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STORIES WITH PURPOSE
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OVERCOMING FOMO (OR “FEAR OF MISSING OUT”) BY PUTTING GOD FIRST
ANDREA LEE N. SANTY
Andrea Lee N. Santy: 3, 2, 1… GO! The loud buzzer sounded off as I drove into the water. 40 seconds. 41, 42, 43… Time quickly passed by as I was trying to race the clock. Almost there to the finish line. Just a couple more meters to go, I told myself. You’re almost there. Keep on going till the end.
A lot of people may not know this about me, but when I was younger, I swam competitively. I just loved the way the water felt as my arms glided through, how my legs pushed me forward faster. Swimming taught me a lot of life lessons, like working hard and how to keep on going no matter what. But when I was younger, swimming was just about being in the water.
I grew up as a military child stationed in Yokosuka, Japan for ten years. My dad was on active-duty in the US Navy and would sometimes go [on] deployment for many months, with us left back at home. My brother and I… we attended schools on base and were very active kids growing up. My mom enrolled us in so many activities: like math clubs, volleyball, swimming, piano, lessons, basketball, the list just goes on, and along with my Lola, would pick us up from school and bring us there right after. And our schedules were always so jam packed and by the evening we would instantly fall asleep. Well, that was just the weekdays. On the weekends, we attended worship services and performed our duties. I’m tired just thinking about it.
At the time, I swam for the Yokosuka Seahawk swim team and found myself enjoying volleyball; with school clubs off base that my friends participated in. But swim meets, volleyball practices and tournaments, well, they all fell on Sunday. The one day of the week where everyone was off and available. Well, except for me. I attended worship services on Sundays.
As a kid, my mind wanted to go play volleyball, swim on the weekends, and I thought about all the fun I’d have with my friends. But of course, there was the big downside, I’d have to miss worship services.
“But, mom, if I can get really good at swimming, I can do it in high school and maybe even in college! You never know. I could be the next Michael Phelps!” Okay, maybe I didn’t say that out loud, but I thought about it. And these questions constantly filled my mind, and I had to make a choice – was it going to be swimming or going to the worship services? But I also thought about the one thing that my parents always reminded me of – to put God first.
From a young age, my parents always emphasized the importance of our responsibilities at Church. And I was always told to put my duty and service to God [first] no matter what. And to always pray and entrust our lives unto Him because He knows what’s best for us.
And since the age of five, I performed in the Children’s Worship Service Choir with my little brother. And although it was a hard decision, I missed those swim meets and the opportunities to hang out with my friends in volleyball clubs. But I know and I knew that I made the right choice… because I saw it in everything else in my life. God continued to guide me in my studies, helping me to continuously excel with high grades. He also helped my family when we had to make some big decisions, some which greatly changed our lives.
In November of 2018, my parents delivered some unexpected news for us – my dad was reassigned and we had to move and I was just devastated. In complete shock. I broke down crying and my whole world was just shattered. Japan was my home. I was scared and I didn’t want to go. I’d never moved before, so I didn’t know what it was like to be a new student, to even be in a new school. And I just thought, what if I didn’t like it there? Or, what if I couldn’t make any new friends? My parents assured me that everything would go well. And why? Because they prayed to God. We held devotional prayers that week, every night at 9 p.m., asking God to guide us in our final decisions. And in just a few days, my dad got the call that he had received the job in Virginia. Our prayers were answered and God was showing us which paths to take. And so, the moving process began. Boxes filled the rooms of our small apartment until everything in it was packed away. The emptiness of our home was what I felt like inside.
However, I didn’t have to wait long before things started to look up. That first Saturday, we planned to go to the local congregation of Temple Hills. It was my first time attending in a chapel that big, its beautiful presence shined through. And the moment that I entered the chapel, I immediately felt at home and knew from that moment that everything would be okay.
Now, one year later, it was my freshman year and I had finally adjusted to life stateside. I even played on my school’s volleyball team and participated in various school activities such as JROTC. But just when everything felt right, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Boom. Just like that, life was basically upside down. We had to adjust to learning at home virtually, and had to wear a mask outside. And every day we stared at our computer screens, trying our best to actively listen and learn with limited interaction and socialization with our classmates and friends. This pandemic really tested our faith, especially for the young members of the Church. And I’ve got to admit, it was so tough being so isolated. My friends and I found ourselves spending more time alone scrolling through social media and keeping our feelings and thoughts to ourselves. We were all doing the same thing, but we were all doing it on our own. I can see how many people my age experience a lot of anxieties and worries. So, I did what I knew best. I kept putting God first.
Instead of us spending our time browsing through the internet, my family participated in the various online Church activities held to help strengthen our faith even at home. We continued to perform our duties, even from the comfort and privacy of our homes. My parents always reminded us to wear the proper Church attire, to prepare our clothes, offerings, and most importantly ourselves for the worship services, even though no one was watching. We continued to bow our heads in prayers, asking God to help us when times around us were rough. It wasn’t always easy, but we just kept on going. Well, we’re back to in-person school again. It had been two years since I last stepped foot in the school building.
I’m a junior now, [also known as] the hardest year in high school. It was so different seeing people again and learning in a classroom setting. And praises be unto our God, we were also able to resume our in-person worship services. I got to perform my duties in the chapel once again. As a junior, I’m currently taking four AP classes with homework coming in right and left. And on worship service days, we would travel early and return home very late at night. And sometimes I would end up staying up late hours just to finish my assignments.
And some people may wonder why young children like me attend worship services. They might wonder why not just go home and relax after a long day of school? But to me, worship service is my joy in life. Singing hymns in the choir, and performing my duties, the lessons taught during the worship services helped me to keep on going. And the lessons taught by the ministers and ministerial workers are God’s way of guiding us in this difficult world. The place of worship is like my second home, where I feel at peace and my mind is put at ease.
And I know my high school experience will be different from my friends. I won’t experience going to football games, parties, and all the “fun things” everyone talks about in high school. And I won’t lie, sometimes I wish I could experience what it’s like to be a “normal” high school student – whatever that means. But I’m always reminded of my swimming days in Japan. You know, choosing God doesn’t mean I’m missing out. He’s just making me a better life swimmer. And I see it. He’s helping me complete the race until the end to help me win the best prize – one greater than that gold medal – the eternal life in the Holy City.
God continues to give me high grades and successes in my studies. He continues to bless my family and gives us the life and the strength we need. And I continue to praise His name by performing my duties in the choir and as a [Children’s Worship Service] organist. And in the next couple of years, I’ll be starting my college application process, applying to schools and even scholarships. I’m nervous, anxious, and even excited. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know that if I keep choosing God, I don’t have to worry about anything because God makes a way.
In His right time, God gives you what He sees best for you. So, don’t be afraid of missing out because God will always be with you. From a young age to old age, every step of the way.
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