It's the small things...

How did I get here?

(I don’t mean in the ethereally philosophical sense.)

I mean, how did I get here—sitting in a cubicle in the National Air and Space Museum, waiting for September to roll around so I can start grad school, and volunteering at the Save Darfur Coalition in the mean time?

I think I got here through a series of seemingly insignicant choices...

It all started my junior year of college, back in September 2002. Fall semester that year was awful. I was only taking twelve credits, but my classes were killing me. My two history courses required hours of reading and hours of cramming. (It didn't help that they were totally unrelated to one other---"Traditional Chinese History" and the "History of the American West.") Even though I stayed at the library until 12AM every night, I still felt like I was lagging behind.

Not only was I burnt out on academics, I was also burnt on in my social life. My three roommates all had boyfriends and I was feeling a bit left out. To counter my dating woes, I decided to befriend all of the boys in my apartment complex. (I did a pretty good job! Only a few males were able to escape the chains of my friendship.) I made a lot of friends and acquaintances that semester, but I doubted if any of them truly cared about me. I was very sad.

Some time in November I had a breakdown. It wasn't a nervous breakdown by any means, but I was frustrated, hopeless, and depressed. I didn't want to study and I didn't want to socialize. I just wanted to go home. Luckily for me though, I had wonderful roommates who helped me through my troubles. They listened to me and they prayed for me. They offered me hope and lots of love. Through this trial I learned to take better care of myself: I learned to balance my life better and I realized I stressed too much over the small stuff.

Come January I was feeling better, but I was still itching to get out of Provo. I decided then that I needed to spend a few months abroad and so I applied to BYU's London program. In February I found out I had gotten in and in September 2003 I hopped across the pond to spend the next four months of my life as an ex-pat.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my semester abroad changed my life. In fact, I often divide my life into two halves: pre-London and post-London. Even now---nearly three years after my study abroad---I can still see its effects in my every day life:

1.) My job. When I was in London, I became fascinated with museums and I decided to pursue a career in the museum world. After I returned to BYU, I interned at the Springville Museum of Art in Fall 2004 and at the MOA in Winter 2005. These internships helped me land an internship at the National Air and Space Museum---where I currently work.

2.) My graduate studies. After my semester abroad, I took a history course from Dr. Paul Kerry. Dr. Kerry was a wonderful teacher and he was also a wonderful advisor and friend. He encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree---and to pursue it in the U.K.

Dr. Kerry undertook his PhD at Oxford and he knew I was enamored with British life. "Why not get your masters done in a year and enjoy yourself in England?" he asked. What wonderful logic!

3.) My trip to China. The class I took from Dr. Kerry was entitled, "Public History and Popular Memory." Basically, we studied history in the public sphere---museums, memorials, historic homes, documentaries, etc. After we studied the failed exhibition of the Enola Gay (ironically at the National Air and Space Museum), I became fascinated by how museums reflect and shape public opinion.

Thus, I decided to apply for an ORCA grant to study museums in communist China. In May, I went to China for the first time with my papa. Not only did I visit a lot of museums, I also got to eat a sea cucumber! (Kind of gross.)

Coincidentally, when I visited the Great Wall, I struck up a conversation with a professor from a college in California. I expressed to her that I wanted to study history in the U.K.

"Have you ever thought about the London School of Economics?" she asked.

Enough said.

4.) My friends. I consider myself such a lucky girl to have met so many wonderful people on my study abroad: Alexis, Kristen, Janice, Lisa, Lindsey, Kristen D., Heidi, Kim, Leslie---oh, the list is endless! And I'm headed to Las Vegas tomorrow to attend Alexis' wedding!

5.) My first real, earth-shattering heartbreak. Hmmmm...we probably don't need to go into detail about this! But my first real heartbreak has taught me so much about love, about marriage, about relationships, and about faith. It has broken my soul and it has challenged me in ways that I never thought I would be challenged. It has been the toughest trial in my life (I guess I haven't been through very much, eh?). But I have emerged from it a stronger and a more open-minded person. I have learned greater empathy and greater patience. I know I am a different person because of it---and for the better.

So there you have it. How did I get to this point in my life? Through a lot of little choices here and there, through a few big trials, and through a lot of prayer and faith.

As I embark upon my second journey to London, I can only hope that it will be as fruitful as the first.