels like I'm just going through the motions. But with all the free time I've had recently I have been able to do quite a bit of thinking and what this week I have decided to dedicate my "List of Advice" to somebody very special to me. With the events this person has coming up this week I hope I can make some sort of an impact with the things that are next to come...
How to Keep Going:
1. It Will Be Hard:
Being a person in the world isn't easy. You may feel pressure to quit from outside circles and pressure from within them too. But you didn't choose this life because it's easy. You chose it because it's what you want, it's who you are. It will seem like you have gone as far as you can go sometimes. In those instances, Go Further.
2. Stay true to who you are:
While others may have similarities, only you are you. There's no need to soften or placate or compromise. Be personal, raw, and passionate. Be that true self as loud as you can to drown out any voices trying to silence you, including your own.
3. Adapt and Change:
Part of being yourself is knowing that you will grow. Encourage yourself to do so so thoughtfully. Life moves on and you can't succeed if you don't to. Be aware and stay malleable. Part of living this life is knowing when it's time to refocus.
4. Redefine success:
Success is not about winning the hearts of every person. Focus on the people who will understand, benefit from and support you. If you could win just 5% of the world, that's still 370 million people and a tremendous success. Focus on the possible.
5. Raise each other up:
You are on your own journey but you are not alone. And at the end of the day it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished. It's about who you've lifted up. Who you've made better. It's about what you've given back.
6. Don't ever stop:
Don't stop being yourself. Don't stop speaking out. Don't stop fighting to be heard. Don't stop making work that matters. Don't stop shouting whether that's by literally shouting or simply living your life your way. Never giving up is how you win.
Time keeps going and we're all forced to grow up but there is no need to worry about what is coming next. There is so much more ahead of you than you could possibly see or understand right now. There are so many more rivers to cross and mountains to climb, and all of these things will happen in time and even if you have to tread a little further to get to them, God is still faithful in leading you where you need to be and everything he does is with divine intention. So slow down. There's no need to rush when you know him. The party won't start without you. No one is going to take your seat and you will not be replaced or forgotten. In Him, you no longer have a reason to fear missing out. You only need to keep trusting, keep going, knowing that he will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He will always give you what you need and lead you right where you belong.