Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Living With Meaning: Alyssa Aramaki
Background:Alyssa recently changed from studying Theater Performance to English at BYU. She still loves music, theater, and dance, though, and hopes that those things can still have a place in her life. “Jenny Philips is a perfect example of what I want to be,” Alyssa said. “She writes music and does all these great things for people. She puts on firesides, and it’s all about the outward service because she loves to perform. That’s where I want to be.” Alyssa also wants to be an English teacher and share her love of Jane Austen, Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird with her high school students.
The Most Important Work
For me, I like doing work that I feel affects other people in their daily lives I think service is a type of work that is really good. Service isn’t something that only women can do, but I think women are naturally more drawn to do service and often perform the service that is the loving and nurturing side. I want to teach because, actually, all the English teachers I’ve had who influenced me were women. They changed me, they didn’t just teach me how to read or write, but I felt like they were doing a service in making me a better person. So that’s why I want to give back and do that for others. My freshman English teacher in high school was really understanding of everyone’s beliefs. She had friends who were LDS and so she would talk to me about my beliefs, and she would do that with other people in the class too. She understood what they were going through and would kind of incorporate that into their learning. When I would write a paper, she would respond knowing how I felt about these issues. Also, in the things that were learning, she would always tie it back to how it could make us become better people. I felt she was serving us because she knew we could learn more than just reading the book.
For a long time I wanted to do something in music or English because I loved those things. There was a phase when I didn’t really think about my work serving other people. I thought, “I just want to do this for myself because I love it.” But later, I started to want to teach more and so that I could serve.
Living Without Regret
I love performing—I love theater and music—and I always wanted to do something as a performer. When I was little my dream was to be on Broadway. And then I started to realize what that lifestyle meant and also that it’s really hard to reach to get there. I realized that I couldn’t really do that and felt that that the theater major wasn’t right for me, so I changed to English. Part of me still kind of regrets that decision. I go see shows here and I think, “I could be in that.” I miss performing. But at the same time, I feel right about the decision I’m making and so I think right now I’m at this middle ground where I could either get to a place where I’ll have regret forever or be glad that I changed my decision.
If I go on to think, “That was a different life, I’m not a performer anymore,” then I’ll regret it. But I think where I am right now, I’ve made the decision not to study it, but I can still pursue it as a hobby and still use it in whatever I’m doing in my life so I can bless other people’s lives. I think I’m at a crossroads right now of facing regret or not. It is hard to know how to choose the right path when you’re in the middle of it sometimes.
The Influence of Work in People’s Lives
In the gospel, so much can be centered on missionary work. The work that we do can be to bring light to other people. This summer, I was a performing missionary in Nauvoo. I was able to use something that I love to do and see how it can serve other people. It was cool to see how performing blessed the people’s lives who came there. There are a lot of people who aren’t members of the church who visit Nauvoo, and we were able to perform for them and talk to them. I loved seeing that what you do, even if it’s just something you love to do, can also serve other people.
Women in the Home or in the Workplace
I think women in the workplace is great. It’s wonderful to have women working because they can have an influence that men can’t have. But at the same time, I think it’s very important for women to be at home raising their children. It’s hard though. I want to be a teacher, which is a job you can have during the day and be home with your kids afterward but you’re still really busy so it’s hard to balance so that your kids don’t feel like you’re always gone. My mom stopped working when I was three, and I’m so glad because I loved having her home. She could come on field trips with us and do all these things. She doesn’t ever seem to regret it. That’s an important part of being home, I think. Mothers should never make their kids feel like they are held back because of motherhood. I think mothers with this attitude are maybe prone to taking the more passive route. They feel that they are home because they need to be and not because they actively want to be.
I feel like the prophet and the apostles make women feel so valuable and I love it. While the culture of the church and at BYU sometimes makes me feel like being a mother is what I should do, the leaders of the church make me feel that motherhood is what I want to do. The way that they talk about it, I think, “Yes, I want to be a mother and that is what I’m choosing.” The world tells me that I need to do whatever I want and the culture says you have to be a mother. I am going to do whatever I want and I am going to be a mother because that’s the same thing. Because when you understand the doctrine of the gospel, I think, then all those things fall into place. Motherhood, I think, in the doctrine of the church, is an active choice. Being a mother is such an active thing, whereas sometimes in the world or even in our church’s culture, people see it as settling for something less. But it is active because you are engaged in your children’s lives and you are constantly striving to be better for them and to help them be better.
I love Susan Easton Black. I respect her so much because she is this woman in the church who knows so much and has all this knowledge inside her brain and she keeps learning all the time. I love seeing how she can have an influence in the academic and religious world. She is different, I love it. She is so active, she is always learning and isn’t afraid of a field that is mostly dominated by men. She just goes for it.
I don’t want to plateau in my learning but I feel that some people do. Once you’re out of school and if you’re not in a profession then your learning may level out and kind of stop. I think the gospel can help a lot in that because as we’re continually learning by reading the scriptures and studying and that is a really great way of continuing to learn. It is a necessary part of our exaltation is to keep learning about the gospel. So, studying the gospel and the scriptures and different things about doctrine and religion is a really good way for mothers to keep learning because that’s something they can have time for because they already make time for it.
Defining a Life of Passivity
I go through phases where I definitely live more passively. Especially when I’m really busy, which would seem like I’m living an active life because I have so much to do and I’m always going. But when I step back, I realize that I’m living passively because I just let those things happen to me. I sign up to do all this stuff, I sign up for classes, I do all these things but then I just kind of let it happen and I get through it because I’m so busy. And that’s really a passive way to live. But when I’m active, that is when I’m really focused in on what it is I want to do, even if I’m doing fewer things. Like in Nauvoo this summer as a missionary, I think that was one of the most active times of my life because when you are a missionary you have to live by certain rules and give up everything else. Because I had this single purpose—to dedicate my life to the Lord and to serve—that was what I was focused on. It helped me to live really actively. Everything I did was centered on that goal. Then when I came home I kind of fell back into the passive lifestyle again because life came at me and I thought, “I just have to get these things done." So then it just became going through the motions.
When I’m living passively, I feel that there isn’t as much fulfillment, even though I get more things done. I don’t feel like my living is really meaningful. In school, when I’m living passively, I just get assignments done instead of really learning. It makes me want to go back to that time of active living when I read something and really take it in and not just read it and be able to check it off.
I think the Lord allows us to have times in our lives when we don’t feel fulfilled, not that he wants us to be miserable, but he lets us have those times because then we want to be more active, we want to have that back again. So I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to have times in our lives when we feel less fulfilled or we aren’t living up to our full potential because that inspires us to do better.