On the long plane ride to Asia, I didn't sleep a bit. It was impossible. But I made it and was thrust into a completely foreign world. The people, the buildings, the sights, the sounds, the smells, everything was foreign to me. I'm not going to detail those two years, I will just give you my thoughts and a few experiences relating to my sexuality.
I'll be frank. My mission was hard. People were mean (not all people, there were incredibly good and nice and selfless people who I love dearly). The days were long sometimes. But I worked hard and I learned a lot on my mission. I learned to love a people and culture that was different from mine. I learned to see the similarities between these people and the ones I had been familiar with. I learned that my culture's way of doing things was different, not better. I had some really good experiences. I had some scary experiences. I had spiritual experiences. And I had some awful ones. Overall, I am grateful to have served. I think it helped me gain a better perspective on life.
Ok, now for my struggles as it pertains to homosexuality. Lucky for me, I didn't embrace this part of me, nor did I ever allow myself to believe it could be real. Imagine having a 20yr old boy and 21yr old girl spend every minute together for weeks at a time. There would be some trouble. Well, for the most part- it wasn't trouble for me. Especially when I didn't particularly like my companion =). For the first year I was really good, but... Explicit content alert, skip to next paragraph if you don't want to know: The only instance I can remember was one time I was showering and the water was hitting a certain area and was aroused and kind of allowed it to go on until, well, climax. I went to the Mission President and thought for sure I'd be sent home. He was so amazing about it. It wasn't uncomfortable at all. He just said, "Well Elder- it happens. I'm not encouraging it, but our bodies react to that kind of stimulation and it isn't the end of the world. You are doing good work. Continue doing it." That is a paraphrase.
Interesting note: In the country I served in, it is not uncommon for men to hold hands. The younger they were, the less common it was because of our western influences, but still- you'd see it. Holding hands didn't mean they were gay. It was just okay by their culture (and apparently it used to be okay by ours as well). But I had conditioned myself to hate anything that would be considered "gay" in my culture. So the day an investigator grabbed my hand as we walked to the subway, I was sick. After that I made sure my hands were occupied.
I also received my first kiss on the lips by another man on my mission. It sounds scandalous, I know. He was the ward mission leader of a neighboring ward where we helped the elders with their English classes. He was recently engaged and was kind of all over the place- a high energy type person. Well, I was playing the piano and he came up behind me, grabbed my head, pulled it back, and kissed me. Don't let your imagination run away with you- it was a peck. But I freaked while the other 3 elders laughed. Anyway, those are side-notes.
The second year got a little harder. If the companion was someone I got along with, and liked (in a hey, he's a cool guy kind of way), I would wonder if they might be gay. One of them I thought for sure was. Well, there were a few times I "tested" my theories by trying to see how they would react if I "unknowingly" sat in a way that might provide a glimpse of certain parts. Geez, why am I so embarrassed to say penis or genitals or whatever. Sorry. Like many of you I am conditioned to be embarrassed by those words. Beyond "testing" some of my companions at times, I would struggle every now and then with masturbation. I shouldn't say struggle- that makes it sound like it was ongoing. There were more instances of it.
By this time a new mission president had come, and I didn't have a relationship with him like I did the previous one. I didn't feel the need to talk to him... or I guess I was just too scared to. I didn't know him like I knew the previous president. Plus he didn't speak English and I didn't want to have to learn how to explain something like that in the language. I mean, even now- in English it is hard haha. I was a bit of a coward I guess. And because of that, even though I worked hard and had success in my last areas, I felt like a failure. Now matter how hard I tried, I always came up short.
Well I felt inspired about two things during my mission concerning my post-mission life. The first was what I should study- what industry to go into. The second was where to study. Before my mission, although I had considered different options, I decided to not worry about it and that I had two years to make those decisions. Well, that is what brought me to BYU- a place I had never imagined myself going before.