I wanted to write you to share my experience of coming home and life after the mission.
Well, during most of the flight I was preoccupied with mini panic attacks because I HATED flying. I was NEVER a fan of flying in an airplane, so the fact that my mission president ignored my pleads of flying home with the other 3 So.Cal missionaries, made me too mad and crazy to think of the fact that my mission was ending in mere hours. It was during my last leg of the flight home (Chicaco >SD) that I started to actually enjoy flying. I was blessed to sit next to an angel who basically talked me "off the ledge" and helped me appreciate the beauty of flying. It was nice, I wanted to enjoy the flight even longer, for more reasons than just the obvious one that was staring me square in the face.
I remember landing and thinking, "Wow, I'm HOME!! I'm home in beautiful San Diego!!" I wanted to cry! I had so many emotions going through me.... I was elated that I FINALLY overcame my fear of flying. I was excited to be home in my hometown. I was dang hot because I was still dressed in winter clothes (I came home on Feb. 12) and I forgot how SD doesn't have east coast winters. I was nervous to see my family again---"Did I transform into the RM they were expecting?" I was sad because I missed my dear mission president and all the people I had grown to love. I was scared because I wasn't use to this hometown of mine being so "foreign". "Was I the person that everyone had hoped I'd become in the last 18 months?" I walked a little slower when I came off the plane....also due to the fact that I hadn't flown since I was 9 years old, so I didn't exactly know where to go. (Follow the crowd and walk towards the escalators to the "baggage claim") I went to the restroom to freshen up, splash some cold water on my face since 6 hours of flying, and being up since 4am (east coast time) did a number on me. I walked slowly towards the elevators, scanning down below for my family. "Was this really it? Was I gonna be released as a missionary so soon???" (even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes) I couldn't find my family anywhere. I was riding the escalators down and looking all around for my family. I finally spotted them. I had hoped for HUGE banners to greet me, but they were kinda just kicked back, lounging around. My foot finally touched down off the escalator and I walked up to my family. I tapped my brother on the back and they all turned around in shock! They weren't expecting me to come from the direction that I did. It was scary, exciting and overwhelming---almost like the MTC, You're excited to be there, unsure of what's to come, surrounded by people who are ecstatic that you're there but just trying to understand everything around you. It was all a blur, the boys (my nephews, back when they were all shorter than me) were elated to have me home and drew the coolest posters for me. They had grown so much! My niece, who was a baby when I left, was now old enough to run around and had pig tails! I just couldn't wrap my head around all of it. My parents looked older and more fragile. There were some other people there, that I didn't know and it was overwhelming trying to remember who they were. However, they were excited to see me. A few other close family friends were there and they kept asking me, "Are you excited to be home?" "How do you feel?" Honestly, it was A LOT to take in at once because I wasn't use to NOT having a companion by my side and even though I knew I was home, seeing it and experiencing it all felt like a "familiar foreign". I got tired of hearing those two questions because I wasn't excited to be home, I wanted to go running back to New Jersey. It did become my "holy ground" and my "home away from home" but of course I couldn't exactly show it because everyone around me was extremely excited to have me home.
I told my family that all I really wanted to do was go to the temple when I got home. I wanted to do a session, but everyone just wanted to spend time with me, to talk with me in person. I'm glad we didn't go do a session because I was emotionally, mentally and physically tired. We took pictures and then headed home.
Home was foreign to me, because they had redone the kitchen, dinning room and part of the living room due to a plumbing problem that happened as soon as I left for my mission. I felt like they had to navigate me around the house. Everyone was still so excited to have me home, so everyone talking at once and asking me a million questions was seriously overwhelming. I didn't know what to do with myself. My mind was still in missionary mode thinking of how I'm wasting time, I should be doing something and how it felt wrong to not have a companion by my side. I was finally able to sneak away and went to my room, which was actually transformed into my niece's room. So I felt even more out of place. I just wanted some quiet, some alone time to wrap my head around all of this. We had a house full of people and I wasn't use to that....especially when you live alone with just your companion. I started to cry, my heart longed for New Jersey. I would have given ANYTHING to be out tracting in the snow with that least favorite companion of mine. My sister came to find me and that was really reassuring. She understood, as only an RM can understand the "transition". I had to get ready because I had to head up to the Stake Center to be released.
Pres. Clove was called while I was out in the field (and was actually out of town) , so I'm glad that it was Pres. Norris who was the one to release me (someone I did know). My parents came with me, but Pres. Norris called me into his office and we sat down together, had a word of prayer and talked about my mission. He asked me all about it and then pulled out a letter that my beloved mission president had personally written Pres. Clove in regards to my service. I started bawling like a baby. My president had become like a 2nd Dad to me, I loved him (and still love him) so much. Then he handed over my certificate of release that both Pres. Daw & Pres. Clove had signed. I was then invited to take off my name tag. Man, I cried like a baby. You never know how attached you are to that name tag until you can no longer wear it as a full-time, set apart missionary. I could feel the mantle of a missionary taken off my shoulder. I felt like a shell of someone that I use to know, 18 months prior. He gave me some counsel but I was still trying to grasp what just happened, I was released. We prayed together and then he walked me out to my waiting parents.
When I got home, I was tired, due to the fact that my body was still on east coast time (+3 hours). As usual, I wrote in my journal and said my evening prayers.
I awoke the next day and felt as though it was all a dream. Sadly, it wasn't. I was home. I wasn't a missionary. And there was noise all around me. I tried to do my "normal" missionary routine, but trying to prayerfully study the scriptures amongst a house full of family was difficult. I missed the silence of a missionary apartment. I didn't really do much when I got home. Due to a glitch of trying to renew my license before leaving on my mish, somehow turned into having my license disqualified---meaning, I couldn't drive. So I didn't really go anywhere unless a family member drove. I stayed home and caught up on movies--G rated of course, because I still felt like I was breaking mission rules for even watching TV/movies. I felt like I was wasting time since all my time wasn't accounted for something--like missionary work. For days I was "bombarded" with millions of questions of my mission. (this is where my last companion really affected me) Due to my last companion's endless interrogations, I didn't really feel like answering everyone's questions. I just wanted to clam up, I didn't want to talk much. My family and a lot of my friends were surprised that I was more introverted than before my mission. Being with her, really took a toll and was so mentally and socially exhausting.
Two days after I got home, my Mom said that she was going to go to a ward Valentine's Day party at the building. I thought I'd go with her cause then it'd give me some time to catch up with old ward friends. Well, my Mom dropped me off and went to go "pick up my Aunt". That's what she told me, but she didn't come back til after the Vday party. I was so furious with my Mom because she dropped me off and I had to fend for myself, ALONE. The ward had changed and I hardly knew anyone. I ended up playing the piano for most of the time and later kicking it with one of my old "Faith in God" girls (she was 12). I was mad--stuck at a ward Valentines Day party with strangers on the one holiday where you feel THE MOST single---as if being without a companion was hard enough.
In time, it got easier. My brother & sister took me clothes shopping so I was able to get away from missionary clothes. I dropped a lot of weight on my mission and had grown into what a woman should wear, so new clothes was definitely a must. I started to hang out with more of MY friends (not just family friends) and that helped acclimate me into "real life"/"the world". I wasn't constantly being reminded of my mission and that was good, especially when trying to be "Ehulani", no longer "Sister Lomu". I was able to talk to my favorite companion/best friend(we were MTC roommates and also served together in NJ) a couple days after coming home and we talked about our "transition" together. It was nice to know that we were experiencing the same "foreign" life together.
It takes time. Maybe, hopefully, your transition doesn't come close to mind. I tread more on the fearful/caution side, so I don't do so well when thrown into a situation.
As for Simione, as soon as we picked him up, we headed over to In N Out, like he requested, ate some food and then headed over to the stake center to be released. It was hard for him. He cried a lot too. So expect A LOT of tears when you're released (ie: WATERPROOF MASCARA!!! :] ) Then we headed over to our friends', The Buswells, house for birthday cake---since it was Kea's birthday. After which, Simi (who planned on it), Kea & I headed to Thursday night Volleyball. Simi had flown for about 22 hours and was up for maybe 36 hours, was still the same rambunctious, off the wall, highly energetic Simi. We played Volleyball, Dodgeball and Extreme Frisbee---he was the MOST energetic person in the cultural hall!!! CRAZY!!! When we got home, Kea and I still hung out with him and didn't go to sleep til 6am. Simi was still on Fiji time. I don't know exactly what Simi was thinking or feeling, but we tried to keep him as busy as possible. He latched on to the internet when he got home and threw himself back into the music world. I tried to do that for myself, but ALL my CD's were taken over by my family. Basically, all my stuff was gone. Yeah, that sucked. I had this book called, "Returning with Honor" which totally helped me and I tried to get Simi to read it too, but he was too busy with the internet---searching for anything related to Fiji. Luckily, he was able to connect with so many old comps and friends via FB & Skype.
So my friend, I don't know what your own transition will be like. I think I gave you two extremes of "transitions". Hopefully you're more like Simi and you throw yourself back into life. But whatever it'll be, just know that I am here for you and if you just need a friend to sit in silence with, I can do that to..... but just know that in my head I'll be thinking of "game" scenarios. My number's still the same (#) so call me whenever (ANY time) you want and we can talk or hang or kanikapila.... You'll get through the transition...."What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", Too true.
I'll see you at the airport!!! I LOVE YOU!!! I MEES YOU!!