I've been bursting with proudness (The good kind, the 'I did it and I totally didn't cheat my way through!' type of pride, not the 'Everyone else can suck it because I'm more awesome than you!' type)
On Sunday, the 16th of November, 2014, I graduated from Seminary.
When I began Seminary, I was only a convert of about 3-4 months. I had only been to Seminary twice prior to that, and that was as an Investigator and to see what my older brother, Michael, went to every morning at 6:30am. I wasn't impressed.
The teachers changed between the time my brother graduated (He finished the year before I began, so I was starting fresh by myself with no aid) so I had a brand new Seminary teacher, and her name was Moana Howe. Every morning she would take me to and from the chapel without question, without delay, and without judgement when she'd drive by my house and I wasn't waiting outside, so she'd honk and get no response because I was cocooned in my blanket and zombie-like tired.
To say there were some challenges would be putting it incredibly lightly. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do besides becoming a convert to the church, and Personal Progress. While Personal Progress only took me a year to complete (I set a goal and was very determined to see it through) and joining the church and being baptised only took around 6 months, Seminary seems much larger on scale with it's time span of four years. And it was very overwhelming. My first year was tough because I wasn't used to getting up at 5:45am to wake up, get dressed, eat, and be ready to be at Seminary by 6:30am. When I realised there was Scripture Mastery too, my anxiety went into overdrive and I found myself getting very easily frustrated whenever I would try to start memorising one larger than 2 verses. My brother was one of my greatest helps in showing me how to mark them properly so that I could find them, writing up on a piece of paper the first-letter method to memorisation, and also the tip of starting with all the short ones first, then spending more time on the larger 5+ verses ones.
One of my lowest points in my first year of Seminary (We were studying Doctrine and Covenants for my first year) was when we started doing the scripture mastery and I saw Joseph Smith History 1:15-20. It was a page and a half long, written in very small font. I remember crying a lot at that point, and my brother having to coax me out of it and saying that it looked much harder than it actually was.
Seminary helped me with my perfectionism a lot, but at times it did make it even worse. I was so eager to get 100% every single time, that it occasionally drove me a little bonkers. I would spend an hour or two slaving over memorising that scripture. I was going to finish it, even if it meant that I'd fail everything else.
With the sheer determination of a stubborn donkey, I memorised that scripture mastery and can somewhat recite it word for word now. Besides two other people in the class, we were the only ones who did memorise it because everyone else said it was too much of a challenge. That just added to my pride belt of accomplishments.
My first year was also my most awkward. I, at that point, didn't really care what I wore or how I looked because it was 6am in the morning. I ended up going for probably the first 6 months in trackies, the most randomest of shoes that I'd grab last minute (once I came in with a pair of boot heels...I didn't even realise until Sis Howe pointed it out after class and I was thinking, what is she even talking about?) and with my hair looking like one of those boy haircuts with the bun on top.
It was a hot mess, and I have no shame in admitting that. It was hard getting into the routine of going to bed early (Which I never did) and waking up early (Which I hated) to go to class (Which I would usually fall asleep in or cozy up next to the heater) and sometimes play the occasional games of humiliation (Charades of Scripture Masteries when you're half asleep and wearing boot heels. Sigh)
But I finished that year completing for the first time with a 100%, Gold With Honors. It was hard because my family was still in the process of joining the church themselves, so I really had to rely on my teacher for support, and my older brother for encouragement when I honestly wanted to throw in the towel and burn the scripture mastery book while I danced around it.
My second year began with studying the Old Testament. Now, the Old Testament is still confusing as heck for me. I can't even look at the book of Isaiah without feeling sleep drag me down to the floor, and the songs...THE SONGS.
Sister Howe was a very inventive teacher. It was something I absolutely adored and loved about her, but when it was happening I wish the windows were thinner so I could have jumped out of them. One of her invention creations was for us to memorise the primary songs about the gospels we were studying in the book that year. We couldn't do it with the Doctrine and Covenants (SEEECCTIIIOOOON....123456789101112131415 - EVERYBODY NOW!) But the Old Testament was different. There were books with names, so the year began with Sister Howe riling us up to compete in a competition where we'd all sing the song together, then she'd point at one table and only that table would sing it alone, then she'd point at another table and it'd jump. Sometimes it worked really well and all the kids got really into it, and sometimes you've have all the loud people at one table and all the introverted shy people at another table, so the sound levels would jump quite noticeably. I can still sing these songs till this day, because we'd sing it at least twice a week for us to memorise all the books. (Geeeenesis, Eeeeeeexodus, LEVITICUSSSSSS, NUUUUMBEEEERS! DEEEEUUUUTERONNOOMMMYYYJOSHUA JUUUUUDGESRUTH!) If you were in our seminary class, that is completely accurate of how we sang it.
I don't remember much of my Second Year because it was getting easier to get into the routine. It was still a challenge, but being a second yearer allowed me to know certain routine aspects, and how I deal with them. It was also the year when I kind of 'Came To' and realised that what I was wearing was making me into an early Spinster. I began to dress more normally and socially acceptable. I went from Spinster to Weird-Cat-Lady.
That was also the year more games were planned to incorporate the lesson and to make it interactive (That was sometimes my least favourite part because it required getting up and physically moving, but it's something I remember most)
One of the activities that I remember very vividly to this day was when we all went to the Hall, and an obstacle course was set up. Sis Howe picked two boys, one to be the 'Prophet' and the other boy to be 'Us, or the Follower'. The rest of us were assigned the job of 'Distractions', 'Demons', or 'Distruptors'. Whatever you want to call it, we just had to shout at the Follower without touching him and our goal was to move him off the path and try to distract him from reaching the Prophet.
The obstacle course was really not that difficult, it maybe swayed once or twice to the opposite direction, but generally it was a clear and simple course. As we all shouted at him, and the voice of the prophet was left to a little squeak amidst the screeching and howling of the Disruptors, we did manage to get the Follower to get off the path and actually bump into one of the girls and fall onto her *Great Times!*. For me, it was such a memorable game because of the principles it was teaching, but also because the Follower voted that I was the loudest. #Cantcontainthemachinewithin
The other games were usually about us racing to find the scriptures, which often left those who only brought their mobile phones acting like this...
My other favourite game included a wrapped up newspaper, the group in a circle, and all of us having a name picked from the book that we were studying that year (I was often the Songs of Solomon because no one wanted to say the entire thing without it coming out like 'SONGOLOLAOFOGSOLOMONOMON!' when panicked because the impending doom of the newspaper wrath) So if you picked something like 'Haggai', it was more likely to be chosen because no one forgets the funny sounding names that are short. (I nailed this down to a science, my friends. I will not be hit again by a newspaper so viciously that it left a mark.)
My Third Year: The New Testament. Dayum. This has to be my best year BY FAR. Perhaps it's just my attitude towards everything, or the fact that I was called as the Class President, or really mastered the scriptures for that year, or that I was actually feeling comfortable around the other students and was becoming friends with some of them even more than I had expected. That year was the happiest for me, although I was feeling a bit disgruntled with some of the students who were clashing with me but that was all sorted through eventually. I still remember all the references to the New Testament Scripture Masteries, and have a whole notebook full of notes from that year.
Also, Sis Howe LOVES making us food because she knows that it's a hard life to get prepared for the rest of the day. A lot of after Seminary was spent eating yummy biscuits, or potato gems, or cookies with milk, or cinnamon rolls (I don't like Cinnamon rolls, but Sis Howe caters to all her students) Perhaps it's because she loves us as her class, or because we were always complaining like -
Seminary has been a large part of how I gradually came to know a lot of the truths in the gospel, and strengthened my testimony of them without me even knowing it. It helped me know my Saviour and Heavenly Father better and more intimately.
I'm actually really distraught that my Seminary time is over. Sure, I applied myself as best as I could and studied hard, but there was so much I could have filled in and done more. It's sad, but change is good. Change comes whether or not we're ready. It doesn't discriminate, or wait for us to have a good attitude change for it.
I'm so happy that I've graduated, and met so many wonderful people along the way, and had a teacher who truly loved me and wanted the best for me (And always kept me up on the goss of the Seminary Class. WHO WAS DATING WHO?!)
In saying that, I really wish I had a picture of myself when I first started Seminary, but alas...I didn't think that far ahead. Here are some pictures from the Graduation night :) Featured is my beautiful Mummy, my rugged Dad, and Stephen, my best guy friend who was graduating too!
I'm now ready and excited for my next adventure; Mission? Marriage? Reading more scriptures and totally ignoring everyone and all my responsibilities? Check!