"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
August 23, 2012
Trekking West - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

I've only moved twice in my life. One of those moves was only across town, and both of them happened before I was seven. Considering that the last time I moved I stayed up the entire first night bawling because I wanted to move back, I'd say I'm taking this move out to college pretty well so far. I guess we'll have to see how things go once I've actually moved into my dorm.

But at last I am here, after so many months of applying and hoping and waiting and praying and celebrating and planning and packing; here to begin my schooling at BYU, which is something I've dreamed about for so long that I can't believe it's actually happening. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I came here -- I have been to Utah before, and I've been on the BYU campus, but that was a long time ago and I don't remember much.

It's beautiful here -- completely different from the greenery I'm used to in Virginia, but beautiful. When I'm in the car with my family I like to look out across the city, hardly believing I can see for so far, and count the temples gleaming in the distance.

I wonder how the valley looked to the people who first settled here. And I wonder what they'd say if they could see it now.

When I was sixteen, my stake reenacted the pioneers' journey west across the country to the Salt Lake Valley for our annual youth conference. We didn't actually trek across the country, thank goodness, but the stake Young Men and Young Women presidencies did their very best to make it as close as possible to the real thing.

Traditional pioneer clothing was worn; youth were sorted into "family" groups, each of which possessed a handcart, a baby doll, and a place in a wagon company. We spent most of the three days walking through seemingly endless fields, picking our way through cow pies, and in the evenings we slept outside in the muggy July heat, beneath tarps that kept more heat in than out.

Anyone who's grown up in the Church has learned about the pioneers and about the miracles that occurred on that trek, but I don't think it's possible to appreciate them until you get just a small taste of what it was like to leave behind most of their possessions, to pack what food and clothing they could into a handcart, to go to a place most of them knew nothing about, and to know full well they could never return.

To endure persecution the way they did, to walk so far and to weather the storms that they weathered -- it would have required a strength that I didn't fully understand until I completed the three-day trek with my stake. And once I did understand it, I wasn't so sure it was a strength that I would have possessed had I been one of the Hunters who made that journey.

It's true that my trek west is much, much easier than that of my ancestors, but it isn't without its own challenges that require a different kind of strength. There's a lot that I left behind in Virginia that I miss. I miss my cat, for instance, which I raised from a kitten; I miss the three best friends who grew up with me and for the first time won't be in the same neighborhood or the same school as I will. I miss knowing my way around and being so close to Washington D.C.

Just getting all my boxes and suitcases here was a struggle, even though we flew, and my fear of flying will only make the return trip harder when I don't have my sisters to giggle hysterically with when we hit turbulence. There's no turning back now; I'm going to be here for the better part of the next four years, without my family close by, and that will perhaps be the hardest thing that I have to deal with in the coming months.

But despite all that, I can't help loving Utah. Maybe it's because I prayed before coming here that I'd be able to be happy during the transition. Maybe it's because I'm more mature than I was the last time I was here and decided long ago that I was going to love it no matter what. Whatever it is, the longer I stay here, the more reasons I find to be grateful that I'm being given the opportunity to go to BYU.

Last night, we met up with some friends from our ward back home who are visiting Utah. We piled into the car, drove to Ensign Peak, and climbed up to see the view of the valley below. It had grown dark as we were driving, and when I reached the top and turned around, for the first time I saw the millions of lights from cars, people's homes, and the temples spread across the valley. The evening was cool and slightly breezy, and when I looked out upon the beautiful scene before me I felt my world go quiet as an absolute peace descended upon me.

And in that moment I felt impressed, very strongly, that despite how much I miss my home, despite my misgivings about being so far from my family, that my coming here is no coincidence; for whatever reason, I'm supposed to be here at this time in my life. It hit me all at once, with such certainty and clarity that I knew there could be no mistake about it.

So it is with excitement that I look forward to being a college student, just as I look forward to the new people, the new things to do. The experiences that I'm going to have, whatever they are, make this whole trek worthwhile. I know it's going to be a grand adventure.


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