By Brianna Bracey
Distinguished Young Woman of Utah for 2013
For a majority of my life, my self-worth came from accomplishments, test scores, and the length of my to-do list. I graduated high school as an AP scholar with high honors, was recognized by Utah’s Lieutenant Governor for my efforts in community service, wrote and published two books, received the Presidential Fitness and Call to Service Award, both signed by President Obama, and was selected as a featured youth choir member to sing in Carnegie Hall. On paper, it sounds pretty great. But this constant strive for excellence left a tremendous impact on my health and happiness.
I filled every day of my life to the brim. By unnecessarily complicating my life, I often felt frustration, diminished joy, and little sense of meaning to my life—no matter what I tried to do. Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches, “If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.”
In the Spirit of Thanksgiving, here were the solutions and fundamentals I discovered in my life—relationships, if you will—that made all the difference in my life, which I will forever be grateful for.
First and foremost, my religion: a relationship with my Savior and Redeemer. Daily scripture study, personal prayers, listening to spiritual music—truly developing a relationship with God has made the biggest difference in my life. The invitation in Psalm 46:10, to “Be still and know that I am God,” has brought never-ending blessings and joy in my life. It doesn’t take away life’s hardships, but it definitely makes them possible and worth overcoming.
Second, strengthening family relationships. In my family, we do simple things together, like family dinner, having an activity once a week where we all can talk with each other, catch each other up on our lives and weekly schedules and participate in something fun together. We also go on Sunday walks, volunteer at nursing homes, and play music together. Replaying old home videos, vacationing together, and simply being together may just be our favorite thing to do. “In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e.”
Thirdly, other people! Serving others, giving of our time and talents, truly listening to one another, and being sensitive to others’ needs. I’ve been deeply impressed by the people in my life who exemplify this so well—family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, DYW volunteers, participants, directors, and host families—the list is never-ending. However, one example that particularly stands out in my mind is the life of an older gentleman I met at a retirement home. Burdened with the challenge of age and illness, he didn’t think he could do much—but he realized he could listen. He watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged and spent time with them. He freely gave others compliments and wrote letters on his typewriter for them. He smiled, hobbled around on his broken hip with a football on the days he felt he could, passing it around to other residents and nurses, and made an effort to know everyone by name. He was a blessing in the lives of so many people. Chances are, people won’t remember you for your accomplishments, awards, or possessions. But they will remember how you made them feel.
Lastly, strengthen the relationship with yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop criticizing and belittling yourself and get to know yourself better. Spend some time outdoors, watch a sunrise or a sunset, write in your journal, and ponder your actions, thoughts, and beliefs. Learn to see yourself for who you really are. Discover your purpose and mission in my life. Discover your divine potential. I promise, it’s there.
Strength does not come from checking off all the “To-Do’s”, but rather it comes from simplifying your life a little, making the necessary changes to refocus, and following the path that leads toward a life of meaning and gladness.
Love and prayers,
Brianna Bracey is a college freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah majoring in Psychiatric Nursing and minoring in Music. Originally from Alpine, Utah, Brianna was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Utah for 2013. Learn more about Brianna here!