300 Words

I keep having these dreams about breathing underwater.

Every time, I fall from the sky, at terminal velocity, before plunging into the ocean. I sink deep, fast. The impact empties my lungs. I try propelling myself to the surface. I’m too slow. I end up inhaling water. I gag, and the salt stings my throat. However, I’m not drowning. My lungs accept the water like air. Thriving, I explore my aquatic world.

One early morning in May 1976, a typhoon crashes upon Olongapo City, Philippines, hurling rain and lightning at a small clinic. Maybe sometime between thunderclaps, I am born.

My military father moves our family every two to three years, from the Philippines to Florida to Guam, then to Florida again, where he retires. I adjust to new schools, new cultures, new friends. I learn to excel socially, and especially academically, graduating salutatorian of my high school class in 1994.

In February 2003, I plunge into New York City. It completely surprises me. I have no job; I know two people among the 8 million surrounding me. I end up finding work lasting more than six years. I flourish under pressure, form strong friendships, and freely pursue my passions. I own two rabbits. I become an American citizen.

In January 2010, I sit poised at a desk, writing. This is not my first time at BYU. This is a return to familiarity, but this time I am different. My life isn’t a dream. I have been awake the entire time. I once respired amniotic fluid, and now as I break through to open air, my breathing is the same.

We may be creatures of habit. We grow accustomed to routines, sameness. The air may grow stale, but I remember I can breathe water.

I am a creature of change.

I know, people. Not very consistent of me.

The above may look familiar to some of you when I asked for feedback on it last September. I’m just having a little trouble breathing. I’m trying to figure out if my attitude now is really different. I’m trying to dig deep for that little extra kick for getting me through the next two weeks.

I’m trying to remember.

Flooding My Inbox

Tuesday morning, I sent my seminary class a letter:

Dear Class,

Two days into the summer break from seminary, it’s strange. Especially this time of year, I miss the sunrise on my way to the subway. I miss our classroom. I wonder if “gullible” is still on the ceiling. I miss all of you.

What a year, y’all. What a roller coaster, with its loops and twists and other weird momentum shifts. I’ve appreciated every single moment. The tangents, the abounding cognitive dissonance. I’ve learned much. I have to thank you.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. Slept in. That’s about 90 minutes “extra” sleep. I still can’t believe the school year is over. What does one do?

I can close my eyes and see your faces and hear your voices, especially your laughter. I may close my eyes a lot this summer, but not while biking or during concerts or movies. Well, maybe during boring movies.

Continue doing what you do to have the Spirit in your lives. Please be in touch.

Me, I’m just going to keep closing my eyes. Just to get through the summer.

Get out and have fun.

Love, may

I received a few responses from parents (I copy them whenever I write the students), and some replies from students. I miss them terribly. Memories of class flash in my mind: happy scenes, funny scenes, powerful scenes. Their voices and personalities are so palpable. So substantial. Maybe that’s why my heart is so full.

This message arrived today:

May,

I just wanted to thank you again for a great year. As you said, it had its ups and downs, twists and turns, but I always felt somehow that you acted as a kind of glue for the group, balancing so many crazy people J I’m thankful that you got up every morning for us, but you put much more into it than that. You could make us laugh. You gave us your quiet, moving testimony. And you always listened when we had something to say. We could trust you.

Well there you go. In bullet form, that’s a bit of why I’m thanking you. I hope you have a great summer. If you teach seminary again next year, I’m sure I’ll see you there some time; otherwise, I’ll see you around some place.

Sincerely,
[Student]

Worlds of Empty

I’ve finished getting ready for church and preparing my primary lesson. I hear stirring in the girls’ bedroom. I’ve been sitting on the couch, fidgeting, pretending to read, waiting to leave for church. Law school. I finally enter the bedroom and get a pair of shoes for church from the closet. I tell her she can’t leave; we’re about to bind and gag her. She only laughs. There’s appropriation of leftover food and bathroom supplies. I mean, I already have 500 cotton swabs, but I certainly could use another 100. For little projects. I joke like that, because I don’t want to cry. Defense mechanism on overdrive. She says it’s been really fun and she’s had a good summer. And I say, you really think so? and I have the biggest smirk on my face, but I know and feel deep down my summer was pretty fabulous, too. She acknowledges I have to leave for church soon, and I know I can’t talk because once I start talking I’ll have to stop because crying will rudely interrupt me. She says she’ll see me around. Tears fill my eyes, but all I can do is outstretch my arms, and she agrees to give me a hug. Because that kind of a thing really does require her permission. We hug and I leave the bedroom and I gather my things. I grab a tissue from my bag and take a deep breath. I know she and Becky need a few moments together; they’re high school friends, you know. On my way out the door I tell her to behave herself, and she says she’ll try. I don’t tell her I’ll miss her, even though I will. I don’t tell her she’ll have a great experience in law school. I don’t thank her for being my friend or all those fun IM conversations while being in the living room at the same time or being such a good listener or going to the beach with me or sitting through horrible movies with me or making scotcheroos. But I do. And she knows I do. I will always thank her.