Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stories from My Mission: I Enter the MTC

So this story isn't strictly from my mission, but is about the few days right before I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC).

The actual act of entering the MTC is the ultimate step before you are really committed to being on a mission. Even though the missionaries are set apart usually the day before, or perhaps sooner, and are thus technically missionaries, it is not until they enter the MTC that there is a real feeling of being on a mission. It is an almost indescribable feeling. For all missionaries there are always the last minute things ("Did I pack everything that I need?", "Do I have all my shots?" etc.) and it was the same with me except my last few days were perhaps more hectic than most other missionaries.

At the time I was attending my first semester at BYU and when I submitted my papers to go on a mission I set my availability date at the end of my first semester after finals were done. But when I got my mission call my entry date into the MTC was Dec. 19th, which was a Wednesday, in the middle of finals, and before my listed availability date. Finals week started on Monday of that week and went through Friday. I had 5 classes, with one final scheduled for each day of the week. This meant that my entry into the MTC would conflict with 3 of my 5 finals. Fortunately I was at BYU and all when I explained my predicament to my professors all of them were willing to reschedule my finals.

So from Monday to Wednesday this was what I did.


Take geology final first thing in the morning (note: On the syllabus they were quite clear that the final could not be rescheduled for any reason. They were adamant that the final had to be taken at the scheduled time. When I asked my professor about it he was unsure about it (it was a department final) but after asking the department he told me that the final was in the testing center and I could take it any time during finals week. Thus the claim that the final could not be rescheduled for any reason was completely false...grrr).

Second, take mission prep final (This class was with out question the second worst class that I took at BYU. The teacher was a marriage counselor in his day job and thus he kept turning it into a "marriage prep" class rather than mission prep. But he never actually went the full marriage prep route and it just turned into this mish-mash of wobbly warm-ish fuzzy-ish sentimental-ish "take that and stick it in your spiritual pipe and smoke it", hodge-podge of useless goop. I was not a fan, and I think I got a C.)

Third, take my astronomy final from 2-5pm (Dr. Jones who taught the class told me, after I finished the final and he took a moment to chat with me, that I should look him up after my mission and he would get me a job as an astronomy TA. I did and he did manage to find me 2-3 hours a week as an astronomy TA, which may not have been much but that meant that the next semester when I applied for a normal physics TA position I was already technically an employee of the department which meant that I was automatically hired, despite the fact that I had 1 less year of experience than all the other TAs, and it meant that I was the TA for physics majors that were in the same classes that I was in (or higher classes!) but it meant that I got 4 solid years of TA experience under my belt in just about every class, which greatly benefits be now as it has put me in a position where I have 4 more years of experience than all the other graduate students which means I get first pick of TA assignments. Rather than being told what I have to teach I get to choose what I get to teach, and that is nice).


In the morning I took my biology final, for my first, last and only biology class that I ever took in my entire academic career.

In the afternoon I took my physics 121 final. Looking back I don't think I did as well on it as I should but I wasn't too worried since I calculated it out and determined that in order to drop my grade for the class from an A to an A- I needed to get below a 30%. In order to get a B+ I had to score below 5% on the final, and if I just showed up and wrote my name on the answer sheet I would be guaranteed a B+ in the class. This was of course after having used the class as my guaranteed 3 hours of sleep each week and not turning in more than 3 homework assignments. I always wondered about those "engineers" who failed the class. Wouldn't they rather go into business? But what did I care? They dragged the curve down and gave me the easiest A that I ever got.

I finished my last final at 4 pm. I went directly from there to the BYU bookstore and there I bought the sound track to the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? The movie was quite forgettable, but the music is still some of my favorite. I went out to my car, put in the CD, and drove around for a little under an hour listening to the music. Then I drove over to my brother's apartment, got changed into my new suit, walked up to the JKHB (which technically no longer exists) and at 5 pm I went in for my final interview and got set apart as a missionary.

I spent the night at my sister's apartment and then Wednesday morning my parents took me over to BYU one last time to say goodbye to my sister and brother in law and then up to the MTC where another sister came with her two kids to see me off.
Can you tell which one is me? Hint, I don't have a pacifier in my mouth.
At the time I was still in the process of getting all of my required shots. There was one series of shots that required 3 shots spread over several months (a hepatitis vaccine if I remember) and I had the first two but had not gotten the third, so on the first day they went ahead and gave me the third and final dose. It turned out that 6 years later that incredibly minor event saved me a lot of trouble and red tape when I was trying to get into graduate school.

You see, in North Carolina where I am currently going to school, state law requires all students to be vaccinated. As a child I received all the standard vaccines and my mom kept a very accurate record of every shot I ever got. Unfortunately my mom is not a certified nurse, so even though the record was very accurate and complete, UNC would not accept that record. So I was facing the prospect of having to get every single shot again to satisfy the bureaucracy of UNC. All my "official" records were spread all over Arizona in who knows what doctor or government office and it would have been an incredibly hard task to track down all those records. But when I entered the MTC I had received one shot. And that one shot went on my record at the BYU health center, and that was the only nurse certified record that I had access to. So I went there to talk to a nurse and get that one record. While I was there I explained my predicament and asked how I might go about tracking down my record. She looked at the meticulous record that my mom had kept of every shot I ever received, and she thought about it for a second and then offered to enter all that information that my mom had kept over the years into the computer (she was only a certified nurse, and not a nurse practitioner, which meant that technically she was not allowed to do this, but she did it anyway). So she sat there and entered everything into the computer, put it all in my file and printed it out. She signed it (again, I think NC state law required the signature of a nurse practitioner but we were already up to our eye balls in "irregularities" and she didn't want to have to track down and explain to a nurse practitioner what was going on so she just did it).

The only reason why she was able to do that was because I had received that one shot on my first day in the MTC so I was already in the system and she just had to "amend" my file. UNC accepted my new file because it was on official health center letter head and had some sort of signature at the bottom, despite the fact that all the information came from the exact same source that they had strenuously told me was unacceptable.

In so many small ways my experience of entering the MTC was crazy and stressful, but there were the tiny things (me getting to talk to Dr. Jones about getting a job, and me getting a shot) that turned out to be tender mercies much later in my life. There were so many other things about my mission, the people I met, the companions I was with, and the areas I was in, I would have never had those opportunities had I not entered the MTC when I did. Even though from an outside perspective the timing may have been very inconvenient it did in fact make it so that so many things were timed just right during my mission and after my mission so that many opportunities were made available all because of when I went into the MTC.

It kind of made up for the fact that the day I went into the MTC was the same day that the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. But it was OK since I came home and was able to watch the first two in quick succession on DVD and then go see the third one in the theater. Well worth the wait.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the story! (One question--when did you pack and move out of your apartment? That Tuesday? It's a lot to fit in a week!)