Thursday, April 30, 2015

"The end is where we start from"

"What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from." -- T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding

Last week, I graduated from BYU.

There still are no words to describe everything.
And beginnings.
Pomp and circumstance.
Ceremony and ritual.
Faith and intellect.

So I think. I think the best way to record this is through pictures. Pictures and poetry. And a bit of prose.

"And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home, 
Taking its place to support the others, 
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious, 
An easy commerce of the old and the new, 
The common word exact without vulgarity, 
The formal word precise but not pedantic, 
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning." 

 Sharisa and I started our BYU experience together and ended it together. We were roommates for 5 years. 

And the lovely Hannah and I were also freshman roommates. 

The best part of the day? Spending time with my loved ones--friends, families, and mentors. All celebrating this accomplishment. 

Probably one of my favorite pictures from the day of cousin Michael and me. 

Although this one's also pretty good. 

 My wonderful grandmother. 

And wonderful, supportive parents. 

"We die with the dying: 
See, they depart, and we go with them. 
We are born with the dead: 
See, they return, and bring us with them. 
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern 
Of timeless moments." 


I loved the commencement and convocation addresses. Probably because it was my actual graduation and I'm like, "This is for me!" But also because they were quite good. I especially loved the ones for the College of Humanities Convocation. One of the speakers spoke about Middlemarch and the character of Dorothea. So, of course, I was all ears. Because I love that book (goodness, I wrote my English capstone paper about that book). And I have a lot in common with Dorothea. And I believe in the importance of trying to see the world through another's point of view and to empathize.

And shouldn't humanities graduates be able to do that the best? I think that we have a responsibility to do that the best.

Honestly, as BYU students, we all have that responsibility.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time."  -- T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding" 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Just some good, old-fashioned nostalgia

Guys. A few hours ago I finished my last final as an undergraduate. 

I am done. Done!

This is what it looks like when you finish finals. Relief/exhaustion. 

You know, I always thought that I would finish my BYU career kind of like Rocky making it to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs. That I would be exhausted but triumphant. And although that is partly how I feel, in all honesty, I feel like this: 

After the most INSANE finals week I have ever had (including a weekend conference to Philly and a freak, violent case of food poisoning and/or stomach flu which took away prime studying time), I don't feel like I ran triumphantly across the finish line. I feel like I collapsed five feet from the end, crawled, and then face-planted it across that line.

But I made it, right? 

Anyway. Since I've finished classes and finals, I've been feeling a bit nostalgic. (It's me. That's what I do when I come to an end of a chapter. I self-reflect and I get all wistful about parking lots and stairways. It's kind of cute, actually.) So today I walked around some of my favorite haunts on campus and remembered. 

That hill. I climbed it way too many times. 

 This has been one of my favorite walkways since freshman year. 

You just never know what you're going to find. Like tea cups hanging from trees. Oh, those artsy art majors. 

 The HFAC. The number of performances I attended here is enormously high. So are the amounts of dates I went to here. 
Whereas the number of dates I went on here is zero. Which is a good thing, because it would be weird to have a date at the Administration Building. 

 The JKB. I had soooooo many classes here. English, Russian, and history classes specifically. (Also, I have a lot of awkward flirting stories from this building. Especially from before the mission. After the mission, too, but especially before. Anyway. Moving on.) 

I have never had a class here. And I am a-ok with that. 

 The Library! Affectionately known as "Harold." Good ol' Harold. So many memories here. 

The JFSB. My second home at Provo. I know this building intimately. I could write an entire personal essay about how much I love this building. But really. Classrooms in the basement, History department on the 2nd floor, German/Russian on the 3rd, and English on the 4th. Love this building. Love this courtyard. The number of hours studying here and meditating here . . . just a good, good place for the soul. 

 Did you know that once upon a time I thought I was going to be a geography major and had a few geography classes in this building? Now you know. 

The Testing Center. Ohhhhhh, the Testing Center. 

 The Writing Fellows Office! A haven in the center of the Testing Center. I like this place. 

 And I like these people. Very much. 

The Maeser Building. Every time I walked into this building, something good happened. A scholarship, a job, and some of the best people I have ever met. The BYU Honors Program is full of incredible, stellar people. 

If you got this far, thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me. There is so much I could say (and probably will, once I have time to actually think, process, and write), but basically, this place has been good to me. And I honestly can't think of a prettier place to have a university campus. 

It's been real, BYU. 

. . . don't forget me? 

Monday, April 20, 2015


i was a little girl 
alone in my little world 
who dreamed of a little home for me. 
i played pretend the trees
and fed my houseguests bark and leaves
and laughed in my pretty bed of green. 

i had a dream 
i could fly 
from the highest swing 
i had a dream. -- "dream," priscilla ahn 

It's my last week of BYU.
That, of course, brings a whole flood of emotions.
A lot of nostalgia.
And a lot of gratitude.
Gratitude for the opportunities that I've had and the education I've received.
I am grateful for the people who have come into my life here and who have touched me in so many ways.
I am grateful that I've had a full time here at BYU. I have done so much. And (hopefully) given so much.
And I'm grateful for the person I've become.

long walks in the dark 
through woods grown behind the park 
i asked God who i'm supposed to be
the stars smiled down at me
God answered in silent reverie 
i said a prayer 
and fell asleep. 

i had a dream 
i could fly 
from the highest tree
i had a dream. 

One of the most enlightening pieces of life advice I've ever received was in a professor's office at BYU.
"It sounds trite, but what it comes down to it, the heart wants what the heart wants. So. What do you want?"
What do I want?
What are those desires--those innermost, sacred desires of my heart?
Those desires matter far more than we realize.
I received follow-up advice at a seminar table in Philadelphia last week. This woman knew nothing about the conversation I had had at BYU. She simply said,
"I'm so glad that you chose Oxford--because I think you really want it. And, I have no doubt you will be on the forefront of the intellectual stage . . . if you choose it. Because what you want really does matter."
What do you want?
What are those desires?
God grants us the desires of our hearts. He often directs us through those desires.
Following hearts and following God.
They are often one and the same.
Because if God is the giver of good gifts (as I believe Him to be), sometimes the thing that is holding us back from happiness is not God, but rather our own fears.
"I choose this because . . . because I want it."
"Then what more do you want from me?"

now i'm old and getting gray 
i don't know what's left to say 
about this life i'm willing to leave. 
i lived it full, i lived it well
so many tales i've lived to tell
i'm ready now
i'm ready now
i'm ready now
to fly from the highest wing. 

i had a dream. 

My time at BYU has been full. It has been good. It has been filled with joy, sorrow, stress, fun, heartache, euphoria, chances for learning and growth, and so many incredible people.

Those people--those connections--those relationships--have painted brushstrokes upon my soul. And have made the canvas of my life beautiful.

And for that I am grateful.

Choosing Everything, Brian Kershisnik

Song of the day: "Dream," Priscilla Ahn

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"There will never be anyone for me but you."

Sooooo, this post *might* just be me avoiding studying for my Soviet history final.

But also, it is a tribute to Gilbert Blythe.

If you didn't know (aka, if the Internet didn't explode in your face this weekend), Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables series, died this past weekend.

And all of the women have been in mourning.

Because Crombie represents our generation's version of Gilbert Blythe.

And Gil is actually the perfect man.

I mean, just look at this scene:

Um. Perfect.

If I can find a man who loves me as much as Gil loves Anne, I will be in good shape.

(As an aside, I always thought that my "type" was Gilbert Blythe. You know--tall, dark, and handsome. And I probably thought it was my type because of Anne of Green Gables and I think that Gil is absolutely perfect. But I don't think I have ever gone out with someone who looks like Gilbert Blythe. I usually end up dating/going out with guys who are tall, fair-haired, and blue-eyed. So I guess that my "type" is guys who could fit in a Hitler Youth group? [And let me clarify, not that they act like Hitler Youth, but they look the part.] Anyway. Weird. Moving on.)

But, basically, Gilbert Blythe is wonderful. He's smart, good, kind, opinionated, and pragmatic. And, since there is quite a bit of Anne in me (I might not have the red hair, but I certainly have the dreamer in me), I still am looking for that Gil to ground me and complement me.

Because let's be honest--I need someone practical to help balance me out. But I also need someone who believes in me and my dreams.

Someone like Gilbert Blythe.

"I don't want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you."

Why I love Tolstoy class [part the second]

If you couldn't tell from the post below, I loved my Tolstoy class this semester.

But only part of it was because of the life-changing, soul-searching questions and themes Tolstoy brings up.

A big part of it was because three of my roommates and I were in the class together and that our brilliantly snarky professor loves us. [He calls us the "Fab Four." And we are not opposed to that at all.]

And, since he is a brilliantly snarky Russian literature professor, I collected a slew of quotes from him. There was something great and new every day. Here are some of the quotes from the semester:

P (on the first day of class): This is Eating Disorders 325 . . .

(Someone realizes they're in the wrong class and leaves)
P: I am so glad he's gone.

P: I don't see silence or shyness as a character flaw.

P: I think anger is a great motivator to get me out of bed. But it's kind of a junky energy--doesn't get me anywhere.

Student: It's like if you were given a great sum of money and you decided to hoard it, and you become, like-
P: Happy
S: Like Gollum.

P: We're never too far from our junior high selves.

Student: Maria got on my nerves . . .
P: Because she's a Christian?
S: Um, no . . .

P: I'm not saying pregnant women should be given a pass--but they pretty much should. Especially in Russia in 1805.

P: A lot of nice people are going to say a lot of nice things about you. Don't believe any of them.

P: Pierre emerges from a bastion of nerdery. And there's no room in this world for anyone like that.

P: The real men in Tolstoy know how to hunt. But they also are great dancers and ice skaters.

Student: Is it normal for 30-year-old men to propose to 18-year-old girls?
P: Yes.
S: Was or is?
P: Sure. I mean -- I sure hope not now.

P (about Natasha in War and Peace): Can't a girl have a little fun? It seems not.

P (about Maria in War and Peace): Would you prefer her to be Alma the Younger, intent on destroying the church of God?

P (about any number of characters in Tolstoy): Is this someone who is ready to enter the complex world of adult relationships? It appears not.

P (as someone's cell phone goes off in class): I like to see my life as run by some sort of soundtrack. So thank you for that.

P (about Helene in War and Peace): She's torn between two lovers . . . as we often are.

P (who is a grammar freak): Cover-up is what I saw in the Daily Universe today. "A government cover-up." Think of all the implications of what this means.

P: No, no, I love wasting time. It's the one thing I do well. That and waste your time.

P: I'm still waiting for the sequel to War and Peace: "War, What is it Good For?"

P (impersonating complaining student): "You don't understand, professor, I never get Cs."
Well, you just did. [eye roll] Weird.

P (about Kitty in Anna Karenina): Because when you are experiencing heartbreak, you go away--you go to Germany, because nothing bad ever happens in Germany.

P (about Tolstoy writing Anna Karenina): So, why did he write this. I mean, he could have taken out an ad in the newspaper: "Adultery is bad."

P: Let me tell you, as someone who does absolutely nothing except look extraordinarily beautiful, it's not easy.

P: "Hate ON her?" We can do better than this. We have devolved. 

P (just finding out that Greer had hurt her leg): You didn't play it up. I would have played it up.

P (to student): Just don't quote me anymore.

P (to student): No, no, it's all right. You're great. 

P (impersonating person in a modern art museum): "I could have done that."
Then I say, "Well, you didn't do it."
And then my wife tugs my arm.

P (talking about men saying that their wives are so much better/spiritual than them): That's what men say when they're in trouble. "Oh, my wife is just so much better than I am." Then you know they're atoning for something that week.

P: Buzzed driving is drunk driving. I heard it on the radio.

P: A new child? Great, another person to disappoint.

P (pleased with himself after returning from a trip to Arizona): Sunshine suits me.

P: It's a lot of dazzle. Like jazz hand dazzle.

P: I hope you're never my bishop one day.

P: You didn't know it was "bring a picture to share" day?

P (wearing a hideous sweater and wanting compliments to satisfy his pride): You like my sweater, don't you, Dillon?
D: Yes.
P: See, Emily?

P (being upset/annoyed that we all know the story of feeding the two wolves and he doesn't): All right, you guys know it, I don't. I don't want a wolf.
Clarissa: They're inside you.
P: Really, Clarissa, inside me? You can do better than that.

P (to me after Emily interrupts me): Does she do this a lot?
Greer: Only when we raise hands in our apartment.
P: Hurry, before she interrupts someone else.

P (to student): You just printed it out? Seconds before it's due? Poor you.

P (impersonating Tolstoy talking to historians): If you don't like it, go away. I'll give you a cookie.

P: We are only a step away from the kindergarten class that released us a few years ago.

P: Every once in awhile I'll get a student who comes into my class the day before class ends and asks me, "How can I do well in this course?"
"It's over."

P: You should write a paper on that. It's due Thursday.

P: Once I'm told, I want to defy it because I can.

P (about student evaluations): I used to get "You're a jerk" quite a lot. Last year I got: "You're such a jerk. So that's better.
And then two years I found out about Rate My Professor. Someone said on my evaluation: "Rate My Professor has a chili pepper for you. Some people are so delusional."
I bet Dr. Brown [another Russian professor--they are best friends] has 5 chili peppers.
I tell him sometimes, "Tony, I just want to punch your beautiful face." But he's just so genuine and kind. I can't do it.

P (on the last day/last seconds of class): What can I say? I adore you. Now leave! Be free! Be free!

Basically, I love this professor. And I love that he loves us. (Also, he knows a lot about the Fab Four since we did personal essays about the uncertainties in our lives for our final projects . . . so he knows more about our angst than anyone should.)

But he's got our backs. And it's nice to know that we can count on him to fight for us if we needed him to. He could pulverize anyone with his snark.

Why I love Tolstoy class [part 1]

This semester my favorite class was my Tolstoy class. I learned so much from that class and the books we read, especially War and Peace and Anna Karenina. I think everyone should read these books (believe me, you'll be a better person from reading them). But, since I know that you probably don't have time to read all of the books you have to read (not including the ones you want to read), indulge me as I include some of my favorite Tolstoyan themes/quotes which impacted me this semester.

-Learning how to deal with uncertainty. The protagonists of Tolstoy's works have to deal with uncertainty--in life, love, death . . . everything (just like us . . . weird). How the characters decide to deal with uncertainty (whether embracing it or avoiding it) says a lot about their ability to live a fulfilling life.

-Learning how to die. Another major Tolstoyan theme is embracing death--greeting it like an old friend. How a character dies says a lot about how they lived.

-Prosaic vs. Romantic love. This theme is especially in Anna Karenina. Sure, romantic love is nice and is important to relationships . . . but it shouldn't be what your relationship/marriage is built on. Because marriage isn't just about kisses and roses and perfume. It is about who's going to take out the trash and change the diapers and get the bills paid. We can't live in our fantasy worlds of romantic love. We have to go out and actually live. 

-Value of self-reflection. Something that progressing Tolstoy characters have is the ability to self-reflect and self-criticize. These characters are then able to develop wisdom and empathy.

-Forgiveness and divine love. Because we all need second chances. There really isn't a statute of limitations on how many second chances we should get/should give others . . . unless we have given up. But we should be genuinely striving. And we should let others genuinely strive/change, too.

-Learning how to live. Tolstoy recommends a life of joy with gratitude and sorrow without resentment.


From War and Peace

“Yes, a new kind of happiness was revealed to me, one of the inalienable rights of man,” he thought to himself. [. . .] “Happiness beyond materialism, beyond all external, material influences, happiness known only to the soul, the happiness of loving! It is within the conception of all men, but it can be fully determined and ordained by God alone. But how did God ordain this law? And what about His Son?" (1020) 

 "Yes, it’s love, but not the kind of love that loves for a reason, a purpose, a cause, but the kind of love I felt for the first time when I was on my deathbed and I saw my enemy and loved him. I experienced the feeling of love that is the essence of the soul, love that seeks no object. I can feel it now, that blessed feeling. To love your neighbor and your enemy. To love everything, to love God in all His manifestations. You can love someone dear to you with human love, but it takes divine love to love your enemy. [. . .] When you love with human love you can change from love to hatred, but divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can destroy it. It is the essence of the soul. How many people I have hated in the course of my life! And there’s nobody I have loved more and hated more than her.” 

And he found a clear mental image of Natasha, though not as he had seen her in the past, with all the charm that had given him such joy. For the first time, he caught an image of her soul. (War and Peace, 1020-1021)

“And out there beyond the forests and fields lay all the shimmering, beckoning distance of infinity. Pierre glanced up at the sky and the play of the stars receding into the depths. ‘And it’s all mine, and it’s all within me, and it all adds up to me!’ thought Pierre. ‘And they caught all that, shut it up in a shed, and boarded it in!’” (War and Peace, 1134)

“Life is everything. Life is God. Everything is in flux and movement, and this movement is God. And while there is life there is pleasure in being conscious of the Godhead. To love life is to love God. The hardest and most blessed thing is to love this life even in suffering, innocent suffering.” (War and Peace, 1184)

“No, nothing is certain, nothing but the nothingness of all that we can understand, and the splendor of something we can’t understand, but know to be infinitely important!” (War and Peace, 313)

“It was clear and frosty. A dark, starlit heaven looked down on the black roofs and the dirty, dusky streets. Only by looking up at the sky could Pierre distance himself from the disgusting squalor of all earthly things as compared with the heights to which his soul had now been taken.” (War and Peace, 663)

“And there in the middle, high about Prechistensky Boulevard, amidst a scattering of stars on every side but catching the eye through its closeness to the earth, its pure white light and the long uplift of its tail, shone the comet, the huge, brilliant comet of 1812, that popular harbinger of untold horrors and the end of the world. But this bright comet with its long, shiny tail held no fears for Pierre. Quite the reverse: Pierre’s eyes glittered with tears of rapture as he gazed up at this radiant star, which must have traced its parabola through infinite space at speeds unimaginable and now suddenly seemed to have picked its spot in the black sky and impaled itself like an arrow piercing the earth, and stuck there, with its strong upthrusting tail and its brilliant display of whiteness amidst the infinity of scintillating stars. This heavenly body seemed perfectly attuned to Pierre’s newly melted heart, as it gathered reassurance and blossomed into new life.” (War and Peace 663)

From Anna Karenina: 

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” (Epigraph)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (1)

“This is the life! How good! This is how I’d like to live!”
“Who’s stopping you?” said Levin, smiling. (162)

“You can’t understand it. For you men, who are free and can choose, it’s always clear whom you love. But a young girl in a state of expectation, with that feminine, maidenly modesty, a girl who sees you men from afar, who takes everything on trust—a girl may and does sometimes feel that she doesn’t know who she loves or what to say. [. . .] Her heart speaks, but consider: you men have your eye on a girl, you visit the house, you make friends, you watch, you wait to see if you’re going to find what you love, and then, once you’re convinced of your love, you propose.”

“Well, it’s not quite like that.”

“Never mind, you propose when your love has ripened or when the scale tips towards one of your two choices. But a girl isn’t asked. She’s expected to choose for herself, but she can’t choose and only answers yes or no.” (270)

“He looked at the sky, hoping to find there the shell he had admired, which had embodied for him the whole train of thoughts and feelings of the past night. There was no longer anything resembling a shell in the sky. There, in the inaccessible heights, a mysterious change had already been accomplished. No trace of the shell was left, but spread over half the sky was a smooth carpet of ever diminishing fleecy clouds. The sky had turned blue and radiant, and with the same tenderness, yet also with the same inaccessibility, it returned his questioning look.

“No,” he said to himself, “however good that life of simplicity and labor may be, I cannot go back to it. I love her.” (277-8)

“She could neither think nor desire anything outside her life with this man; but this new life had not begun yet, and she could not even picture it clearly to herself. There was nothing but expectation—the fear and joy of the new and unknown. And now the expectation, and the unknowness, and remorse at the renouncing of her former life – all this was about to end, and the new was to begin. This new could not help being frightening; but, frightening or not, it had already been accomplished six weeks earlier in her soul; now was merely the sanctifying of what had long ago been performed’ (453)

“I’ll tell you,” Levin said, smiling, “In my heart I can’t find any feeling of regret for my freedom!” (444)

“Levin felt more and more that all his thoughts about marriage, all his dreams of how he would arrange his life, were mere childishness, and that it was something he had not understood before, and now understood still less, though it was being accomplished over him; spasms were rising higher and higher in his breast, and disobedient tears were coming to his eyes” (454).

“He knew and felt only that what was being accomplished was similar to what had been accomplished a year ago in a hotel in a provincial capital, on the deathbed of his brother Nikolai. But that had been grief and this was joy. But that grief and this joy were equally outside all ordinary circumstances of life were like holes in this ordinary life, through which something higher showed. And just as painful, as tormenting in its coming, was what was now being accomplished; and just as inconceivably, in contemplating this higher thing, the soul rose to such heights as it had never known before, where reason was no longer able to overtake it.” (713).

“It was already quite dark, and in the south, where he was looking, there were no clouds. The clouds stood on the opposite side. From there came flashes of lightning and the roll of distant thunder. Levin listened to the drops monotonously dripping from the lindens in the garden and looked at the familiar triangle of stars and the branching Milky Way passing though it. At each flash of lightning not only the Milky Way but the bright stars also disappeared, but as soon as the lighting died out they reappeared in the same places, as if thrown by some unerring hand.
“Well, what is it that disturbs me?” Levin said to himself, feeling beforehand that the resolution of his doubts, though he did not know it yet, was already prepared in his soul” (815)

“This new feeling hasn’t changed me, hasn’t made me happy or suddenly enlightened, as I dreamed – just like the feeling for my son. Nor was there any surprise. And faith or not faith – I don’t know what it is – but this feeling has entered into me just as imperceptibly through suffering and has firmly lodged itself in my soul.

“I’ll get angry in the same way with the coachman Ivan, argue in the same way, speak my mind inappropriately, there will be the same wall between my soul's holy of holies and other people, even my wife, I’ll accuse her in the same way of my own fear and then regret it, I’ll fail in the same way to understand with my reason why I pray, and yet I will pray—but my life now, my whole life, regardless of all that may happen to me, every minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before, but has the unquestionable meaning of the good which it is in my power to put into it!” (817) 

Life is meant to be lived with joy and purpose. And we are meant to take the dark threads and bright threads of this tapestry of life and use our experiences to help lift others. 

A life of joy with gratitude and sorrow without resentment. 

Living a life to be proud of. 

"If life could write itself, it would write like Tolstoy." --Virginia Woolf

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The next chapter

Once upon a time there was a little girl.

She always loved learning. Reading. Writing. Creating. History. Geography. Literature. Math. Science. There were never enough books to quench her insatiable thirst for more knowledge, more words, more stories.

And her dreams. Her dreams were as bright as her eyes, and her ambitions as bright as her faith. She wanted to see the world and to make a difference--somehow, someway--in her small corner of the world. 

As the girl grew, she learned more about her talents, gifts, and even changed her dreams a few times. But she never lost her love for learning. In her travels around the world, she learned lessons of empathy and of the power of hope. She learned these stories through literature, through history, and through the lives and examples of those around her . . . but most importantly, she learned them in her own life.

The girl realized that she wanted to use her talents and gifts to teach others the importance of these stories. She realized the privilege of having a voice and she wanted to use her voice to write and tell the stories of those who history had forgotten. And, based on her talents, experiences, and desires of her heart, she realized that grad school was the next step in her life.

And so, the girl applied to grad school programs in history. And waited. And heard back. Yeses and Nos. And she came to a crossroads.

Because she had choices. So many good choices. But choices, nonetheless.

And whenever you come to a crossroads, you must give something up.

Doors open, doors close. Opportunities gained, opportunities lost.

But the girl knew and felt--deep in her bones, sure as blood--that whatever choice she made would be good. She just had to make it hers.

And so, based on pros and cons lists, advice from mentors, family, and friends, inspiration and ratification from God, and ultimately, the desires of her own heart, the girl made a choice.

This, my friends, is what it looks like when you get accepted into Oxford:

But, this is what it actually looks like:

And this:

With a little bit of twirling too:

And so, dear reader, I am happy to announce to my small corner of the world the next chapter of my life. I have officially accepted Oxford's offer for their Master's Programme in US History. I am thrilled, excited, and slightly terrified for this new chapter in my life. But mostly excited. I am also humbled. Because who ever thought that little girl who played pioneers and princesses with her sisters in the backyard would be going to study at Oxford?

Because, let's be honest--I basically just got my acceptance letter to Hogwarts.

#megisgoingtogradschool #megisgoingtoOXFORD

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A stream of words

sometimes you just need to do a stream-of-consciousness post. with all the conventions of a e.e. cummings poem. because sometimes life is just too much and there are so many thoughts and feelings and words allwrappedintoone and you just have to get it all out, you know? you know.

we are all going a bit crazy in our apartment. it's that time of the semester. aka the last full week of classes, which means for us humanities majors that it is the week of terror because everything--final papers, final projects, our firstborn in the wilderness--is due on monday. we've made a new hashtag for when everything is going terribly. it's called #apartment210. it's been trending frequently this semester, and now there is a hashtag symbol right by our apartment number on our door. because it's one of those weeks. good thing we've got each other. and good thing we're good at thinking up clever hashtags. especially ones with alliteration.  

there are four of us graduating this semester and we have no motivation to do anything. like, anything at all. but don't make us talk about graduation. because we don't want to talk about how we are leaving each other. and we don't want to talk about change and about uncertainty and those fears of entering the great, big world. "sister, remember that we're leaving in two weeks?" "sister, i don't want to talk about it." so we don't. avoidance is always the best policy, right?

you never know what you'll find around provo this time of year. hard boiled eggs from easter egg hunts. forgotten frisbees. lilacs. i love lilacs, did you know? they are some of my favorite flowers. i love their scent. i love their color. i love that they sing of spring. i love lilacs. i also love tulips. especially orange ones. spring and autumn. my two favorite seasons. seasons of transition and life. "your voice is the color of october gold." i am an october soul who loves the spring.

looking from life at both sides. moons, and junes and ferris wheels--that dizzy, dancing way you feel--as every fairy tale comes real. i've looked at love that way. but now it's just another show. you leave 'em laughing when you go. and if you care, don't let them know. don't give yourself away. i've looked at love from both sides now. from give and take and still somehow it's love's illusions i recall. i really don't know love at all. opposition in all things. knowledge of good and evil. life and death. love and hate. despair and hope. doubt and faith.

my daughters will read books with strong female characters. jane eyre. pride and prejudice. middlemarch. their eyes were watching god. sense and sensibility. to kill a mockingbird. little women. a tree grows in brooklyn. persuasion. little house on the prairie. the secret garden. they will learn to be "unafraid to be weak, unafraid to be strong." and my sons will learn these lessons from literature, too. they will learn to be kind and take responsibility for their actions. lessons of leadership and love for my girls and boys.

russian literature is life. it is my life. dostoevsky. pushkin. akhmatova. tolstoy. war and peace and anna karenina.  i am more like anna than i once realized. he is andrei. oh, is he ever andrei. but he is also levin. so am i sometimes. . . . or maybe i'm actually anatole. yep. anatole all the way. #shameless. perhaps i read into things too much. people are so much more nuanced and complex than we like to give them credit for. complex and deep. and we all meet in the middle of each other's stories.

i'm the writer and she's the muse. hearts, desires, and fears. there is something wonderfully endearing about watching a hallway of russian speakers support one of their comrades in asking a girl out. "look over this for me, would you?"but where do i put the smiley face emoticon?!" that fear of sending the message. "send, send, send!" "it's sent." the waiting game. that infernal hope.

april is national poetry month. t.s. eliot once said that april is the cruellest month. it can feel like that, especially this time of the school year. but it is also a lovely month. full of hope and spring and new beginnings. but the weather can be weird in april, especially in utah. every single one of my friends who have gotten married in april had snow on their wedding day. there was rain and snow today. i forgot a coat. but i did have my "petty coat" on today (it's totally a thing--we invented the term yesterday). so watch out, world. because today is a red lipstick and brown combat boots kind of day. don't mess with me. because i'm channeling some phenomenal women. their poetry courses through my veins. does my sassiness upset you? why are you beset with gloom? 'cause i walk like i've got oil wells pumping in my living room. did you want to see me broken? bowed head and lowered eyes? shoulders falling down like teardrops, weakened by my soulful cries. but still i rise. i rise. i rise. 

i still am studying and writing about emily dickinson and anna akhmatova. incredible women. especially akhmatova. he loved three things in life: evensong, white peacocks, and maps of america. he hated it when children cried, he hated tea with raspberry jam, and women's hysterics. and i . . . i was his wife. she is just stunning, isn't she? her experiences span generations. "can you describe this?" the voice of suffering women. never forget. history, you must never forget our voices. we will not allow you to forget.

jbull is coming home from dc today. so today is a very, very good day because jilly will be back in our time zone. she is going to take over the world someday and i am privileged to be on her lovelist. i am grateful for the people on my lovelist. and grateful for milkshake runs in times of crisis and girl talk and inside jokes and quotes that come at just the right times. "the true tragedy of the world--the weak ones, my girl--are the ones who stop looking down the road for the good things. the ones who stop believing in dreams. the ones who become permanently cynical and bitter and quit believing that good things will work out for them." because the power is in hope. in believing and wanting the good things. long live the glass slipper.

you, he said, are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain. i do not know how to be anything but real. i choose to be real. i choose to feel. i choose vulnerability over masks. i would not want to be fake. i choose awkwardness over flawless first impressions. i choose russia over france. tolstoy over baudelaire. i choose wheat and soil and fire over macaroons and mirrors and gold. i don't want any less anymore. "it sounds trite, but honestly, it comes down to the fact that the heart wants what the heart wants. so. what do you want?"

choosing everything. giving all. sunlight on the mountains. tendrils of spring. brisk octobers and pumpkin spice. dreams and realities. healing and hope. give me this mountain. this new chapter. i stand on a precipice. "but what if i fall? oh my darling, what if you fly?"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Христос воскрес! (He is risen)

"But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. [. . .] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master." see John 20:11-15 

Jesus just said her name. Just her name. That's all He said. And she knew it was Him. 

He Is Risen, J. Kirk Richards

Today is Easter Sunday.

It is also General Conference Sunday. [Which, by the way, was incredible. There were so many messages which spoke directly to me.]

I don't have a lot to say. I have a lot of thoughts. And a lot of gratitude in my heart. For the words of living prophets and apostles. For answers to prayers. For courage to make hard decisions. For faith to believe in miracles. And mostly, for a Savior, Jesus Christ, who overcame all--death, sin, heartache, and doubt--so that we can live again. Not only at the resurrection day, but every day. Because we need His renewing grace every day.

"So today we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced--to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins. That victory is available to us because of events that transpired on a weekend like this more than two millennia ago in Jerusalem." -- Elder Jeffery R. Holland

And so, just know that I have this humble declaration that so many others before me (and many others after me) have stated:

"Oh sweet, the joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Falling off the pedestal . . . and still rolling . . .

So this happened:

Me: "I hate being put on pedestals. There are only two things you can do on a pedestal: look pretty, or fall off."

Em: "I know, it's the worst."

5 minutes later (in a conversation about how Nutella is one of my weaknesses)

Em: "You have weaknesses?"

Me: "Yes. Why?"

Em: "You're not allowed to have weaknesses. You're Megan Beth Armknecht."

Me: "Sister! You just put me on a pedestal."

Em: " . . . you're pretty."

We are so funny. How do people even stand it?