By Natalie Stoker
Distinguished Young Woman of Idaho for 2013
My first semester at college has been full of unforgettable memories and experiences. I met so many new people, worked harder in classes than I ever thought possible, and landed my dream job as a photographer for the university I’m attending. Each weekend (and weekday, for that matter) had an array of choices for social gatherings and study sessions. Every way I turned there was something going on. Living about four hours from home, it would be an easy trip to drive home for the weekend after classes were out on Friday. Even with this luxury, however, I only took advantage of it when I passed off my title as Distinguished Young Woman of Idaho 2013, and at Thanksgiving break. I felt that if I left my college town, I would be missing out on huge parties. I couldn’t bear the thought of being home with my parents when I could be out meeting new people instead. When the Christmas holiday came around, everyone headed home for the two week break after getting done with finals. For the first time in years, my entire family was coming home. With nine siblings, four in-laws, parents, twelve nieces and nephews, plus family friends, sharing a house with twenty-seven other people sounded anything but appealing.
It always seems, though, that you take the most from an experience that you didn’t think would have such a large impact. Over the course of the entire fall semester, I learned new ideas about government, economics, social problems, studied ancient books of scripture… But over the two weeks of Christmas break, I learned more than what was covered in over one hundred days of school. Where I thought I wanted to be changed dramatically as I went about the simple joys of being with family. Whether it was tickling my nieces or staying up late watching a movie with my brothers, or helping my mom prepare the never-ending food needed to feed such a large group, I didn’t want it to end. You can imagine that with such a huge family, it’s rare that we all get together at one time. I realized that the relationships I had with each member of my kin was very much taken for granted. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if this was the last time I ever saw any family member again. I realized that I had been viewing the place that I came from as a house of bricks and boards, rather than a home full of welcoming love, warmth, and memories. I was brought to the brink of tears as I gave my last hugs before heading off for school. Saying goodbye had never been more difficult.
Wherever life takes me, I know I have my family supporting me one hundred percent. Even if they’re across the country or sea, I always have someone I can lean on during a tough time. As life moves on, we can’t forget where we come from. No job or relationship should draw you away from the most important thing in your life: home. Whenever I’m feeling alone or loaded down with stress from homework or burdensome classes, I know I’ll never be on my own. With a bubbling and busy world, full of distractions, I offer one simple thing to remember: don’t forget where you belong.
Natalie Stoker is a college freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah majoring in Business Marketing Management & Photography. Originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho, Natalie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Idaho for 2013. Learn more about Natalie here!