Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Week 85 - Life Hacks (from July 4, 2017)

From July 4, 2017

Speed writing double-length-episode time! I will definitely not use
Then and Than correctly!

So here I am in Versailles! Forgot Antony and all the names attached
to that place. Not that I told you anything about what actually
happened while I was there but... Versailles is probably one of the
only French locations I've mentioned in 80~ weeks that is
recognizable. I am now in the mission office a lot of the time. They
switched my responsibilities up again. It's funny how I'm still
effectively asked to be the same person and do many many of the same
things despite a dramatic change in location, companions, and scope. I
get to work and interface with even more missionaries than before. And
I've there is anyone and love and value and owe so so much to, it's

I'm in a triumvirate right now. Dibs on Octavius! So Elder Currie and
his laid back New England-ness is swapped with an Elder Richards and
an Elder Lamothe. Which adds a wee dash of Virginia, sometimes
serious, marine biologist, would-be-mountain-man if it weren't for all
the logistical problems that poses as well as hefty doses of forward,
French, sassy, logician who speaks his mind to the very wildly colored
canvas I've become as this misadventure rolls onward. My definition of
insane driving has been radically changed after having a Frenchman
behind the wheel. We are definitely an interesting pair+extra though
we make it work. I look up to both of them very much.

These two weeks probably included more time behind a computer than the
rest of my mission combined. I must have spent around 5,000 euros
within a few hours ordering train tickets for everybody; the least
palpable and fun way to spend 5000 euros but kinda fun nonetheless!

Who noticed that subject line? Hey?? Life Hacks. Get it? In an
alternative life that would have been the name of my blog/etsy store
(depending on how cool I would be in this alternative life)!
Unfortunately I can't take credit for the name; Utmost respect and
genius to Sarah for the shameless theft of her joke.

I was able to spend a lot of time with the newly arrived
missionaries-- as in I picked them up from the airport and spent the
good part of that evening with them and the following morning. I'd
liken the experience to 10 year olds playing soccer: half the kids are
super excited to be there, half the kids are kinda confused with their
hands in their pockets just kinda walking around, maybe one or two of
the kids aren't sure if they actually like playing soccer anymore or
if they are just there because their parents encourage them to be play
sports, some kids are super full of energy and wayyyy faster and more
skilled than others, some kick each other's shins. So take this team
of 19 excited kids who didn't get much sleep and ship them off on a 9
hour plane ride to a foreign country. Voilà! I spent two days with
that! To them everything was so French and magic. The small European
cars and cobblestones were so much more to them then they are to so
many people.

Then I spent some time with the missionaries going home. Quite the
contrast to see. Funnily enough those who had just gotten here in
France were trying a lot harder to speak French than those who had
just finished two years here. I had a lot of role models, examples,
and friends among them and it was weird to see them go. Wednesday
evening we took them all to a Chinese buffet. That was a blast. It
felt like hanging out with friends! Super casual and fun. Come
Thursday morning we took this group of legends-- Egbert, Walton,
Wheeler, Pande, and Romney amongst those names I may have mentioned
someplace or another-- to the airport. I'm not sure why, and maybe it
was a subconscious self defense mechanism, but I thought it would be
fun!... Nasal congestion, dirty socks, and DMV lines are all things I
now consider much more fun than taking people who aren't sure how they
feel about leaving to an airport. Sending the dying missionaries home
was really sad.

On Friday we went and picked up the new mission president! And his
family. I'm working a lot with him a lot and that seems to be going in
a pretty up-ish direction. We have yet to put balloons on any houses
though. *cymbal noise* (I know there's a word for 'cymbal noise' but I
can't remember it for the life of me.)


In spending time with so many different people this week I was really
struck by how different everybody is. Alexis (Almost has a super cool
first name) Romney is not at all the same person as Dimitri Wheeler or
Emilie Esmieu. People, like fireworks, come in every shape, color, and
sound. Katy Perry be proud of that analogy. And I think back on the
wise words of the gentlest man named Bruce I've ever known who once
said something like, "part of the purpose of this life is to learn to
share yourself with others." Just about the greatest disservice to the
world and yourself is to not be yourself. I'm more and more convinced
of that as time goes on. I have never once been disappointed by
someone being themselves. By them being who they are. Sometimes I'm a
little frustrated because they aren't the same as me or they aren't
who I expected them to be, but whenever the natural beauty of humanity
is shown, whenever the innate goodness buried under social norms or
fear or whatever is visible, I'm nothing but excited and bettered and
enchanted. There's a lot of talk about a search for identity that goes
on during adolescence-- both the health and the psychology classes
I've taken touched on that, though I've been figuring out that that
search for identity only stops when you decide you've finished
searching. Plenty of people don't have much, or have a really lame,
identity who are in their 30's, 40's, 50's. Age has very little to do
with it I think. You become more and more refined as time goes on.
That's why some old people are cooler than others. Personality gets
refined over the years and the good becomes sharper and the bad
becomes fuzzier. That's the ideal I think. It's never too late to have
an identity crisis :) I don't actually mean a crisis but it's never
too late to keep finding and doing things you love. To rest on that
precipice of adventure and epiphany. Adventure and epiphany look a lot
different and generally make less exciting Hollywood movies as one
ages but that's okay. And safer.

I guess it made me think about my identity. I'm not sure how I'd
respond if a stranger, for example wearing a white shirt and tie,
stopped me on the street and asked me about my identity. I wouldn't
have to wait long before my mind would stretch to the table of of a
Chinese buffet pushed off to the side of a small French town. The
table seats about 20+ and stretches across a wing of the restaurant.
I've only been there three times. Once when I first got to France, and
twice this week. That long table with little cute, little dipping
bowls for potstickers and egg rolls is the equivalent of the Valhalla
mess hall for me!!! That's where Norse deity goes to hang out in the
next life. Its where legends go to die. It's a rectangular version of
King Arthur's whole shebang!! Its where new adventures and alliances
are forged. It's the table where Thomas Jefferson(s) drafted the
constitution(s)! Where so many great ideas were jotted down. It's the
family dinner table around which we so often played board games! The
table where friends become family for an evening, or two evenings if
you're playing a slow game of monopoly. After which the friendship
erodes because monopoly just causes domestic tension. I'd think about
all my friends. I would think, when asked who I am, about everyone
else who has contributed to who I am. I couldn't not do that. All the
good and bad impressions people have had on me are just so fundamental
to current product. I guess that means I'm supposed to thank you. I do
owe a big debt of gratitude to you. For all the good and bad
experiences we've been through together. Thank you so so much!
Gratitude slap! Know how much of Elder Hacker you make.

...This somehow turned into directionless, rambling gratitude!!.. I
think more things are supposed to finish by gratitude than we think.

As the title implies, this has to include some sort of tip! Life-Hack:
Let yourself be changed and influenced and refined by other people
around you. You learn so much, you make so many friends, you smile
more. Have an externally driven identity crisis! You don't have to be
social, or extroverted, or anything. That's has nothing to do with it.
I guess just try thinking about those that made you who you are-- your
perspective will change and I'd bank on the whole exercise somehow
turning into rambling gratitude. It should at least. :)

Thanks for everything guys. Have a great week! Thanks to anyone who
still reads these. Especially given that the week counter is getting
frighteningly high.

With a gentle handshake,

Elder Alex Hacker

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