Here are several possible "800 hundred-dollar mistakes."
1. Getting a fairly large tattoo, one with multiple colors.
2. Getting your eyebrows lasered off, and maybe some other stuff, too.
3. Getting a first trimester abortion (Sorry, but apparently it's true).
4. Getting into a medium-bad car accident.
5. Buying a nonrefundable plane ticket and deciding at the last minute not to go.
Recently I made one of these 800 hundred-dollar mistakes. But first, some background.
I love me some adventuring. One of the highlights of the year 2009 for me was the post-finals backpacking trip with Greg, Gordon, Ashley and Katie. We hiked in the desert for days and it was gorgeous.
Breathtaking, yeah? (Photos by Greg)
Anyway, I'm not going to pretend to be any sort of hardcore backpacker, because I'm not, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my point is that this backpacking trip was super fun, way more fun than car camping would have been. Except the part when we got lost in the basin without our packs just as the sun was setting. Or the time Gordon almost got bitten by a rattlesnake. Even those memories don't seem so bad, seven months later. We all came home just fine and we have some awesome stories.
Another wicked awesome 2009 adventure was the time I spent in Paris over the summer.
This is what Paris looks like.
Hanging out in Paris by myself was maybe one of the coolest things I've ever done, ever. I would recommend it to anyone. I love to travel. Granted, my short stay in Amsterdam after I left Paris was easily the SUCKIEST experience of 2009, but I also got some funny stories out of that. In my experience, it is better to have a bad experience and laugh about it later than never to try cool stuff at all.
My point is, I like to go on adventures. Travelling makes some people nervous or anxious, but I've never really had a problem with that.
So this summer I decided I wanted to give myself a graduation present that involved travelling somewhere. I considered trying to organize a trip to Brazil with Greg (and I would still like to at some point) but since he had to be in school for Winter Semester and I did not, that plan never came to fruition. Then I wondered if my dear friend Thelma would be interested in taking in a visitor from the States?
Yes indeed! She said. Just get yourself in a plane over here and I'll take care of the rest.
The plan was for me to stay with her in Thailand for a month and help her out with some small projects. I wanted to recreate the easygoing, naturalistic experience I had in Paris, where I wasn't rushing around frantically trying to see every attraction, but rather walking around and enjoying the idea of being present in a new place. Helping people even though I don't speak Thai or Burmese. And writing about it. Not only was hanging out with Thelma going to be a BLAST, but I would be making the world a better place and beefing up my grad school CV. Oooh, she went to Thailand? They would say. I assume.
It was an awesome plan. I felt great about it. And now, an abrupt change of subject.
NOTE: I promised this would all come together at the end. It still will. Be patient.
Amongst my friends who are practicing Christians, one of the most interesting things for me to hear about is how they perceive God communicates with them. I have one friend who feels that God, as a general rule, lets him do his own thing, but every once in a while he has a really Saul-of-Tarsus type of experience in which he hears a voice or has a very direct and undeniable personal prompting. Another one usually doesn't get clear answers unless she begs for them--sometimes for years. I had a mission companion who usually had ideas come to her while she was praying, and another who didn't get answers until she was out doing stuff. I don't think the individuality of anyone's relationship with God is an indication of wickedness or righteousness, it's just different for every person, just like every person's hand feels a little different when you're holding it.
I HOPE that this isn't an indication of excessive wickedness on my part, but for whatever reason God likes to meddle in my small decisions on a regular basis. Not to sound resentful, I just couldn't think of a better word. What I mean by the word "meddle" is that several times in my life I have received very clear promptings to either do something very insignificant or NOT do something very insignificant. More often than not the prompting is NOT to do something perfectly normal. I had a quote written in my PMG while I was a missionary (which I don't have on me so I am paraphrasing) that said, in essence, "When you feel prompted to do something that is against your personal preference, that is good evidence of authenticity." In my experience, this is very true.
My dad and I recently had the following conversation on the phone.
Dad: Are you sure about this trip? It couldn't come at a worse time ...
Me: Sure I'm sure. I already paid for the ticket and it's nonrefundable.
Dad: Pray about it.
Dad: I just don't feel good about it.
FACT: My dad is a serious worrywart.
Me: That's what you said about every trip I have taken since I turned 18. And my mission. And the job I took after my mission. Becoming a vegetarian. Driving downtown anytime between October and April. Need I go on?
Dad: But I mean it this time!
Later that night, while I was praying:
Me: Yo, God. Thanks for everything. Just so you know, I am going to go to Thailand unless you EXPRESSLY tell me not to. Because if you really didn't want me to go, YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME BEFORE I BOUGHT THE TICKET. K thanks. Bye.
Note: Although this prayer sounds like a joke, it isn't very far off the mark.
Not too long ago, I was driving home from my class in Salt Lake, when I stopped for gas in a shady part of town. Not long after I left the gas station, I realized I couldn't find my phone. I recently got a new phone because the speaker on my old phone broke for no reason, and my current phone has no insurance because it's too expensive. I started to get really upset about losing my phone, which I really need, and like I often do, lapsed Catholic that I am, I started to wonder if this was punishment from God.
Here is the monologue I had with God in the car. Can you have a monologue WITH someone? Shut up. Sure I can.
Me: Where is my phone? Seriously, did you need to do that? SERIOUSLY? Are you mad? What'd I do? What did I do to upset you, huh? Is this about the Thailand thing? Do you not want me to go? .... Okay, fine. You know what? Have it your way. If I find my phone, I'm still going to Thailand. But if I don't, I'm gonna take that as a sign that I shouldn't go.
A few miles later ...
Me: Um, actually, I really want my phone back, so even if I DO find it, I will still consider not going, if that's what you want.
I found my phone. The nice lady at the shady gas station lent me her phone and once I called it I found it stashed it underneath my passenger seat.
Then some other stuff happened that is too personal to talk about, but in short: I am no longer going to Thailand. Thelma understood, because she is a peach. Also, I lost eight hundred dollars. That sucks. But if anything bad were to happen on the trip I felt I shouldn't have gone on, I never would have forgiven myself.
Which doesn't much detract from the fact that it totally sucks.