Mariah Proctor is a junior at BYU and has been a regular Meridian columnist since she was 18.

“From the prologue to “The Science of Educational Dramatics” by Emma Sheridan Fry. Environment knocks at the gateway of the senses. A rain of summons beats upon us day and night…. We do not answer. Everything around us shouts against our deafness, struggles with our unwillingness, batters our walls, flashes into our blindness, strives to sieve through us at every pore, begging, fighting, insisting. It shouts, “Where are you? Where are you?” But we are deaf. The signals do not reach us.”

What is ‘environment’ for you? The question has been tugging at me upon repeated ingestion of these words. I can hear something calling out to me and feel its desperation to become one with me. I hear the insistent knocking, and it’s as though I know I want to let it in, but I’m scared because I don’t know precisely what it is. 

“Environment finding the gates closed tries to break in. Turned away, it comes another way. Keep back, it stretches its hands to us. Always scheming to reach us. Never was a suitor more insistent than Environment, seeking admission, claiming recognition, signaling to be seen, shouting to be heard. And through the ages we sit inside ourselves deaf, dumb and blind, and will not stir….”

Last night, I was, (without actually deciding to be), a ‘yes man.’ I was having one of those evenings when I would have said yes to just about any invitation that was extended to me. Just then, my roommate walked in and asked if I wanted to come to Red Robin with her choir for their “after concert” party. May I say that, now, morning after, my full mental capacities returned to me, this sounds like the worst idea in the world. To go to a party (at a Red Robin of all places) with a bunch of people that you not only do not know, but who are in a “we we we so excited” mood that involves a lot of exclusive feelings of togetherness of which you are not a part.

Once I’d gotten into my roommate’s friend’s car, it was too late, so I decided to make the most of it. I didn’t know anyone and had no social niceties to keep up, so I ended up manifesting a confident version of myself unfettered by foolish insecurities or expectations. And I was the life of the party. I’m not suffering from some delusion of grandeur nor am I just arrogant; there are times when you feel every joke land like it should and people are turning to each other to say “where has she been all my life” and you don’t have to think before you speak any more, because you have tapped a place so pure in yourself that ideas take shortcuts from mind to mouth and dodge all the tolls and checkpoints, HOV all the way.

“What is Environment? Our mate, our true mate that clamors for our reunion.”  I would argue, that at least for me, environment is not only our true mate, but our true self clamoring and groping and grappling to fill us where the shell of ourselves assumes we can’t be filled. The whole evening, where I’d decided to care nothing at all for anyone’s perception of me, I felt a good portion of the yearning and churning and aching that is constantly inside me, put to rest for an evening. And the knocking stopped, though it has already started again. I stumbled into myself and Environment broke through if only for a few hours to remind me what It’s like to be me.

“What are we? A creation of God’s consciousness coming now slowly and painfully into recognition of ourselves.” It is a constant frustration to me that the process of coming into recognition of myself is such a slow and painful one, but the joy in finding bits of true me is as exquisite as is that pain. Sometimes when I examine my fear in a situation, if I’m honest with myself, it isn’t fear of failure, it’s fear of success. It’s fear of permanently fusing myself to myself and then never being able to go back to the comfort of mediocrity, “…as if a god once said, ‘and if they shall recognize each other the world will be blown apart.’” When I finally stop averting my gaze and taking half steps and look myself full in the face, one world will be blown apart, and it’s fear of the destruction that keeps me so interested in staring at pavement and my shoes.

I could say something bold and brash like “I’m done with letting fear dictate me,” but the statement would merely mock me later when I inevitably indulge fear in some episode of my life series. I will say “Let us awaken life dormant!” and no matter how much lumbering and eye-rubbing and dragging comes with awakening this long dormant thing, it will eventually be fully awake and I’m satisfied to start the process this very moment. “Let us, boldly, seizing the star of our intent, lift it as the lantern of our necessity, and let it shine over the darkness of our compliance.”  I blink at the shock of illumination as that light comes on, and compliance rushes out, my eyes begin to adjust and—oh it’s you Mariah! It’s been far too long.