The author lives in the Netherlands.
A lot of people ask me how I’m doing and if adjusting back to normal life after a mission is hard. A lot of times I told them it was hard. And it was and still is sometimes. I felt like I didn’t belong here in the Netherlands. I wanted to go back to my mission in Suriname so badly—where I felt accepted, loved, and appreciated. I was scared to start the next chapter in my life. I had come back to the real world, hating every bit of it. Nobody seemed to understand how much my mission meant to me and how much I had changed out in the field. I didn’t have that spiritual connection I had felt for the past 18 months. I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I had learned to love myself on my mission, and I was frustrated that I didn’t feel the same way at home. I felt like a stranger in my own country.
So I hid myself. I didn’t want to be seen. I wanted to run away. I wanted to move out of my parents’ house. But when I prayed about living somewhere else, Heavenly Father told me I was supposed to stay where I am. I didn’t understand. I was so sure that moving away would make me a lot happier. But He knew it wouldn’t. So I chose to stay, and I continued to feel unhappy for the first two months after returning home.
I thought about moving back to Suriname. I was attending school, studying elementary education, but I wasn’t enjoying it and I still wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do with my future. That’s when I decided to kneel down and ask Heavenly Father. I even went to the temple to pray about my life because I didn’t know what direction to take.
A week later, I took on an internship for a full week at an elementary school. It was so much fun. I felt more like myself than I had for a long time. I received a strong confirmation that elementary education was what Heavenly Father wanted me to pursue. The kids just made me so happy and helped me see who I was. That’s when I realized that I had not been acting like the person I had become on my mission—the person who I wanted to be.
At the end of that week, it was general conference. And it changed my life. I finally realized that when I returned home, I was hiding myself and not sharing my light because I was afraid. During the general women’s session, President Russell M. Nelson invited all the sisters to hold a social media fast for 10 days. Before general conference, I had already felt prompted to spend less time on my phone. So I decided to stop using Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram and to use my phone less in public spaces, so I would be able to share my light and the gospel if possible. There were so many times when I just looked around and thought, “This world is so pretty and full of amazing people.” I looked at people and smiled at them as I walked around in public instead of looking at my phone like I usually did. To my surprise, people often smiled back at me—it filled my heart with joy. I didn’t feel like I wanted to hide or get away anymore. I could finally be myself again after being a missionary.
So if you’re recently home from your mission and struggling to feel like yourself again, look around and see who needs you today. Everyone could use a smile. Especially from you! If you haven’t taken President Nelson’s challenge to fast from social media for 10 days, try it. You’ll be amazed when you see how it changes your life. Because I listened to the prophet’s advice, I had more time for school, hobbies, and serving others around me. I used WhatsApp and Messenger to uplift my friends. I also had more time to spend with my family. I had argued with my parents a lot since being home from my mission, but now I feel more love for them and I try to serve them as much as I can.
All in all, look up from your phones. Notice the people and the beauty around you. I promise it will make you happy because it made me happy. And I thank my Heavenly Father for the change I’ve experienced from following the prophet.
I’m glad that I’m not the same person as I was on my mission. I’m trying to be even better.
Never stop striving to become like our Savior Jesus Christ. I know it was only because of Him that I was able to make positive changes in my life. I applied the Atonement of Jesus Christ and I invited Christ in my life. That’s when things started to change. Never forget that He is with you. You don’t have to do everything alone. He’s always by your side, but you are the one to decide if you want to walk with Him.
Joëlle enjoys laughing and smiling, and she’s often overexcited about life. She loves the gospel, kids, and music, and she is currently studying to become a primary school teacher. One of her goals is to share light with everyone around her.