My Farewell Talk

So, this blog is going to be different for a while. Two years, in-fact. Weekly, I’ll be posting the e-mail I’m sending out to friends & family about my humanitarian mission I’m serving for my church. If you don’t like religious stuff, and that’s totally completely fine, just wait for two years. I’ll try to note what things in my letters are overtly religious and what things aren’t, for those who are still interested.

So without any further ado (ado, to you and you and you), this is the talk I gave today.

Brothers and sisters, here we go. Aloha.

I’ve been preparing to give this talk since I was five at least, and actively coming up with things to say in it for the last five years. So, I’m probably really gonna need all the time I’ve got here. All the random disparate talk-related thoughts have sometimes kept me up. I don’t know, I mean, a lot of things keep me up at night. See, I’m very worried I’m going to say something here that someone might not take the right way. I pray here that the Spirit will be with all of us so that I may speak from personal experience without giving anyone any negative feelings.

Just like this talk, it follows that I have, for as long as I can remember, wanted to serve a mission. And I know why, you know why, it’s obvious, my family is the best. I have been blessed to be in a family that wholly understands, and accepts, and loves me. As Captain & Tennille once wisely said, “Love. Love will keep us together.” And together it has been. Everyone who’s known me has remarked on how amazing my family is, and rightfully so. I’ve yearned to share the gifts that have strengthened & protected my family. They’ve made me who I am. And they’ve all been my dearest friends.

On the subject of friends, friendship and I have had an interesting relationship. Up until a few years ago, outside of my family, I wasn’t particularly close to anybody. No one outside of my family had ever attended any of my birthday parties until 2012. I only have two friends who live here, and I’ve only seen one of them once this year. And in the wards I’ve attended, my acquaintances have been very sporadic and tiny. I hope no one out there feels bad about me saying this— but I’ve never hung out with any of you outside of normal church time, and I don’t really know much about you, and you don’t really know much about me. I mean, I try to make things about me apparent enough that you get the basic gist, but, well, the only really strong friendship I’ve had from a member is with a girl who goes by Tia. But she doesn’t live here, and I’ve never met her. We met back in 2007 through the videos I make and share online. She served a mission in 2013 to Irvine California and recently came back and got married, hooray! I say that I’ve only had one really noteworthy friend in the church in the hopes that people who have similar feelings will know they are not alone. I have very different ways of thinking about things, and very different ways of expressing myself, and not many people will directly relate with the things I find interesting or the talents I’ve been given. I get it. But that doesn’t make things any easier for me, and I’m sure it doesn’t make things any easier for anyone else who feels like I do. What I’m really saying is that, I’m different. And yes, we’re all different, but… look at me, I’m different. And it’s hard enough for me to find one friend who gets me in all the world, and it’s even harder when I’m trying to find one in a slightly smaller circle. It’s harder for everyone, really, and I wish for everyone to find and harbor true connections.

I mean, let’s be clear, the biggest friends I have in the church are Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. Through my many travails here on the planet Earth, my deepest and most personal solace has been in getting to share my thoughts and feelings in prayer. Whenever I have felt alone or confused and had this horrible empty pain in my stomach, talking it out to Heavenly Father in prayer has always filled any empty spaces in my life. And whenever I have been so full of joy that I can’t stop dancing around in circles, in prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus have always been there to celebrate and rejoice with me. During the last few months of 12th Grade, I lost the friends I had, and I had to sit by myself at lunch again. I had spent so much of my life eating alone at school, to be back to Square One again felt so terrible. It had never bothered me before to eat alone, until then. My counsellor in college (I accidentally flubbed up during the actual talk and said, “cousin” at first and then said, “I dunno, we were very close.“) once asked me to write a paper on this negative presence in my life, and I wrote, “I used to be so comfortable with myself, but now, it’s more complicated, because relationships with other humans has sometimes made me feel less like a human, myself.” Yeah, it was pretty dire, and I didn’t know if I would be able to pick up all the pieces. But we don’t need to do anything like that alone. I prayed whenever the days became too long and too sharp to pass by unscathed, and little by little, I’ve healed. I’m still healing. And that’s a happy thing.

Yes, Heavenly Father has made miracles happen for me. Whenever I’ve been at the point of System Failure, there has been someone, there has always been someone— to help me through. I keep this card with me, a card I received in 12th Grade, from a classmate named Jazmine. The day before, I had been asked to answer a question in class. I knew the answer, but due to the pain my relationships at the time were putting me under, I actually closed my eyes and started talking very quickly to myself to calm down. She handed me this the following day. It’s a bunch of multi-coloured flowers drawn in magic marker, with the words “Get well soon!” written on the bottom. … it meant the world to me then, and it still means the world to me. It showed me that I don’t need to just be all shut up in myself, because Heavenly Father will help direct me towards people who can understand me out in this world wherever I go. People who will love me just as much as my beautiful family does.

As of now, I have a best friend. MY best friend. That I CALL my best friend, in all the world. It’s so freeing to be able to say that, like, wow.

And I’ve made so many connections— not often with people who live nearby, but with people who I very well might be living nearby soon. I can feel the future that Heavenly Father has planned for me, and it’s bigger and brighter than I could’ve ever dreamed. And I know the future all comes back to this decision here, the decision I have personally made to serve my brothers and sisters, and serve God.

And I bring up that I made this decision because, even though I knew without a doubt that I wanted to go on a mission, AND that I would, the world just muddled it. Muddied it. Riddled it. Made it a puzzle for me. See, because, I needed to make the decision. I say this not to offend anyone or speak ill or anyone, but speaking from my heart, hearing people say that I NEEDED to go on a mission— that the only right choice WAS to go— it hurt me. It made it harder for me to choose what I’d already chosen, because my choice was being taken away from me, often by people I barely knew personally. And I’ve seen people start to get nervous about me. That I wasn’t going. He graduated high school, why isn’t he going? He finished his Associate’s, why isn’t he going? If you really took a breath and examined my life and the kind of example I strive to be, you would know that Heavenly Father planted the deep desire to serve a mission from the very beginning. And that I needed to make this decision of my own free will, as anybody needs to be able to do. Listen— don’t go on a mission because your family promised you a new car at the end of it. Don’t go even because your family told you to. Sure, you’ll bless people’s lives and hopefully have a change of heart along the way, but how much greater would your joy be if you went for the right reasons? To show the love you know so well, the knowledge you’re so privy to, to give it to people who are ACHING to know they are not alone, that we can all be together forever, that we can be forgiven? Those are the reasons that I choose to go. And I feel so many people my age are just WAITING to know this for themselves— show they know it for themselves. To make the faith their own. If not now, then when? I knew this was for me, but that I needed to do it in the time that Heavenly Father had provided for me.

One of my favorite songs called Hideaway has a line that goes, “Some’ll call me all kinds of names. Some’ll say I don’t play the right kind of game. I try to be honest, try to be kind, and honestly leave when I know that it’s time. I know that it’s time.”

I’ve had a lot to learn, and a lot of growing to do. And yes, I’m sure there’s still plenty to do, and there will always still be plenty to do, and we all put things on hold to do something this important, but there were so many experiences I have had in last three years alone that have given me tools that I know I needed to do this right. I’m a kid-at-heart, and I always will be, but my basic mind-set has made it difficult for me to do some things that come very easy for other people. Like, say, basic fending for myself. Traveling safely and calmly and not getting lost. Communicating, planning, scheduling. Leadership skills, holding my ground. Self-worth. Taking care of myself, even. I needed to take a lot of baby steps, because I learn things differently than other people. I simply have different strengths.

For example, I have the ability to empathize with multiple points of view. Due to being so different, myself, I’ve gotten to know so many people from very different backgrounds, too. Besides Tia, none of my circle of friends are Mormon. I rarely ever talk about religion, it’s not something that people in my age demographic tend to respond well to. They’ve had a great deal of negative exposure. And so you can guess how nerve-wracking it’s been to finally tell them all about these plans I’ve been making since before I ever knew any of them. Plot twist, I didn’t tell most of them until this Friday. Yikes. Some of them are very inclusive and are proud of me, if not a little confused or sad. Some of them are very skeptical— and constantly tell me that I need to be careful, and that they don’t want anything like this to ruin the kind of person I am. Basically, they think I’ve gone to the Dark Side. I don’t even know how some of them would react to the things I’m saying here. It’d be hard to know what to say to them if they were. The closest I can get to expressing it is— you know me. You know the kind of person I am. Don’t you think this is who you’ve been talking to the whole time? That this is a decision that I would make? … Search your feelings, you know it to be true? Gosh, I, it’s scary sometimes. I think back to the empty lunch table and it hurts. But Heavenly Father has gotten me to this point in my growth as a person, and my best friend, from the very beginning, supported me and knew I would make the decision that I knew to be right for me.

So I don’t expect everyone to understand what I’m doing, and that’s okay. I would hope at least for compassion, and for an understanding that I need to do this for myself, or I’ll have missed part of my personal quest to becoming who I’m meant to be. Outside of the church, there are a few people who become disillusioned with the world and stop everything they’re doing and seek enlightenment. Soul searching is considered to be frivolous and completely unnecessary to most everybody else, but we here in the church are the only kinds of people who are willing to support some random teenager who you might not even know at all to do just that for themselves. To lose themselves in the work. Think of how special that is— that we are encouraged here to grow in our testimony. It’s one of the many reasons that I know this church is true. And I think that everyone has their own path to it— there are many amazing members with families of their own now who have never gone on missions, but that’s because Heavenly Father had a different plan for them. Just as Heavenly Father has his plan for me, which I have received confirmation through years of steadfast prayer to be right— and JUST right. JUST right for ME, because he is mindful of my muddled mind.

Things get crazy. To quote another song that has become kind of a battle cry for me, “There are heroes and thieves at my door. I can’t seem to tell them apart anymore. And just when I’ve figured it out, darling, it’s you I’m without. Well, it seems like I’m getting closer, somehow. A flicker of peace that I’ve finally found. Thank you for believing in me now, ‘cause I do need it. Give me a year or two, and I’ll mend my ways and see these mistakes, and when I see the truth… well, darling, trust me, when I can see, I’ll be coming back.”

… Isn’t that perfectly suited for this occasion? I sure think so, I hope Vanessa Carlton doesn’t mind I quoted it.

I’m called to the Salt Lake City West mission. Yes, the Salt Lake in UTAH. Yes, my Grandma is also going to be in roughly the same area serving a mission, too. Yes, it’s a bit ironic to be serving there. Whenever I’ve said it, the reactions have been… a little lackluster, to be honest. I can see people who’ve been waiting me to go on a mission get excited and then look a little disappointed. Like, “Okay, go on that mission, come back, and then go on a REAL mission.” I don’t blame them, but the moment I read my call, I knew it had come straight from Heavenly Father. Because, to reiterate, I have a specific set of skills. I understand and empathize with different points-of-view, I love to know people, due to what I share on the Internet, I am a weather-worn expert at dealing with verbal abuse and harassment, and no matter what muddy puzzles come my way, I always know for a fact that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are with me every step of the way.

I had a terrible mini-mission. My companion, who I’m sure is a wonderful person, had many standards that conflicted with my own. He and another elder discussed in detail how attractive one of the ladies we were teaching was. He seemed to be too sick to work all the time. The worst part was when I walked into the apartment. The first thing I noticed was a sign above the sink that read, “Do your dishes, gay boys.” Whenever I tried to say that what he was doing was not in line with how we should behave as missionaries, he said that I had a lot to learn. I did all I could personally to serve, and I know I was placed in this situation to be prepared for my mission— to be given a worst case scenario and to rely on the Spirit to get me through. It is something that I know I needed, and now looking backward, I am so grateful for it.

Heavenly Father made me who I am. Sometimes, I yearn to be different to make the people I love happy, but then I realize that what I have is something that some people need. That I can give people something good, by being me, that I could never give by being anybody else. Through my videos and art and music that I’ve made and shared, I’ve done so in the hope of giving people a gift. In the things I do and say, I hope I’m giving them a gift. I’m here to represent the different ones. I’m here to find the different ones. I’m here to love the different ones, like no one else could. Some people in the church, as I’ve learned, are in pain. Some people don’t like who they are. I’ve been given a life that can mirror theirs and reflect light onto. To quote Steven Curtis Chapman, one last song:

“Long before you drew your first breath, a dream was coming true. God wanted to give a gift to the world, so he wrapped it up in you. Every step that you’ve taken, every move that you make is part of his plan.  You were meant to be touching the lives that you touch and meant to be here making this world so much more than it would be without you in it. You were meant to be bringing the gifts that you bring and singing the songs you’ve been given to sing. You are perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully meant to be.”

I treat every day as an opportunity to give someone these gifts. During my mission, if I can tell one person that, just one person that Heavenly Father has guided me to, it will have been worth it. Let me just say now that none of you should feel bad for being yourself. None of you should think that you should be more like someone else. We all have our own weaknesses and strengths, and we should relish both— without them, none of the things that happened in our lives would’ve happened. Whenever I hurt and feel like I shouldn’t be like this, I remember that if I wasn’t me, I wouldn’t know any of you. And then I realize I couldn’t stand to be anyone else. Mormon Guilt is a real thing, and I know at least one other person in this room must’ve felt it before. Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, neither of them want you to feel guilty— guilt doesn’t edify or respect them, for we mistrust ourselves, and therefore mistrust them. In 2 Nephi 2:27, it reads that “Men are that they might have joy.”

We are Heavenly Father’s greatest joy. Our life, our failures and our accomplishments alike, should all be celebrated. I, for one, am so proud of every person here for their own personal journey every day, and I know that Heavenly Father loves all of you, loves every person you have ever loved, and is mindful of each of you.

To end here (whew, I thought he’d never stop talking), I’d like to read off a short piece that one of my friends wrote about something that happened to him back in 2005. It’s called Paper Hearts & The Meaning of Life.

“The other day I was walking downtown in the bitter cold, my jacket wrapped tightly around me. Thanks to the efforts of the road workers, the sidewalks were completely buried, forcing me to walk along the outside edge of the road, stumbling wearily along the inch-high drifts. My hood, hat and collar worked to cover as much of my face as it could, but I could still feel the stinging wind freezing the water around my eyes. I tend to go on autopilot in times like this, letting my feet work automatically as my mind wanders to anywhere it chooses.

I was stirred back to reality when I saw a flash of magenta out of the corner of my eye. Against the maddening uniform white, it was impossible to miss. Stopping, I bent over and picked up the small object clinging tenaciously to a snowdrift. It was a small paper heart, about the size of the palm of my hand. It was very thin paper; barely thicker than a post-it note. Turning it over, I saw that the heart was adorned with a simple inscription in black ink:


Despite the cold and the wind, I just stood there for a moment, staring at the delicate item in my hand. I don’t know exactly how long I stared at it, nor did I notice if anybody saw me. It wouldn’t really matter if I did; the world at large considers me a shiftless daydreamer, so I wasn’t making a bad impression on myself or anything. I half-considered stuffing the heart in my pocket, but for whatever reason I set it back in the snow and continued on my way. Perhaps I didn’t feel it was mine to have.

It should have ended there, but for the rest of the day my thoughts kept creeping back to that little paper heart. Why did what was, for all purposes, a piece of garbage, make such an impression on me? Maybe it was because so much was revealed simply through the existence of that heart. And so much more was laid open to question.

Who was Janet? Did she make the heart? Did somebody make it for her? If so, what relation were they to her, and why was it made? Did Janet ever get the heart? Did it mean anything to her? Was it lost? Discarded? Abandoned? I’ll likely never know. And yet, there is so much I do know.

It’s obvious that whoever made that heart took some time to make it. Tracing it, cutting it out of paper, and writing the name on it took some effort, however minor. That heart didn’t just come to be from random natural processes. As well, that heart was designed with specific purposes in mind. In general, people do not create hearts inscribed with girl’s names on them for no reason. That heart had some sort of specific intention behind its creation, and there was conscious effort towards its completion. I may not know what these intentions are, but I do know that they do exist.

And that was finally when it hit me. It’s just like life, isn’t it?

Just like people walking past that little heart sitting in the snow, we go through life without seeing who was responsible for our creation. And sometimes it’s not always readily apparent as to what our purpose is for being here. But that doesn’t mean that somebody wasn’t responsible for our creation. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a purpose for being here. All of the trivial little questions we can come up with about what and why can’t change the truth. If I can get so much information from such a little paper heart, imagine the information we can find in the rest of this incredible universe, from the intricate strands of a DNA molecule to the incredible mass and energy of the largest stars. All of this just didn’t come out of nowhere, and it’s not just hanging around for no reason. Somebody made all this. And Somebody put it there for a reason.

So, here’s my main point; even though I never saw who made that paper heart, I know that somebody had created it. And even though I was never told why it was made, I knew that it was deliberately designed with some purpose in mind.

And the same could easily be said of you and I.”

Great, right? It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, and as you can probably guess, I read a lot. Anyone ever read this book, by the way? (*holds up my scriptures*) I highly recommend it.

To me, the meaning of life is mattering. And let me tell you, you matter to me.

You are great, you are important, and you are awesome, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


73 Responses to “My Farewell Talk”

  1. 1 Gemma
    November 16, 2016 at 6:01 AM

    And you matter to me too, Skye.

    I’ve considered you a friend, a good friend, during the last few years I’ve known you – even though I may have been kind of bad at showing it.

    There’s a lot I’d like to say about this talk, but saying it in a comment on here feels too open. If there’s an email address I could reach you with (if different to the usual one) that you don’t mind sharing, may I have it?

    I’m going to miss you,

    – Gemma

  2. December 23, 2016 at 6:50 AM

    This made me cry. I don’t know how I got so bad in communication to see this over a month too late, but I’m so proud of you, Skye. I know there’s a reason we became friends. Because you were there for me, too, when I didn’t have any friends in the church, or really otherwise. And I’ll always look back fondly on the nights where we ‘sang’ (well, sorta – more like typed loudly) Called to Serve together.

  3. 3 Pedro Andrade
    February 27, 2017 at 6:43 PM

    “Do the Hustle” resonates in the back halls…waiting to be viewed once more.

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