Sunday, September 19, 2010

A talk on a talk

My least favorite place in church is behind the pulpit. Here's what I said behind one today:

I’ve always admired people who could give talks based on a talk that has already been given. I’m impressed by their ability to take something that is already perfect in itself and create their own talk out of it. This takes skill and expertise that I have been grateful I’ve never had to develop...until now. Hopefully the next 15 minutes or so are more painful for me than they are you, because I’m still not sure I’ve developed that skill. The talk I’ve been asked to speak on was given by President Uchtdorf in the Young Women’s broadcast earlier this year titled “Your Happily Ever After” .It’s written so well and is so enjoyable to read that I was debating just reading it word for word and ending it with my testimony of “and I know these things to be true, Amen”. Unfortunately for me and probably you too I was advised against this. I won’t be reading his talk word for word, but many of the thoughts and ideas I’ll be relaying are straight from President Uchtdorf.

Happiness is one of if not my favorite gospel topic and is one I never tire of studying or learning about. Happiness is a short term, long term and eternal goal of mine as I’m sure is yours and is my emotion of choice in all circumstances. I’m a sucker for happy endings. In fact if a story has a crummy ending it completely ruins any good parts of the beginning and middle I may have enjoyed up until that point. I once watched the movie “ Bryan’s Song”. Once. Never again. Titanic? Once. Never again. I hated Romeo and Juliet. On the other hand stories that are entirely depressing throughout but have satisfactory happy endings leaving you feeling good become favorites of mine. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, or Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables for example. For me it has to end on a good note.

In life, just as in stories we have our own adventures, trials, and triumphs. President Uchtdorf says our “once upon a time” is now. That God loves us so much he gave us the gift of life on this earth to experience those adventures, trials and triumphs. We are living our own stories. God wants us to “live happily ever after” with Him in eternal life. Who doesn’t want a “happily ever after” to their story they’re living? I know I do. But just because we want it doesn’t mean we’ll get it. We have to earn it. There are things we need to do to prove ourselves, and make ourselves worthy of a happily ever after ending to our stories.

Elder Uchtdorf reminds us that there is no way to have your “once upon a time” and get straight to a “happily ever after” without first experiencing trials and temptations. No one is exempt. He gives examples of a few fairy tales to show that each heroine (or hero) had to go through “great adversity”. These trials allow us to appreciate and differentiate between sorrow and joy.

2 Nephi 2:11
11. For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first- born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad...
15.And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

President Uchtdorf says, “would the marathon runner feel the triumph of finishing the race had she not felt the pain of the hours of pushing against her limits? Would the pianist feel the joy of mastering an intricate sonata without the painstaking hours of practice? ... Adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise...Our heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy.”

For me, things I really want in life never come right away even though I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing and put my full effort into achieving them. Through this I have been forced to learn patience and perseverance and develop a special gratitude for what I am finally eventually blessed with. For example, I am a nurse. I had no idea when I made my initial decision to become one that my educational progress and attempts to get my first job would be as difficult as it was. I knew education was good, and I knew I should go into nursing. As soon as I figured out that nursing was the right path for me I did all my research into what classes I needed to apply to 2 year programs (as opposed to the 4 year school’s programs) so I could keep a part time job and be able to pay my own way through school without any loans while living at home. When I started, my priority registration date was the last one since I was new to that school and all the classes I needed were full. I had no luck sitting in and trying to add them. It took me over 2 semesters before I was finally able to have a registration date early enough to get the science classes I needed. Once I got an early enough registration date to get the classes I needed, I disregarded counselor’s recommendations of only taking one major science class a semester and I took as many of them at once in order to be able to apply to the nursing program as soon as possible since I already experienced a year delay and that particular program only accepted applicants once a year with the deadline approaching. I didn’t want to wait any more longer.

Once I applied I just knew I’d get in even though it was a lottery system and they had 4 times as many applicants as spaces for because I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and I felt sure I would be blessed in that way. I wasn’t. So the next semester I took other classes required to get into 4 year schools I hadn’t taken yet, completed my AA and applied to American River’s 2 year nursing program that accepts applications spring and fall. Again, I was not selected. I had already taken every class I needed for anything up until that point so the next semester I took 6 PE units, ASL, and another class to keep a full load of 12 units and applied again to both schools as well as Sac State and CSU East Bay that thankfully don’t use the lottery system. I didn’t get into the 2 year programs again, but I did get accepted to both Sac State and CSU East Bay.

I went to Sac State and when it got hard and I wished I didn’t have so much homework, I reminded myself how hard I worked to be there, that it was my choice to be there, and told myself I was going to like it. Sometimes it worked. I decided to take the option being offered of combining my last year into one semester and graduated in 2 and a half years instead of three in December of 2008.

After Christmas started my job hunt. I studied for just under a month to take my boards all the while looking for work. I passed the boards, and then turned my focus to 100% job seeking. I prayed every day for something. Nothing. After 3 months or so I decided I wasn’t being specific enough in my prayers as to when I wanted to find a job and asked to find a job the next day, rather than just finding a job in general. The next day my institute instructor called me with a job opportunity...only it wasn’t using my nursing licence or degree. Looks like I forgot to be complete when I decided to be specific. But I recognized an answer to a prayer, and I took advantage of the opportunity presented to me anyway and began working as an in home support service provider for a blind woman who was in her ward. It was frustrating, yet humbling to me to be earning (per hour) about 1/3 of what a person with my education and qualifications is worth, doing things anybody off the street could do.

I spent the rest of 2009 working for her and still couldn’t find work as a new graduate RN. It was embarrassing for me considering most people associate nursing with jobs that are in demand, when the reality is, with this economy it is experienced nurses who are in demand. With hospitals undergoing budget cuts, inexperienced new grads are unaffordable and many of the new graduate nursing programs were eliminated creating a higher applicant pool in the few programs that weren’t cut. In addition to this, because the economy is so bad, many nurses who would normally be retiring are putting off retirement, and experienced nurses who left work to have families are coming back to help their families earn enough to live on taking the job openings that otherwise would have gone to a new graduate nurse in better economic times.

2009 was the hardest year of my life. I wondered why I had bothered going through the trouble and stress of combining my last two semesters to be done a semester early if I wasn’t even able to be working until well after my originally planned graduation date. In my worst moments, I wondered why I even bothered becoming a nurse. I decided that my job hunt needed to be drastically changed since it kept yielding the same negative results. (I have over 200 emails in an especially depressing folder in my inbox illustrating my bad luck- and those aren’t counting the rejections I received in person, through snail mail or over the phone). I gave my blind lady until the end of January this year and then quit to once again put my entire focus into finding my career job. I re-vamped my motivation and job seeking energies and kept a positive outlook. I felt really good about 2010 and was certain things were going to turn around. I decided to apply to skilled nursing facilities and received good feelings about that choice. More positive feelings than I had in applying anywhere else. I was certain I was going to find a job in a SNF, even though I had friends that had already applied to several snf’s without any luck. I applied to 2 convalescent homes in Antioch, and every single skilled nursing facility in Sacramento, Woodland, West Sacramento, Carmichael, Elk Grove, and Roseville that I could find listed on the web. It took a few weeks to hit them all and I’d go to about 5 or so facilities a day. The next week I would go back to the places I had applied to the last week to follow up and continued applying to new places.

Every place I went to gave me the response that they didn’t want anybody with less than 3 years experience or didn’t have any openings. I felt so let down and wondered why I had felt so good about applying to all those SNF’s. I really felt something would come of it. I was ready to work for free in exchange for experience, but nobody would take me. My last day out took me out to Roseville and I applied to every SNF I had found online again without much hope given me from those I spoke with at each facility. I went back home to Antioch not quite sure what to do and I began contemplating other career options.

The first counselor in my bishopric had given me a contact who had a registry type service for health care professionals and I was in the process of registering with them, but they had told me they didn’t have much available for an RN without any experience either but to call them when I did.

Finally in April I got a call back from one of the last SNFs I had applied to in Roseville that wanted to set up an interview. I had applied to so many I was embarrassed that I had to get their address from them and couldn’t remember which one it was when they gave me their name. I interviewed, and was offered the job right then and started working 4 days later as the Assistant Director of Nursing. I can’t be happier with the work I’ve been doing, the position I’ve been given and the people I work with. It was a hard, really hard, long wait but my nursing degree, licence and skills are finally being put to use in a way that is satisfying for me.

Those 16 months post graduation were really hard, however, I know if I had gotten a job right off the bat I wouldn’t have the same appreciation or joy that I do now in working. I will never feel like I wish I didn’t have to go to work and will always be happy even when it gets stressful because I know what I felt like without it. I’m not saying that’s how I’d choose to do it again, but I can see the positive that came from the negative and the truthfulness of the scripture “there must needs be opposition in all things”.

My favorite quote from President Uchtdorf’s talk is: “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop...Enduring adversity is not the only thing you must do to experience a happy life. Let me repeat: how you react to adversity and temptation is a critical factor in whether or not you arrive at your own happily ever after.”

We all have trials. We all have temptations. What we do with them will determine whether our story has a happily ever after or not. Our decisions here and now will effect our happiness in the short term, long term and eternally.

We should remember that happiness is possible now. It’s not something to just to look forward to at the very end. “Happily ever after” is the ultimate goal, but there’s no rule that says there’s no happiness allowed in the mean time.

It’s nice to know that trials and tribulations aren’t a permanent experience. We all must go through it, but we have such a wonderful promise if we make good choices in the face of them and endure it well as found in Doctrine and Covenants 121: 7-8

"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thy adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."

Even in hard times, through the atonement of Christ, a good attitude, and maybe some chocolate and a good nap, happiness is within our reach. We shouldn’t let life pass by waiting for the happiness to find us. We should be actively involved in finding joy in our every day lives. President Monson gave a conference talk in October of 2008 titled “finding Joy in the Journey” where he says “Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”

President Uchtdorf urges us to find our happily ever after through living the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says, “Learn to love your Heavenly Father with all your heart, might and mind. Fill your souls with virtue, and love goodness. Always strive to bring out the best in yourself and others”

He counsels us live the standards in "For the Strength of Youth", as our own Stake presidency has recently reinforced and urged us to do. There is wisdom in following those guidelines presented in that pamphlet. Happiness will come to us now and later if we do so.

I know that life is hard sometimes. But I know that those hard times are necessary so that we may have a greater appreciation and understanding of the joy in the good times that follow. I know that happiness is possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ and in living His gospel. I know we have the capability of ensuring our own happily ever after to our own adventurous stories if we do.

I would like to end by bearing testimony that these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.