Those who have served an LDS full-time mission know how disorienting it can be to return home. During the term of service, minimal thought is given to long-term after-mission plans. Even when plans are made, there’s a big difference between the detailed planning of day-to-day mission activities, and vague, nebulous post-mission goals.
So what’s to be done with all that free time once you come back home? When and if do you exercise, if it doesn’t have to be done by 6:30 a.m.? How late do you stay up when you don’t have to be home by 9 p.m.? Where do you go now that you’re no longer restricted by area boundaries? How do you function now that all the structure is gone?
Consider this day one in a “Returned Missionary Training Center” as we take you through some tips that will help you make the transition back into society.
Keep a Schedule
One of the difficulties of coming home is knowing what to do with all the free, unrestrained, uncommitted time. To combat this, try to keep some semblance of a schedule. We don’t necessarily mean carrying a franklin planner with you everywhere, but successful people know how to regulate their time. Don’t get us wrong, occasional late nights with friends is part of the fun of newfound adulthood. That said, whether you’re headed back to school or straight into the workforce, you’re going to have responsibilities, and being an adult also means getting yourself enough rest and waking up on time.
So commit yourself to a schedule, and try to keep your appointments most of the time. You’ll be more productive that way.
Part of what made you effective (and kept you preoccupied) on the mission was setting and striving towards goals. The same is true for civilian life. Go back to school, and plan a date to graduate. Or, start working, and start saving up for a house, or a new car. Set career goals, education goals, fitness goals, or plan to learn a new skill. If you’ve had a lifelong dream, now is the time to shoot for it. Whatever you do, give yourself something you can work toward, and then measure your progress. All else aside, the feeling of progress will give you a sense of satisfaction.
Find a Healthy Hobby
As a young, single adult, you will have more free, disposable time than any other in your life, school and jobs aside. Do something satisfying with it, just be sure you don’t overdo it. From video games to working out, there can always be too much of a good thing. If you can, vary your hobbies, and try to make one of them productive in some way. Not everything needs to earn you money, but here again, a sense of progress will be more satisfying.
A college education may not be the answer for you, but educating yourself is still important. Find something you’ve always wanted to learn about—a trade, a skill, a profession, science, art, religion, etc. Then read books, seek training, or start practicing. The more you know, the more you will be capable of, and that makes both for a more attractive job candidate and romantic candidate.
A Word of Warning
An old saying goes, “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” Be aware that free time is like a vacuum—it will seek to fill itself. And unless you fill it with positive things, it’s just as likely to fill itself with things that are self-destructive. More and more common in this generation is the prevalence of sexual/pornography addictions. It’s more serious than a simple bad habit, and you or someone you know will likely deal with it during your lifetime.
The problem with a sexual addiction is that it sneaks into our lives. Unlike substance abuse, where there’s a clear beginning, many of us are already desensitized to the way the media portray sex, and we are sometimes willing to accept small levels of impropriety that can lead up to something more detrimental. It becomes very easy to fall into traps, such as looking at images of attractive actors/actresses online just to look at them. This skirting of the issue is a practice known to addicts as “ritualizing,” and if justification follows, a slip into addiction indulgence isn’t far behind.
If you’re already struggling with a pornography addiction, and you find that more and more of your time is devoured by a “bad habit” that seems impossible to break, you may need outside help. Sexual and pornography addictions are real, but with help, recovery is possible. Don’t give up on yourself—with the right tools, you can get your life back and pursue the goals and dreams you’ve always wanted to achieve.