The Birthday Questions

I think my first birthday with the official birthday questions was on my 20th. I was just home from studying abroad in London and had moved in with the women who would quickly become a second family to me.

Now, every time I  answer them, they remind me of those days sitting at our kitchen table under the florescent lights and sky-patterned, crepe-paper ceiling  when it seemed as if everything was possible. So in honor of my recently celebrated birthday, I thought I’d take a minute to reflect with the help of the official birthday questions (Thanks Jessie!).

What was the best part of the last year?

The best part of the last year has been seeing how much more I am capable of than I even realized. A year ago I was still an intern who wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do. In the last year I was hired full-time, helped out on some high profile projects, and was accepted to graduate school.

But even beyond all of that, I think that the biggest growth has come in my Church callings. I love thinking about who needs a visit or a meal or a hug and then being the person who brightens another’s day. While these aren’t unnatural responses for me, my natural inclination is to talk to people I already know and stay home on Friday night with a good book. Knowing there are people I want to meet and reach out to has helped me overcome that and build more meaningful relationships.

Something I hope I take away from this experience is that I don’t have to be in a specific calling to minister to the people around me. So much of what I’m doing now, could be done by any member of the ward.

What is a piece of wisdom you’ve gained over the last year?

Keep moving forward and don’t freak out too much. It’s going to work out.

In retrospect that seems so easy to say. That I shouldn’t have been freaking out when my internship was ending and I didn’t have a job, or when I decided to do an MBA and didn’t know what schools I should apply to, or when I had a disagreement with someone and thought we could never recover our friendship.

Thinking about the big decisions and problems and how they could effect your life is almost paralyzing, but stopping for a second and thinking, “What can I do about this today?” has helped me continue moving forward despite the overwhelming stuff that I know needs to be resolved. And it often puts me in a better place by the time the resolution need to be made.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?

I’m excited to go back to school (minus the lack of sleep, homework, and tuition). I like being stretched intellectually and can already see it applying to work situations. I know it’s going to push me and help me become a better contributor and I like the idea of having more capacity and skills. And surprisingly, I’m excited to meet new people (that’s big for an introvert.) Especially new friends that are outside of my normal Church employment/ward circles.

Fear and Faith

Every mission has its challenges, and every missionary has their challenges. One of my challenges was street contacting. In Poland, a staunch Catholic, post-Soviet nation, we didn’t have a lot of investigators, or members to visit, so we spent the majority of our time on the street trying to find people to teach.

This entailed walking up to strangers, trying to start a conversation, and bringing up things like their relationship with God, their hopes for their family, and what role religion played in their life, an intimidating task without a language barrier.

This turned out to be significantly more difficult for me than I’d anticipated. Every time I saw another person, an internal battle would rage inside of me about whether or not I was going to contact them. I knew it was the right thing to do, that I had flown half-way across the world to do just that, but every muscle in my body told me it was too scary, too awkward, and I wasn’t very good at speaking Polish anyway.

Then, after I would walk past them, I was filled with guilt for not following through. I mean, I even had a companion right next to me to help me out if I stumbled.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy at first, but what became even more difficult was the fact that it didn’t get better with time. Months went by, and it was still a terrifying battle just to walk on the streets or sit next to someone on a bus. I didn’t understand why God’s response to my struggle to serve Him wasn’t to help me out.

I arrived in Poland at the beginning of Fall, and during one of my first weeks there my companion and I were going for a walk with a member named Ania. On our walk, Ania bent down and picked up one of the buckeyes that were all over the ground in the park. She explained that they were lucky, and that many Polish people would take them home and keep them on shelves, in drawers, and in their pockets. So, of course, I picked a few up and put them in my pockets.

What this meant was that every time I was having one of my internal battles about whether or not I was going to contact a person, I was clenching the buckeyes in my pockets. In order to talk to a person, I needed to let go, take my hands out of my pockets, and open my mouth.

Every time I let go of the buckeyes, it was an act of faith. Of letting go of my fears and trusting God and trusting myself. Of allowing myself to make mistakes. If I could just let go of the buckeye, I would have the courage to take my hands out of my pockets and talk to the person passing by.

I have some good news and some bad news about how this story ends. The good news is that I survived my mission and met some of the most amazing people, several of them by street contacting.

You see, over months and months of missionary work, I trained myself to let go of the buckeye as soon as I saw a person. But that didn’t mean that it was any easier or that it didn’t take just as much faith. I remember contacting on the very last day of my mission and consciously realizing that I had just as much fear and anxiety about contacting as I did at the beginning of my mission, and yet it was my automatic response. Why?

For starters, my desire to do it had increased because I had seen the impact of the gospel in several people’s lives. And once I got passed the initial contacting phase of the conversation, meeting new people and learning about their lives was one of my absolute favorite things about my mission, even when they decided they didn’t want to learn more about Mormonism. Although the fear never really went away, I was still able to move forward and have good experiences.

A few months ago I was taking a walk during my lunch break and when I looked down I saw a whole bunch of buckeyes on the ground. It made me smile. Being from Las Vegas, I’d never seen them in the United States before, so naturally I knelt down and picked one up.

It’s funny how it somehow made its way into my pocket on days when I had to teach a lesson, a big meeting, or the day I started graduate school. Every time I put my hands in my pocket, it reminds me that I can do scary things, that I can trust the Lord even when I’m afraid, and that I can’t let the fear of making mistakes stop me from moving forward with my life.

So here’s one of my stories of fear and faith. What are the buckeyes that have given you strength to succeed in your life?

A Year of Change

Denver #templeselfie.

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A year ago, I came to work every day as an intern and sat in Intern Alley with Marinda and Kristen as we chatted about life and clicked away at our keyboards.

A year ago, I lived with two stressed out roommates who were applying to graduate school.

A year ago, I was feeling the overwhelming pressure to figure out a real job and was sending in applications every day, but still not exactly sure what I was looking for.

A year ago, I went home to Vegas for Christmas with a brother who had just gotten back from Ukraine and the prospects of a new sister-in-law.

A year ago, everything was on the brink of change, and you know what happened this year? The change came. When I look back at the last 12 months and think about where I was, it frankly makes me stop in my tracks. But at the same time, it was so natural that it’s difficult to imagine being back where I was a year ago.

This year, I have a full-time job I love. Marinda isn’t my co-worker, she’s my roommate. My best friend’s in Chicago. My brother is married (along with two of my dearest friends). And I’m about to start graduate school in less than two weeks.

That sounds like a lot of change, but at the same time, a year is a long time. There are 365 days to dream things up and work on projects and go on adventures and meet new people. So yes, a lot has changed this year, but it doesn’t feel that extreme because it didn’t happen in a day. Each day I woke up and chipped away at the changes I wanted to see in my life and made a little progress toward decisions that needed to be made and eventually they transformed my life. It’s the strange and wonderful thing about life. We’re constantly changing, but we can take it one day at a time.

 

 

 

London

#milleniumbridge in #London. #stpaulscathedral#europeallenvacation

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I moved to London 7 years ago this week for a 4 month study abroad, but I had no idea that a little part of my soul would always miss it. Is it strange that I’ve only spent a small percentage of my life there, but in so many ways, I feel more at home there than any other city?

Whether it’s strange or not, it’s true. There’s just something about it that makes me feel alive and free. Every corner is lovely and interesting and I feel like I belong in the multi-cultural mix of pedestrians on the street hurrying to their destinations.

I really love living in Utah, but as I drive home each day, I miss the architectural beauty of living in a city, a big city, where you rarely escape the press of skyscrapers, except in the parks that interrupt the busy streets.

Which is why visiting for a few days last month was a dream. It felt like coming home.

Beach Appeal

Just watching sailboats on the beach. #paradise #europeallenvacation #greekvacation #poros #nofilter

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I have to admit, I haven’t really seen the appeal of beaches for most of my life. I’m a swimmer who loves being in the water, but going to lakes or the ocean wasn’t really a regular occurrence for my family. The few times I did go, we always spent more time doing other things than actually swimming and sitting on the beach.

But this summer, we decided that we wanted to spend our last full day in Greece on one of the islands, and we took a ferry out to Poros. It’s not a large island. Mostly it’s time-shares and beaches with several restaurants and souvenir shops near the port. But it was perfect. I swam around and lay in the sun all day. Heaven!

I swam out about 20 feet from the beach as soon as we arrived and looked at the bay that surrounded the beach and the sailboats that had anchored themselves there and could barely comprehend that I was actually there seeing this with my own eyes and not just looking at a photograph someone else had taken. This was real!

My only regret is that I didn’t devote more time to being on the islands. Taking the ferry back to Athens that afternoon was so bittersweet. I wasn’t ready to leave, and could have used a few more days of sun and water.

Impressions of Athens

Walking through history. #magical #Acropolis #greekvacation #europeallenvacation

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Athens wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be. You see pictures of the Greek islands and they’re all picturesque white buildings and tile roofs and you can always see the crystal clear ocean. What I realized was that Greece is about as close as you can get to paradise, but that perfect picture that I was expecting doesn’t really exist in the big city. It’s loud and dirty and there are tons of people.

Does that mean that I don’t think you should go to Athens. On the contrary. It’s a fun city with amazing history. And there’s something wonderful about history and real life coexisting.

The Acropolis took my breath away. It was amazing to know that I was standing in ancient theaters and temples that were used thousands of years ago. And the view of the sprawling city and sea was stunning. I loved the Olympic Stadium and the museums and eating fresh food on the warf.

Go to Greece, and don’t miss Athens. But if you want Pinterest picture of quaint streets, you’ll probably also want to go to some of the islands.

What to Do the Week Before You Travel

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The week before you travel can be really stressful. You’re trying to finish up a bunch of things at work and at home before you go, and then you’re also trying to get everything you’ll need on your trip. So you don’t have to think of everything, here’s a list of my must do tasks the week before I leave.

  • Call your credit card company and bank. If you don’t call them, there’s a chance they’ll think your card has been stolen and shut it down once you make purchases in a new country.
  • Call your phone company. Find out what international packages and deals they have. See what the fees will be for calls, texts, and data usage.
  • Pack everything a couple days beforehand so that anything you’re missing can be picked up before you go, or if you’re luggage is over the allowed weight you can decide what not to bring.
  • Pick up cash in the currency you’ll need where you’re traveling. You don’t need to bring all the cash for your whole trip, in fact it’s better not to be carrying around that kind of money, but it’s good to have enough to get you through the first day.
  • Download apps for the public transit systems where you’re going.
  • Take a photo of your passport and keep it in a separate bag from your actual passport. If something happens and you loose it, having this picture might make the difference between you getting on a plane or not.
  • Take a deep breath. Just relax a little and let yourself get excited for the trip. It’s going to be great!