Three years ago, the summer before my senior year, I decided to take summer school. I wanted to get my senior project out of the way to make my senior year less stressful and so I could maybe graduate early. Years prior to this summer I developed an interest in the Middle East and had expressed interest in learning Arabic only to my parents. Believe it or not, I was embarrassed to tell my friends, family, and people who would ask what I wanted to do when I was in college, this interest of mine. I didn’t think it was very realistic and it was just random. Arabic? Middle East? Where was this coming from? I could hear people saying, ‘what are you going to do with that?’ and ‘well you better watch out, it’s pretty scary over there.’ (which is a common reaction) Not only was I embarrassed, but I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. I remember doubting the possibility all together and I put this dream on the back burner placing my focus elsewhere.
Well, three years ago I couldn’t keep it back there any longer.
In Idaho every senior has to give a huge presentation about a bill or law in which they make amendments to and give recommendations based on their research. That summer was the last semester in which your law could be on an international level. It has since changed to only state laws. I wrote mine about the United States foreign policy towards the Middle East, and that it needs to change. I used the past and current relationship between the US and Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran as examples of the way our government’s rhetoric does not match up with our actions. This project brought back that desire to learn and understand more about the Middles East, and especially the desire to be able to communicate with the people.
While I was giving that presentation, literally the exact time 11-1130 on July 22, my cross country coach and three of my teammates were in a car accident. I remember driving home from my presentation relieved and happy to be done with a long intense semester. I was super excited to go home and pack for our xc sawtooth running camp the next day. It was also raining. A few hours later I received the news that Steven had died. Mr. Mabey was in critical condition. Austin was in surgery, and Michael was doing ok.
The number one priority at this time in my life was my xc team. And it had been for a while. I started running xc in the sixth grade, when I actually first met Austin and Michael. I loved running. My team was my second family. I feel like runners have such a stronger relationship with each other than most other teams. We fight and struggle not only physically, but mentally as well. We push our minds and bodies to complete insanity, a feeling that only we know and understand. Our team got along so well. We hung out with each other outside of practice on a regular basis. We just had a really strong bond that I continue to reminisce and reflect on. However, it’s not always the good times I remember. After Steven died, I feel like our team kinda fell apart. Everyone had their own way of dealing with it. The accident affected each of us in different ways and we tried to pick up the pieces the best we way we knew how. I remember a lot of unnecessary and disappointing drama. I remember being hurt and completely helpless. I tried so hard to hold on to the perfection of what we had been the year before. I had always thought that tragic things like this brought people closer together, and I always expected that it would turn itself around as such, but I don’t feel that it did.
I want to make clear that I do not put blame on anyone. I do believe that things happen for a reason. I accept that it was Steven’s time and that we all needed to learn something from it. I do however regret how I may or may not have handled the situation. As a senior, it was my responsibility to hold the team together. I don’t know if I was a good enough friend and support for my team. I don’t know how I should have done it differently. In the twenty years on my life (I know it’s not that long) this is the only time of my life that I regret. If I could go back I would try to figure out how I could fix this. I know that I may be the only one who feels this way. I feel like I didn’t really heal properly. I played lacrosse instead of running track, and I left for college two weeks after I graduated. This was an important time that I needed with my people, and I didn’t give that to myself. I needed my team. I needed to heal with them, instead of silently on my own. This hit me really hard that next summer. My first semester of college was miserable and the only thing that kept me together was that I went running every single day. The rest of my team was moving on together and I wanted to be there so bad. I’ve always known that all of us would graduate and move on and we would go different places and do different things with our lives, but I never considered that we would never keep in touch. There are a few that still hangout on a regular basis, even though they’ve since left high school. They had another year to run and be together in order to heal and move on. I’m so jealous of that. I think those of us who graduated that year have grown apart the most and I haven’t spoken to them in a long time, nor have I spoken to others on my team.
Running was my passion. I loved it. I used to be really good at it. It made me relaxed and was more of a relief from the stress of my life. Nowadays, it sometimes makes me more frustrated than ever because I can’t run as fast as I could and that I have no one to run with. If you had told me my junior year in high school, that as I approached my junior year in college I wouldn’t be running very much anymore, I would have told you that you were crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I do go through phases where I run a lot for a couple months and then I don’t. It’s kindof the new pattern of mine. I also have seen that this loss has carried over into other passions that I had. I was more creative. I loved music more and spent hours finding new bands. I don’t even remember the last time I did that. I used to read books ALL the time. Now it’s a chore just to finish books required for school.
This is what I reflect on every summer. However, this year I have discovered something else; something that I find to be very precious to me. And that is the connection I feel with Steven and my team. Although I didn’t know him very well and not very long, I realize that he shares some of the most important events in my life that have furthered my interests in the Middle East. My senior project was such a big deal to me. It was kindof my statement to the world that I was serious about it. It also made me super vulnerable because I couldn’t turn back now; I had to go for it. Even still, I doubted myself. It was the turning point in my life just as it was the end of his life on earth. That next summer, as I said, was miserable. I was lost. I remember being very frustrated with the lack of direction in my life and on his first anniversary, I recall the thought of ‘yes you do have one kaiti, you figured it out last year, why aren’t you doing it?’ This surprised me and intimidated me. I spent that next year debating in my mind if and how I was going to do it. Most of my friends didn’t know of my plans. I remember telling one of my best friends that I wanted to learn Arabic and she agreed with me how unrealistic it was. I wasn’t a student at BYU and I didn’t know when and if that would happen so I didn’t really do anything about it. That year was one of the most depressing times ever. It was just left overs from the summer before and got worse.
On Steven’s second anniversary I would find myself sitting in the Intensive Arabic 101-102 class at BYU. The events that got me to that place are still somewhat unknown to me, but I truly feel that Steven played a part in some way. As cheesy at that sounds, I can’t help it. I can’t even begin to express how that summer changed my life. Even though I had lost the passion running gave me in my life, I had found it through Arabic. It was the hardest and best thing I have ever done in my life. I loved it! I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. I can’t imagine going back to who I was before; I don’t even know who that person is anymore. That fall, through means not unto my own, I was able to take 201 and became a legit BYU student in the winter. It put the fire back into me to care about school and work hard again.
This summer, on Steven’s third anniversary, I found myself standing in front of the Amman, Jordan Branch relief society, teaching a lesson about desire in English and Arabic. I recalled Steven’s example to me of desire. He wanted to be a great runner, and he was. He worked so hard to achieve what he desired and was a great example to everyone around him. He also had a strong desire to become closer to Christ. And he lived his life in such a way. My new passion in life has become learning Arabic and advocating for the Middle East. I finally did what I had wanted to do for so long. Finally people knew about what I wanted to do and I have their support. I am learning and experiencing the culture that I have wanted to be a part of for so long. I’m learning the language that I thought was impossible for me. I like knowing that Steven is progressing in this process with me and I plan to take his memory with me throughout my life and my career in the Middle East.
Even though I have found my new passion, I can still feel myself losing focus and being overwhelmed by my future goals. I think it’s because I haven’t reconciled what happened with what was once most important to me and the people that are still important to me. Since I’ve been here in Jordan I have really tried to find some of the passions I’ve lost and develop the newer ones. I’m nervous about my upcoming semester. I can’t believe that these will be the last required Arabic classes in order to receive my degree and be able to say I know Arabic…but I have come a long way and I am ready to settle down, get my shiz together, and start some intense studying!!
P.S. I’m sure this makes no sense. But It’s been on my mind for a while and I needed to sort it out and write it down!
P.S.S I really hope some of you know where the title of my blog is from...