Hold on… Wait…

I am not a smart man. Well sometimes I am, we all have our moments, right? For me, I find that all too often I find myself in scenarios where I have to realize that I might be one of the stupidest humans to ever walk this planet. We all know those moments where we catch ourselves mid-sentence saying something that makes absolutely no sense what so ever but its too late and we just have to ride it out? Those moments. The ones we think about late at night when we’re trying to sleep and our brain is just like, “Nah, let’s relive the most embarassing moments possible!” Here are a couple of those moments I’ve had recently.

Yesterday I decided to go to Target to go get some things, but I got distracted thinking about another errand I had to go run so I took a wrong turn thinking I was going to do that other errand. 20 seconds later I realize I wanted to be going to Target so I turn around and start heading back in the right direction. Then I think about how I’m hungry and maybe I should get some food while I’m out and I drive right by Target. Realizing my mistake I turn around again. Get distracted by another errand, miss Target, turn around, think about food, miss Target, turn around… You get the picture. I ended up driving past Target 5 or 6 times because of this. I honest to goodness might be top 5 dumbest people alive.

Another time at work I was listening to some music whilst changing some lights, humming along as I normally do when a co-worker of mine asks me, “hey are you listening to Gorillaz?” Like the band Gorillaz. I opted at that moment to reply with a blank stare for a solid minute, then shrugging my shoulders and going back to work.

“Are you listening to Gorillaz?” He asked again more confused.

“I don’t understand the question.” Is how I answered him this time.

“Like your music, is it Gorillaz?”

More silence as my rickety brain finally begins to put things together, “Oh sorry, no.”

At this point my co-worker bursts into laughter. I stood on a ladder with bright red cheeks wondering how on earth I survived this long with this freaking brain.

For the record, it wasn’t Gorillaz I was listening to, not that it makes me look any less idiotic.

I was going to share another profoundly stupid moment of mine to get three which seemed like a nice number for something like this, but at the moment I just can’t think of anything. Maybe I’m getting smarter? Nah probably more likely that my mind is going the way of my father and I’m simply forgetting everything that happens to me. Oh well, later!

 

 

 

Station 22

So I have this roommate. B A N A N A S right? Anyways he recently invited me and another roommate out to eat at a restaurant here in Provo called Station 22. Because I’m me and can’t keep my mouth shut for longer than 4 or 5 minutes at a time I have thoughts.

Let’s begin with some of the good things about it. The atmosphere was really nice.  It’s a nice pretty little restaurant that feels fancy, but not in an overbearing way. Somewhere you could bring a date to impress her while not making her think you were gonna pull a crazy Provo move and propose on the first date.  It’s comfortable while still feeling upscaled. At least from the perspective of me, a student it feels that way. For those with more disposable income/ any disposable income, a place like Station 22 might not feel very upscale but more run of the mill, even so, I feel confident saying that Station 22 has a good atmosphere about it. It’s quaint, Station 22 feels like a much older restaurant than it actually is and that’s a good thing.

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Colour coordinated book placements? That’s an OCD owner for sure.

Moving beyond the looks of the restaurant though the much more interesting question has to be about the quality of food and service there. There’s little to say about the service, the staff were friendly and good at their jobs. With food, there is obviously going to be more to say. At my visit, I had their whiskey chicken with mashed potatoes and fries because I’m still a fatty Mcfatfat that will each french fries literally anytime they’re offered to me. I would describe the dish in more detail, but I think it’d be easier to just show you a picture.

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It’s still Utah so of course, there was fry sauce served with the fries. 

It looks just about as good as it tasted, the chickens breading was crunchy without being overwhelming and hiding the nice tender chicken underneath, the whiskey sauce was just delightfully tasty, although being totally honest I wasn’t quite feeling the mushrooms. It was almost like they had marinated in the sauce for too long so they gave such a potent flavor it made it difficult to taste much of anything else on the plate. Mashed potatoes and gravy were really good, but that’s a dish I personally always find enjoyable so take that with a grain of salt.  Carrots on their own were a little boring but I believe they were meant to also be paired with the whiskey sauce and with that it was quite a treat. Lastly, of course, are the fries which were frankly disappointing. As you may know, I consider myself a bit of a fry expert and well… these fries were simply too soft. A good french fry needs a nice crispy quality to it and these just didn’t have it. Overall this meal was satisfying and enjoyable but not without its flaws.

This leaves me at the end, to now say if I would recommend people visit this establishment. It’s a nice charming place along Provo’s center street, the food is pretty good and it has friendly staff so why not recommend it? Simple, Station 22 is too expensive for the quality of the meal you get. My whiskey chicken and fries ran me up some fourteen dollars and I’m more than confidant in saying that I didn’t get my money’s worth. Station 22 is a good restaurant that simply costs a touch too much to really be in the sweet spot of somewhere I’d like to frequent. 6.5/10. Later.

 

Purple

 

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So this is a thing.

 

I probably need to explain myself right? Also, side note, even though I’m rocking some hardcore RBF right there, I swear I’m actually pretty good with how my hair looks. Moving on now.

Can I just give folks the line, “girlfriends. Not even once” and move on? Is that satisfactory? No? It makes it sound like my girlfriend did this out of spite? Fine. Come on though, it’s not like I don’t have some history of making rash decisions regarding my hair on basically zero information. I legit shaved my head bald on nothing more than the prompt of a roommate asking if I wanted to. (That one was a big mistake though, still a good story though.)

So Here’s the basic timeline for how I ended up with purple dye in my hair. Honestly, it’s a pretty boring story. Basically, my girlfriend was dying her hair purple. Not like all of it, just like the bottom half, I guess, jeez this would be easier to explain if I just had a picture. Hold on a sec… Do I have one on my phone… No? wtf am I even trying as a boyfriend? Whatever.

Anyways she’s dying her hair and once she finishes up with it there’s a reasonable amount of dye leftover. Not a ton, but enough that it would feel wasteful to simply throw it out. At this point, Lindsay (the girlfriend) shoots me a look and with a reserved excitement asks, “Can I put it in your hair?”

Now, this next little bit takes place in about 5 seconds but takes a lot longer to explain because it involves a number of decisions that take place in my own mind. Just so you know and understand the impulsive nature of this whole thing.

When I’m asked questions like this there are two things I think about. The first is always, “What’s the worst that could happen?”. With dye involved the worst that can happen is actually pretty bad though.  At least to some people. Really in my mind, the worst thing that could happen is that it looks just dreadful, in which case the solution to my problem is pretty simple, wear a hat. I’m already known to frequently wear baseball caps so it wouldn’t even be a stretch to just wear one every day. Sure it might get a little awkward at church but I’m dating someone from the same congregation as me every Sunday is already an awkward cringefest with every member of the bishopric asking me for updates so adding the awkward conversation about a hat seems an easy task. That being said that literally a worst case scenario and frankly its pretty unlikely so I’m confident at that point to proceed on the merits of “what’s the worst that could happen.”

The second question I always ask myself when making these sort of decisions is whether or not this will make a good story.  I thought there was a reasonable chance and frankly, it’s up to you folks reading this blog post to decide if I was right about that. Either way, I thought the probability of this being a good story was high enough to proceed.

Remember all these thoughts happen in about 5 seconds.

“Sure, why not?” is what I opted for as my response. Boy, you wouldn’t believe how Lindsay’s face lit up when she heard that. Her excitement was only matched by her other roommate’s concern for my well-being. They must have thought I’d lost my bloody mind. Which is true, but like I lost it ages ago this is far from the event that confirmed my insanity.

Before we can get started with the dye though we need to solve the problem of my shirt. See I had apparently made the mistake of wearing a pretty nice shirt that day. Probably because I hadn’t realized that I would be dying my hair that day, but hey that’s my bad for not being able to see into the future. Luckily for me Lindsay’s roommate Abby had an old t-shirt that was just large enough to wrap around my neck to shield my nice button up. Oddly enough the colour of it matched pretty close to the shirt I was wearing so it looked like I had like a turtleneck on so now I also know that turtlenecks are an absolute no-go for me. Two birds one stone or something like that.

Pseudo-turtleneck in hand though I was now prepped for the dye, which Lindsay applied despite the fact that her roommate is a licensed cosmetologist. Still not 100% sure why it happened that way, but hey I’m not here to complain just tell stories. I was pretty convinced that the dye wasn’t even going to stick all that well anyways. It had been exposed for a pretty long time and absolutely nothing had been done to my hair to prepare it for dye. Literally, she just took the dye and painted (is that a good word for this? idk) the top of my head with it. So how likely was it for the dye to even stick? Pretty good as it turns out.

Half an hour later and things have settled and it’s time to give my hair a quick wash before revealing the final product. Minor snag though. The Branbury, the apartment complex me and Lindsay both live at, is BYU approved housing. Which means there are a few arbitrary rules that have to be followed. Like guys can’t use the bathrooms in girls apartments. (I KNOW ITS RIDICULOUS YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME!) This means that in order to wash my hair out I have to lean over and use their kitchen sink. Perfect. So I’ve got my head in a kitchen sink and as I’m getting my hair washed out I’m seeing a lot of purples come out. Figures I think to myself, the dye didn’t stick, which is a shame but removes any fears I would’ve had about how it’ll look.

Nope. Turns out that really normal (I really know nothing about hair do I?) and a couple of minutes later I’m looking in the mirror at this freaking anime character that’s taken the place of myself. Oh well, now I can at least live out my fantasy of being an anime character, though the magic powers haven’t appeared yet which is straight bs. Also the huge freaking smile on Lindsay’s face when she saw my hair was pretty worth it as well. Not even to mention that it doesn’t even look all that bad. Maybe next time I’ll go all out and dye all my hair… Nah, that ish is expensive. Later!

Building Childhood

Life is a stressful experience. No matter who you are, what you do, or how you do it eventually stress begins to weigh down on you pretty heavily. For some that weight feels like you’ve got one too many books in your backpack and you can just soldier on, for others, it’s closer to having your backpack replaced with a solid cinderblock, that is also somehow on fire. That’s not so easy to cope with.

Either way, everyone eventually needs to destress in some way or another.  This is usually where peoples hobbies come into play, sometimes though taking that hour or two with your knick-knacks isn’t enough and you need that thing most everyone dreams about.

A Vacation. To take some time and literally just leave your world behind while you go off and soak some rays, eat good food, and do all the other touristy stuff everyone low-key likes doing but we’re all too cool for it or something. Maybe you prefer a staycation because you actually really like where you live and just want to ignore work emails for a week. I like ignoring emails, especially ones I’m supposed to respond to.  (btw I still answer my emails) You might be like me though and be lacking in both the time to take a vacation or the funding for one either. What’s a person to do then?

You know what I did? I built a car. Out of cardboard.

I honest to goodness didn’t think that building a cardboard car would be a distressing experience when I started doing it. Arts and crafts have never been my strong suit and I usually find it pretty frustrating while I’m doing them. I don’t like looking at my shoddy craftsmanship, and of all the things in the world, it’s one of the few things that makes me feel self-conscious. Why? Who knows, it’s honestly the dumbest thing but it’s the way this stupid mind works.

So why was I building this thing in the first place if I thought it might stress me out.

Same reason I do half the dumb things I do because a pretty girl asked me if I wanted to. Come on now, who do you think is writing this thing? In my defence, I’m now dating that pretty girl, so double win because I got a dope cardboard car and a girlfriend out of it. Although I doubt it was the cardboard car that made her want to go out with me… I should ask her about that. Might get awkward if she says it was though…

Sorry I was trailing off there. Cars! I built one. Yes, I did. This is what it looked like. At least the back of it.

IMG-1413.JPGI know what you’re thinking here. Good lord Jonny, that doesn’t look good at all. Like Jeez, the wheeze dude my 3rd grader could make a better-looking car. You are 100% correct. Also, your 3rd grader can fight me. I ain’t afraid to hit a child. (jk I am oh please don’t let me get into trouble for that.) This is very far from being a well made, good looking piece of art. You know what it does look like though? A beat-down wood-panelled van from the 70’s. So considering what I was going for I think I did a pretty bang-up job with the creation of this vehicle.  I probably could’ve improved it by using a smaller box for the bottom portion allowing the car to be better proportioned, but that sounds like some try hard bs that I just ain’t into.

Trying to make this look like a convincing replica of an actual vehicle would’ve defeated the entire purpose of making it in the first place. This was about tapping back into the childlike wonder of creating things. To simply make something for the sake of making it, not to try and be the best, or worry about how many likes you were going to get on Facebook/Instagram. This was about letting go of everything that makes a person an adult and just making something fun. Let me tell you something, this thing was wicked fun to make! (Admittedly having great company around whilst I made it helped a lot, but still a worthwhile activity)

You might be thinking, “Jonny are you going to explain just how you made this thing? What was the process?” Sod off buddy, that also defeats the purpose. If you’re wondering how I did this let me tell you something. Don’t wonder, just go make it. All you need is a bunch of cardboard and some imagination, cardboard is freaking everywhere so that shouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of, imagination is apparently a harder thing for some people. I suppose if you’re really lacking in that area you can hit a tab of acid before starting your car, but you didnt hear taht from me and I won’t be held responsible for what happens if you do that. Just don’t think about these things so much and let yourself have fun creating. I promise that while its not as good as taking a vacation its a lot more affordable! Later.

 

 

Belated Birthdays

It’s been a busy couple of days so I haven’t found the time to get a birthday blog post written out.

Ok, let’s talk about my year. When I turned 25 last year the reality was that I was not in a really good place. Turning 25 was a point where I made a realization that I really wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing with my life. I felt creatively stunted, burnt out, and easily worst of all totally unmotivated to even bother trying to change things.

Luckily this didn’t persist. I got back into writing with a determined focus to find my voice in words. I still think there’s a lot of room for refinement, but I think this whole informal, conversational tone I’ve been doing lately has been a really good fit for me and it’s shown itself in the outstanding improvements to my writing over this past year.  I’m honest to goodness stunned with how much progress I made as a writer in the past year, and also with how much room I still have to grow. I’m really excited to keep improving this blog and the rest of my writing in general.

Life didn’t change just in terms of writing through this last year either. I’ve made it abundantly clear in my blog that my relationship with religion, for the most part, has been pretty casual, there was a brief moment where I took it real serious and it didn’t pan out well so for a very long time I kept it at arms distance. Maybe enough time had passed and my heart had softened, or maybe living in Utah for two years has just worn me down, but religion has taken a much more prominent role in my life again. I’ll never be one of those Peter Priesthood types that really push religion out of every orifice of my body but it definitely matters to me in a real way again. Weirdly enough it was all the little social things the church does that got me actually taking my religion seriously again. So even though I like to make fun of things like FHE, Ward activities, Break the Fast, etc. (sorry if you’re not up on your Morm… Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s lingo)  I have to admit that those things played a big role in actually getting me back to church on a regular basis.

Combining with a newfound sense of focus and pride in my writing and a renewed faith, I also found it in me this year to actually try and be a social human being again. I felt like I actually had the confidence to put myself out there, I mean I’m still pretty introverted so it really worked out more like I fell into a social circle but hey, take those W’s where you can find them. I did actually put myself out there in the world of dating and experienced legitimate success. What the F… That still strikes me as utterly and totally bizarre. Maybe I’ll get used to that at some point, but it’s probably more likely that I’ll continue to be in total bewilderment for the time being.

So long as I remember to take deep breaths and not act like a total weirdo I should be fine. Wait I do act like a total weirdo like all the time… oh boy…

Weird rambling about dating that I’m definitely going to get flak for aside, my 26th year on this planet turned out pretty great. I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. I’m not satisfied though, I need to build on the successes I had last year and continue to refine myself and what I do. That should be a lot of fun. Later!

Split

I swear this is the last one of these things, we’re going back to random stuff like movies real soon.

Going through the message my uncle sent me several weeks ago and taking the time to think through some of the ideas presented in it has got me thinking about identity. How do we see ourselves? For a lot of people, it’s a really tough question, not because we don’t know how we see ourselves, but rather that we can’t be totally sure that the way we see ourselves is accurate.  Do we overexaggerate our strengths and underestimate weaknesses in character? Do we do the opposite and consistently underestimate our own abilities whilst downplaying personal failings.

Are we at times delusional about who we are at our cores?  Do we think we’re really funny when that’s just not the case? Do we think ourselves bland and basic when in reality we’re fascinating and unique individuals? Who knows?

Here’s what I know about my identity. For most of my life, I’ve felt very clearly split into two separate identities.  Not in like a mental disorder kind of way where my whole personality shifts. It’s more like I can pretty clearly see that based on what decisions I make I can go down two radically different paths in life.

Let me elaborate.

On one hand, is JonnyT the entertainer. He thinks only at the moment and never about what path his life might take. He’s creative, he’s funny, and he loses his mind every day sitting through lectures for classes he has no care for at a university he doesn’t really want to be at. Every day he dreams about dropping out, moving to LA and making a go of it in entertainment. He knows full well the odds of that working in his favour are well below 1%, but he still really really wants to do it. He’s decided that it’s ok to work random jobs for the rest of his life so long as he gets to keep expressing himself in a creative way. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in God, it’s just that he doesn’t think about it ever. It just doesn’t matter to him.

On the other hand is Jonathan Tollestrup, member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He’s a deeply religious person who can relate just about everything that happens to him to the gospel. He goes to BYU because he wants to get a degree that will allow him to get a 9-5 job so that one day he can provide for a family. He does this because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to do and its definitely what his parents want him to do. He knows that he’s about to turn 26, and if he’s not careful he might end up being that weird uncle that lives on his own forever. He looks constantly to the future, and he worries about if he’ll measure up to his potential. Religion is the absolute center of his life and even though sometimes the culture of the church frustrates him he loves being a part of it.

Together there is Jonny Tollestrup. He still identifies as a member of the Church, though he’d have to admit he doesn’t think about it as much as he ought to. He’s pretty sure he could make a gospel comparison for just about every situation but opts to make jokes instead usually. He does attend BYU but holy does he not like it. He knows what he wants to do with his life and he knows that there isn’t much room for him to work on it at school. It’s not like there’s a major in stand-up with minors in blogging. He’s there because he’s too afraid to take the plunge and really shoot his shot at his dreams. He doesn’t really want to drop everything and move to LA either though. He just wants to have more time to actually try out all the whacky ideas in his head, but he worries people won’t see it as an authentic expression but rather a desperate plea for attention.

He’s all too aware of his age. 26 isn’t old for most people, but for an unwed fellow in Utah is concerning to him.  also knows that being able to provide for a family is important to him because at some point he does want that. Not in the immediate future, but definitely at some point and if he’s going to do that he’s probably going to need a degree of some sort. He also realizes that he might be downloading his own insecurities onto a blog post at this very moment and that he should probably not be mentioning this stuff out loud. Too late. Later.

 

Formulaic

As an adult, I’ve come to loathe math. Some share this opinion, others don’t. I don’t care for math for a few reasons, mostly revolving around my brain’s inability to comprehend the more advanced aspects of mathematics, and by advanced mathematics, I pretty much mean anything from introductory calculus and on. So like 99% of math really. That’s one reason I don’t like math, another reason is that I tend to not really like the concrete nature of it. Lots of people like that mathematics because it gives them concrete answers that are absolutely correct. I think that ish is just so lame. I like to explore different ways of thinking about subjects and you can really only do that if you are at least willing to consider the other way of thinking was some value. If the math says person x is wrong, then why even examine why person x thought they way they did in the first place? There isn’t any wiggle room. I like to wiggle.

Why am I bringing this up though?, Every once and a while I let up on my distaste for mathematics and I invent mathematical reasons for my own behaviour. Today I’ve got a new formula, one that seeks to understand when one should make their intentions known in the grand game of dating.

BUCKLE UP BOYS AND GIRLS WERE DOING A DATING POST I BAITED YOU WITH THAT MATH CRAP! HAHAHAHAHAHA

(L/D) x P = G

L is a rating between 1 and 10 that describes the level of emotional turmoil caused by existing in a state of Limbo between being friends and being an in a relationship. This is a subjective measurement so just be honest with yourself. Some might also say that the L could stand in for a rating of how “in love” you are with a person, but that word is utterly terrifying so I’m opting to not use it. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

D is also a rating between one and ten that estimates the difficulty of replacing that friendship should things go way south on you. It is also subjective, even when you use math it’s really hard to nail anything down for certain in dating. Is this also kind of mean to think of friendships as replaceable and assign quantitative values to interpersonal relationships? Yes, but math is unfeeling and unconcerned with your feelings. It’s merely here to determine the rational course of action. Harsh, cruel, but fair is the mistress known as arithmetic.

The P is the probability of a positive outcome. (I started with it as P but shortened to P for simplicity’s sake.) The likelihood that when you turn to that person and say, “I have to tell you something…” and that conversation doesn’t end with “I hope we can still be friends.” This is measured in a percentage and then converted into a decimal number that between 0 and 1 that corresponds. For example, if you think you’ve got like a 64% shot (don’t ask me how you got to this specific percentage it’s just hypothetical) of “that talk” going well for you, you would then put your P as .64. Simple right?

This part of the formula is easily the most difficult to determine as it requires you to have some sense of how the other person feels about you and if you know that then you probably don’t need this formula. There are a few factors that you can know without reading someone’s mind that can help you determine the P though. For instance, if they’re in a relationship already, your P is going to be pretty low unless your the main character in a Rom-com in which case how are you even reading this? This formula also puts the entirety of a person’s emotional insecurity, issues with trust/intimacy/self-confidence, and any other mass of thoughts that get in a person’s way of believing in their own romantic story onto this probability, and we all know how rational we act with regards to these things. So it’s a noted weakness within the formula.

My final component of this formula is the G score, or Go For It. Based on almost 10 whole minutes of thought I’ve determined that if your G score is anywhere above 1.2 then you have no excuse for why you haven’t made your intentions clear. If it’s between 1.2 and 1.0 then you should probably be having “that” conversation but it’s ok if you’re still waiting for that right moment. Below 1.0? Sleep on it bud, don’t make hasty decisions.

Now, this sounds all well and nice (or ludicrous if you didn’t get on board with it)  but I’ve yet to demonstrate if this formula can actually be useful in any context. So examples time it is!

Problem 1) L = 7 (I like really like her dude) D = 2 ( I only met her a couple weeks ago and our only mutual friend is an old mission companion) P = 50% or .5.

(7/2) = 3.5 x .5 = 1.75, ya gotta go for it.

Problem 2) L = 10 ( I don’t think I could live without her!) D = 9 (We’ve been best friends forever) P = 20% or .2 (She may or may not be engaged)

(10/9) = 1.11 x .2 = .22, Dawg you gotta get over yourself and move the fetch on. Tinder maybe?

Problem 3) L = 4 (She’s cool, but like we just started hanging out) D = 1 (We’re both adults who can get over this so there really isn’t a risk of a lost friendship here. Also no history helps) P 50% or .5 (Can’t get a read on her man)

(4/1) = 4 x .5  = 2, Shoot your shot my guy.

Problem 4) L = 8 (Ahh Jeez, I like really care about her don’t I?) D = 5  I don’t think my social life would implode, but it’d be a challenge) P = 65% or .65 (I think she likes me, but I can’t fathom why she does)

(8/5) = 1.6 x .65 = 1.04, Hmmm you should probably be gearing yourself up for this talk, but you alright to wait a bit for either more information or just a night where you’re really feeling yourself.

Life Lessons from WoW: Battle for Attention

It’s been a few weeks since Blizzard released the newest addition to their flagship title and my favourite game of all time; World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. It’s a really good expansion, there are endless tides of content for players to participate in both casual and hardcore, the quest lines are not only fun and interesting but actually expand the story of the Warcraft universe in ways that don’t make you want to slam your head into the table like most Blizzard writing does. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is still really cringy and feels like Blizzard doesn’t quite get their own characters, but overall it’s better than the average Warcraft writing.

It’s just not grabbing me the same way the previous expansion Legion did. I have been playing World of Warcraft on and off since the release of its second expansion The Burning Crusade in 2007 all the way till now. That’s right, I’ve been with this game for over a decade now and through that, I’ve found that the various expansions to WoW have fallen into two general categories for me based on the quality of the expansion and where I’m at in life. The first of these categories is, “This is the best game I’ve ever played, why do I need to talk to other people?” and the second being, “Yeah this is fine, I’ll play whenever they release new dungeons and stuff, but I’ll like also go outside.”

For other WoW players who are probably just a touch curious, the expansions that fit the first category are Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Legion. Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, and now Battle for Azeroth all fall into the second one. Basically half of the time I can’t pull myself away from this game, and the other half… well I can.

I should be enjoying Battle for Azeroth (its too long just using BFA from here on out) more though, it’s putting a significantly larger emphasis on the central conflict between the Alliance led by the Humans and the Horde led by, I guess the undead Forsaken, although the Orcs are clearly still the face of the Horde. Particularity for me as an Alliance player I’ve enjoyed that this expansion has gone out and given me more of my favourite Warcraft character, Jaina Proudmoore, especially since she’s been vindicated for her correctly placed mistrust in the Horde and she’s got a flying ship with magic cannons… hold on my glasses need to be pushed all the way up for this don’t they? The point I was getting at by nerding out was that if my favourite game is taking the time to focus on my favourite character I should like be super for that right? I’m just not though.

I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this out. Who honestly cares if I’m enjoying the new WoW expansion or not?

I guess I just feel like since WoW is my favourite game that I somehow need to justify why I’m not enjoying myself playing it as much anymore. Which is silly, it’s a game, the entire point is to enjoy oneself. Like I was doing my 10000000th run through of Skyrim before BFA launched just to give myself something to do, but I was having sooo much fun doing it, then I just dropped it like a soggy cracker when BFA came out. I think I’m gonna go back and resume my playthrough of Skyrim, and then when I’m done that I’ll play some more single player RPG’s like it. It’s just kinda what I’m in the mood for right now.

What’s that you say? I don’t have time for any games because of school? Nonsense! I’ll just skip sleeping, it’s optional, right?

I think the point I’m really getting at here is just because you’ve done something for a really really long time doesn’t mean that you should necessarily feel obligated to keep doing it, especially when something new has come up and taken its place in your heart. Sure you should carefully consider why you’re not enjoying the old thing as much before up and abandoning it, but there’s something there.

Yeah, Jonny, way to dig a nugget of life wisdom out of you complaining about World of freaking Warcraft. I always knew I would learn something from playing that game other than the essential life lessons of “Don’t stand in the fire idiot”, “Even if you did stand in the fire if you die its the healers fault”, and “How to kill all the time in the world without even trying”. I must be like one of the wisest people alive with all the stuff WoW has taught me. I should write a more these nuggets of wisdom… hmmm

Fiji to Provo: My Take

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for some 6 years now. For 6 years the words to describe my feelings have escaped me. For 6 years everything I entered on the screen, wrote on a paper, mumbled to myself or thought in my head felt right. 6 years this has thing has been nagging at the back of my head. It’s been 6 years since I returned home dishonourably from my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 6 years, and the story only gets longer each year, but now I want to tell people about it. I think I’m ready.

Why now you might be wondering, well for one I think I’ve finally got the words together to speak to my experiences in the field. A big part of the reason I think I’ve found those words is an article I read from an old friend, Lucas Taylor, where he describes a couple of life-altering decisions and his own doubts about those decisions. It’s an excellent read and I recommend anyone checks it out here. As you might be able to work out one of those decisions for him was also about serving a mission. To read someone else’s words about those sort of struggles gave me inspiration to really push myself to find the words to tell this story. For this, I must really thank Lucas for telling his story. Alright, I’ve stalled enough, let me tell you about Fiji.

I’m going to start where things started to go wrong for me, and you’ll just have to take my word that until that point I was in almost every way a typical missionary. I struggled to put sentences together in a language I could hardly understand, I ate food I would have never touched in my life with a smile on my face because my mother taught me to be polite, I did my best to integrate with local culture, and I taught the gospel with determination. I had doubts about my ability to perform in the role, as I think any missionary does.

Thinking back now though, I wasn’t being honest with myself about all the doubts I had. I told everyone I was excited to go, and that I knew going on a mission was the right thing to do, but I was hoping that if I could convince them, maybe I’d convince myself. That doubt is really what did me in down the stretch. It’s in the past now though, and I need to get on with the story.

I woke up one day with a miserable itch, upon investigation I found what I thought were really big mosquito bites. My companion told me it much more likely that they were bedbugs, and so we should spray my mattress down with a pesticide and leave the mattress out in the sun for the day. So we did and then went about our day, I tried my best to not scratch where it itched, and for the most part, succeeded. We came home fairly late in the evening, put my bed back inside and then went to sleep.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with an even fiercer itch, so I went to the bathroom to take a look in the mirror. Even more bites than before. Frustrating the say the least, but I figured I’d slump over to a chair or something and consult my companion in the morning.  The next morning my companion, him being just as stumped as me, made a quick call to the mission office to consult the mission nurse about what to do about the itching. He told us to come up to the office on the next P-day (Missionary’s preparation day/the one day of the week they get “off”)  to pick up some cream.  As for the mattress, something along the lines of going to town on it with the pesticide was suggested.

So again we set out for our day, but this time when we got home in the evening I had determined that the real problem was that I had put the old sheets back on the mattress, and so I broke out the spare sheet and laid it down. When I woke up later that night my entire body was covered in the bites. I was downright pissed at this point, but whose fault was it? No ones really, so back to the chair for another night. The itching was bad enough that I really didn’t actually sleep much at all though.

P-day arrived and even though I felt really exhausted I knew that some glorious relief was waiting for me. At this point, it was absurdly difficult to not scratch away at whatever part of my body was feeling the worst at any particular moment so it was safe to say I was really looking forward to getting my precious cream. I had sprayed my mattress down again and set it out in the sun just to be sure though. We get to the office and I get my cream. Praise be! Except uhh… the cream did not relieve much of the itch. It lessened it for sure, but not enough to really make a dent in the overall problem. Whatever, it probably takes some time to ramp up or something I assumed.

At this point I’m gonna stop doing a day by day retelling if things, and instead I’m going to move into a more highlight reel sort of thingie. I wanted to give a bunch of detail about the bed-bugs thing because as the story continues it’s important to note that the itching and sleeplessness continued and as it continued I became much angrier and I think it really was what wore me down. Everything little thing frustrated me to no end because if it, and as you can imagine when you are quick to anger like this trying to learn a language via immersion doesn’t go well. Days began to feel like ages, and I was shutting down. It’s one of my biggest problems is that when I struggle in these ways my first response is always to silently attempt to solve everything on my own, and then when I don’t find a solution I lash out at others, usually in mumbling, but sometimes I get loud and I’m not proud of that.

One such instance of this came after we had finished teaching a couple of teenagers, 13 or 14 years old, again I don’t remember the specifics. What I do remember was after our lesson their father arrived home from his job and asked to speak with us. I was nervous that we were about to get into a Bible bash-off but was surprised when he simply told us how happy he was that we were teaching his children about Jesus and the gospel. He remarked that even though he had no interest in learning from us because he had found truth in the Protestant church if his children were finding truth with the Mormons than they had his blessing.

I remember walking out of the house thinking what a wonderful attitude he had, but my companion made what was honestly an innocent statement about how he hoped to convince the father one day of the truthfulness of our gospel. My companion, of course, wasn’t wrong, it is a belief in the church that while many religions have aspects of the gospel only the LDS church was the fullness of the gospel, no matter how kind the father was from the LDS point of view he was missing parts of the gospel. How could he say something like that though? This father loved his children, loved God, worked hard, was kind, and in so many ways embodied what a good Christian is. What right did we have to come and try to change that for him?

At this point, I realized that I was not the behaving in the way a missionary should.

I decided that the best course of action was to ask God what the deal was. Was this a test? Was I being brought down so I could be rebuilt stronger than before? Why was I thinking this way? Why was I so angry?  I wasn’t sure and it only seemed right to go straight to the source. So I prayed long and hard, and in the moments after my prayer, I was utterly struck by something.

The silence. It felt as though there was nothing around me, just the emptiness of it all. Had I been abandoned by my God? In this hour of my need had he simply left me?

No, I reasoned, he had not abandoned me. My doubts were realized. He was never there.

In that instant, I let go of my attempts to keep my spirit together and I just let it fall to the floor and break. My identity, my worldview, everything about me was built on the centrepiece of my faith and now that it was gone. Who was I? Just a guy stuck thousands of miles from home.

So what did I do? I tried to just get through the days at first, but let me tell you something if you’re heart isn’t in it, Missionary work is the most miserable work there is. And miserable I was, I didn’t know how to express it though. I couldn’t just start a conversation with my companion with, “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore” could I? What I did do was turn to pen and paper. Pages upon pages I filled in my journal, and all it just filled with enormous rage. My whole life I had been told by people about the gospel and how true it was and now, at least at that moment  I felt beyond all doubts that I had been properly duped. I wrote terrible things in that journal and it never helped me feel any better. After about a week I knew that I had to go, I knew this because I remember thinking, “Maybe I’ll get lucky and get cancer. They’ll have to send me home then right?”

The next P-day we stopped by the office and I requested a moment of the Mission President’s time. In that minute I poured my heart out to him and then he asked me, “Elder Tollestrup, do you want to be a good missionary?”

No. I just told you I don’t think anything I’m telling people is real and I hate every moment of my existence. I’m not terribly concerned with being good at this anymore.

So the process began of sending me home. It would take a number of weeks which culminated with a phone call with my Stake President (local leader from back home) where I distinctly remember telling him that my heart had hardened, and I could no reason to change my mind about any of this. It was determined that I would be dishonourably released from my calling as a missionary and sent home. Before I left though I decided that the vicious things in my journal couldn’t come back with me and couldn’t be found by anyone there, so in the middle of one of those sleepless nights I quietly burned all the pages I had written on. There was something very cathartic about that. Maybe if I had started burning my writing earlier things would be different.

Not long after that, I returned to Canada. Seeing my mom at the airport nearly broke me all over again. You could just see it in her eyes. Confusion, disappointment, pity, sadness, but still love as well. I don’t think I said a more than a sentence at a time to anyone those first few days. They didn’t know how to talk to me and I certainly didn’t know what to say to them. I was basically waiting for a mob to show up and throw me out of town. To this day I still worry that the mark of dishonourably released stigmatizes me around other members of the church, that’s why I typically avoid the topic with all strength.

Very fortunately for me I got a visit from some friends (one of those being Lucas who wrote that article) and leading them at that moment was Samara, who had determined that the best course of action was basically to pretend like I had never been gone and none of it ever happened and therefore I should be treated exactly the same way as before I left. That let me know that somewhere way down the line existed a world where I wouldn’t be just a piece of gossip in town. So I got a job, and after a couple of months moved out on my own. All the while my blood was still boiling with the rage I had gained in Fiji.

Not long after that, the rage turned inward though. Maybe God was there and instead of him failing me the reality was that in every way I had failed him. Maybe that’s who I was, the identity I had lost could be replaced with the role of a failure. I could accept a life of mediocrity because the reality was that I was a mediocre person. The rage had now turned to emptiness and sadness. Even though I tried my best to put on the face of someone with dreams and aspirations I didn’t really.

Moving to Edmonton invigorated me with hope for a while, but not long. And so I bumbled about, having brief moments where I was lifted up out of my own depression, but also moments where I sank deep into it. In those moments where I escaped my own thoughts, I want to really point out to my friends I met in Edmonton that those were just the best times.

I tell people the reason I reapplied to BYU was that I overheard some co-workers at Toys-R-Us talking about how they were ok with this being their lot in life and I simply wasn’t, but I kind of was. I reapplied to BYU after staring at High-Level Bridge on a freezing winters night thinking about what would happen if I jumped off it. That night I determined that nothing good would come of it and I should just go home, but something absolutely had to change.

I have never spoken to a single soul in my life about that night staring at the bridge. I’ve never had the courage to admit to myself, or to anyone that I thought briefly about ending my life. I always thought that if I did bring it up that people would assume I’m panhandling for attention, begging for sympathy, or just making excuses for personal failures. I’m really not trying to do that, this blog really is the best medium in my mind to bring it up, and it’s directly related to everything about Fiji so I think the two things have to be told together. Now that I finally found the words to talk about Fiji I can bring it all out to bear.

I mention that specifically because I know that there will be some members of my family that read this and they might be upset that I never spoke to them about it, or saddened by the knowledge that someone they love suffered in silence all that time. I just want them to have an iota of understanding of why never said anything. Sorry for not telling you sooner. I’ll patiently wait for your FaceTimes to ask further questions, don’t be surprised though when I don’t have much else to add. I’m really trying to get it all out right here and now.

That being said, I think there’s really only one more part to this story. Why does a story involving a Mormon missionary losing his faith end with him returning to Brigham Young University?

Simple, in the years since returning from Fiji the question of my faith has been one I’ve tussled with. In my first year back I pretty much went entirely inactive in the LDS faith, attending just enough that they wouldn’t send anyone out to ask why I wasn’t coming to church. It might be something that’s just too deeply engraved within me to leave though because I couldn’t stay away.  I needed to find out if I just participated in the LDS lifestyle because it’s what I knew, or because I actually believed in it. I decided the way to find that out was to dive right into the belly of the beast. BYU and Provo are so saturated in LDS culture and teachings of the church that if my faith was really gone this town would’ve driven me completely out of my mind. Two years later and I’m still here though. That says something right?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot about LDS culture that drives me wild and there are still things about the gospel I haven’t got entirely squared in my mind yet but I do feel as though I am steadily moving back into a position of faithfulness.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope this wasn’t too much of a bore for you. Later.

Wow. I actually did it, this thing is actually written! After all this time I’ve actually got all down in a way I think really tells the story. Wow. Now, what giant thing is supposed to nag at the back of my head?

Multiverse Implications of the New Mulan Movie?

Yesterday I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about Mulan. Not the classic animated film from 1992, but rather the upcoming live-action remake due out in 2020. (That’s about the only thing I’m looking forward to in 2020) I’m not all that concerned about whether it’s going to be good or not, frankly I can sum up how I feel about nearly all the new Disney remakes with an emphatic “meh”, and I just don’t see that trend reversing itself anytime soon.

I’m much more interested in the fact that out of all the new Disney remakes, Mulan looks to be the first that is really different from its original. (I know Maleficent was different but it didn’t fundamentally change the story of Sleeping Beauty, rather it gave a new and fresh perspective on the story.) If the rumors are true, the 2020 version of Mulan is changing the main villain from Shan Yu the Hun warlord to a witch named who is yet to be named. The character of Shang isn’t going to be in this new version and there are even talks that the music will be dramatically cut back, if included in the film at all. The idea of not getting an updated version of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is bothersome, but far from my biggest concern.

The real concern in my mind is what happens to the original Mulan once this comes out? Does this new Mulan usurp the animated version as the defacto Disney princess? Are there two different Mulans that are both Disney princesses? Does the live-action version only replace the animated if it’s successful? If there are two separate Mulan’s that exist does that open up multiverse theories for the rest of the Disney filmography? Does this finally open up the possibility of a cross-over movie with all the Disney princesses ala The Avengers? Who’d be the villain? I’d pay to see a movie where Shan Yu teams up with Gaston and Jafar. Would the cross-over movie be like Justice League where everyone kind of does nothing until Elsa shows up and saves the day because she’s obviously the most powerful? Elsa is the most powerful isn’t she? I mean what powers do the rest of them have? Rapunzel had magic hair, but it’s gone, Mulan’s just a skilled soldier, Merida from Brave is basically the Hawkeye for the group, Pocahontas can talk to animals and stuff I guess, Ariel can be the Aquaman of the crew, I guess Belle is smart so she can like make things. Man if they did this cross over thing I really hope the recast Belle, Emma Watson just didn’t work…

Have I gone too far down the rabbit hole?

Now if you’re thinking to yourself right now something about how this grown man needs to think signifigantly less about Disney Princesses you’re not wrong, but come on, give me a break! Who wouldn’t be interested in a huge cross over movie like this? Disney executives would love it, it’d make 100 billion dollars just from toy sales alone. I just wanna point out that if Disney ever does this, I thought of it before them. Later.