Where ever I find myself, I can’t help but notice the amount of people plugged into outlets or their cellphone. Most of these people are people around my age. My generation truly is dependent on their devices. Everyone seems to be scrolling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or sending some Snapchats. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love social media and my devices as much as the next person. I use them to help me benefit my life. I don’t however, make them a game of popularity.

I’ve started to notice in the last several months how much people are basing their social ranking off of social media. People without social media profiles seem to be “uncool”. If someone doesn’t get x amount of likes on their post, they’re not cool or what they did wasn’t noteworthy. It seems that the more followers someone has, the cooler they are.

Before I get too ahead of myself, i’ll admit that I love having followers and likes. It does make me feel accomplished. It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that what i’m doing is funny, exciting or that I make a life for myself that people are interested in following. Damn straight i’m a interesting person, and if you don’t agree with me, feel free to unfollow, unlike or ignore. I won’t be upset.

I was recently confronted by a girl after unfollowing her on a social media platform. I unfollowed her because I wasn’t interested in her pictures and we hardly ever interacted. I would still talk to her if I saw her at school and still consider her a friend. I simply unfollowed because I didn’t see the need to stay connected. Now the only way she would have known I unfollowed her within a few hours of me hitting her with the unfollow train, would be a special app. There are apps these days that will tell you who unfollowed you, and give you the option to unfollow them as well. Quite frankly, who gives a damn?

If someone follows someone only because they follow them, what’s the reason for following? Yes, it can be a mutual sign of respect. But did you really care about them before this? No. The reason these “followbacks” or unfollows happen are for popularity. People want as many followers as possible. They need it to show the world that they’re popular and cool, so they can get more followers and thus the vicious cycle ensues. Unfollowing someone because the unfollowed you just seems immature to me.

The more followers you have, the more likes you’ll get. Likes seem to be social media’s holy grail. A friend of mine told a story he had on a train headed to SLC. He overheard a couple girls high school to college aged talking about instagram. They said that if they don’t get a lot of likes instantly, they’ll remove the picture and repost it later. Reposting it later doesn’t change what your picture was. It doesn’t change how special it was to you. All you’re doing is trying to show off to people you most likely don’t even talk to on a weekly basis of how cool you are with all your likes. Swag.

A trend I noticed in Utah since being here is photo-shoots. Everyone seems to be a photographer. No disrespect intended for those who use photography as an art and enjoy it. But the people who are photographers for their friends so they can have a sick new Instagram post make me sick. Girls mainly, seem to be shelling out nearly $100 for a photo-shoot with these so-called photographers for the main purpose of pictures to post to social media. What happened to the days when the only reason you would have professional pictures taken was for special events or monumental moments in your life? You’re not fooling anybody. The only person you model for is Instagram.

These same girls will often go do activities so they can have “adventurous” pictures to post so they won’t look basic like the rest of their friends. Several times I’ve seen girls go to the lake or hiking for example and not get in the water or hike more than 100 yards. They take 20 pictures and then leave. Shout out to the girls who break a sweat or get their hair wet on a “lake day”. How fabricated are our lives becoming?

A girl recently did a project where she told her friends and family she was going on a 2 week vacation somewhere exotic. For two weeks she posted pictures of her swimming, hiking, eating exotic foods and of landscapes. The catch was, she never left her apartment. With the help of her boyfriend, she photoshopped and over edited nearly every picture she posted. She did it to prove how fake we can make our lives if we really want to.

Am I the last one who posts pictures and tweets updates on my life as way to stay in contact with my friends? Am I the only who at the end of the day doesn’t care if someone unfollowed me? I don’t do cool things to take cool pictures. I do cool things to do cool things. Now I do love filming my activities because one of my hobbies is film making. Getting cool footage is often a motivating factor to really do something cool. However, I don’t go out and plaster the videos on social media. I’ll tweet a quick link about what I was doing and that’s the end.

We need to start doing things because WE enjoy them and because WE appreciate it. Post a picture that you like. Tweet what you want to tweet. Follow whoever you find interesting. Unfollow someone because you really don’t give a damn. There are bigger things in life to worry about than someone unfollowing you. Set yourself free from the social media popularity contest.

Now, to those of you saying i’m a hypocrite or that i’m only saying this because I have a substantial amount of followers, I don’t really care. The reason I only follow 20 something people on twitter, and maybe 100 on Instagram is because that’s the amount of people I find significant and interesting enough to follow their, every move. I don’t do it because I want to look cool. If I follow someone, I want it to show to them that I really dig them. They’re interesting and to keep on doing what they’re doing. If I don’t follow you, don’t take it personal. We just aren’t good enough friends yet. O

Do not worry if your Instagram picture only got 40 likes and your friend got 400 on hers. Chances are she’s a basic and you’re better than her. Don’t worry about someone unfollowing you. If a girl has more followers than you that doesn’t make her any more popular, attractive, wealthy or smarter than you. Well, she’s probably hot. But maybe you’re hot too. Who knows.

People would do good to step back from social media. Stop making it a popularity contest. Follow, post and like things and people you actually like. Do you. Social media was created as a tool to stay connected with those you care about. I’m pretty sure the person who follows thousands of people and has thousands of people doesn’t care about you. He wants your follow to add to his pile. You have a connection with loved ones, old and current friends at your finger tips. Use it to benefit and build relationships. Not as a popularity contest. Ten years from now, nobody is going to care or remember how many likes you got on your “I love the changing seasons” selfie you posted on Instagram. Use these gifts we have to broadcast your real, authentic and unfiltered life to your friends.



Provo, Utah: the college aged Mormon capitol of the world. Funny thing, is currently there are no guys aged 20. All the guys residing in Provo are aged 18-19 or 21 and up. By the age of 20, most guys have left for their mission. At least for another couple months, there won’t be any 20 year old return missionaries.

Being a 20 year old male is almost like being an endangered species. The only thing different, is we aren’t treated with so much respect and care. It’s actually quite the opposite. When someone finds out someone is 20 around here, they either think they are about to go on a mission or just not going. Then, sometimes, they think the worst….they came home early. It’s better to just not go than to come home early. I vividly remember sitting in my Bishop’s office getting my papers finalized and telling him my concerns and how I didn’t want to go until I was 100% positive this was the right choice for me. That’s why I had waited until I was 20. He said it would be better for me to not even go than to go and come home early. At first I didn’t believe him. Sure. It would be bad to come home early, but at least you went, right? Nope.

When someone finds out a missionary comes home early, their initial thinking is that they hated it or got in trouble. Lots of prematurely returned missionaries like to blame it on medical reasons as a crutch to deflect the judgmental views they would receive from hating it or getting sent home. Lots of missionaries come home for medical issues. It’s an unfortunate fact. That’s what happened to me. Unfortunately, the phrase “one bad apple ruins the whole barrel” comes into play. You get some missionaries saying they came home for “medical reasons” when that was obviously not the case, and then more and more people start thinking thats an excuse. Especially when they go throughout daily life completely fine.

Now, I came home due to a whole cluster of reasons. The main reason was chronic side pain. A stabbing, in-habilitating pain. That pain then snowballed and created issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating issues and so forth. I was getting worse week by week. I had never had issues with any of the above pre mission or pre side pain. It was clear it was all resulting due to the chronic pain. I couldn’t get healthy and I was scared. Scared of going home and being looked at like a disgrace and a failure.

Now i’m home. At first I had issues with accepting it and not caring what people thought or said. Then a few months passed and I didn’t care. I knew I fought to stay out for as long as I could. Now i’m back in the Mormon Meat Market. Girls and guys fighting for friends and relationships. Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want is a relationship. But when I tell a girl that i’m 20 years old, it’s like going into a job interview with no experience or education. Immediately their opinions change, and often their whole demeanor towards you. Some of you will say that’s not true. To you, I say “shut up”.

Sure, I have found lots of people here who really don’t care. They know what happened or it doesn’t bother them. These are the people that more people should strive to be like. My first two weeks back in Provo have already been better than my whole first semester was. It’s largely due to the friends i’ve been able to make. The reason for this post is to shed some light onto what it’s like for the premature RM’s out there. Nobody knows what it’s really like in our shoes. You don’t know why we came home, nor should it matter. What should matter is what kind of a person we are.

Almost all of my guy friends in Provo have served missions. I’m the youngest of the group…obviously. We’ll be in a conversation with guys or girls, and I will be an equal participant. More times than not, year in school or age gets brought up. It’s at that point when opinions change. People will cover it up and be like “oh coming home early happens to plenty of people. Doesn’t change anything”. Wrong. It changed because of the fact that you even had to say that to me. Something about your prior opinion changed. There’s questions as to why. Human instinct is to want to know why. But I can’t tell everyone my story of why i’m home. Nobody has time for that and I don’t enjoy telling people all about the worst day of my life.

In a perfect world, i’m still on a mission. Sorry I got sick and had to come home. I can’t fix that. The rude comments along the lines of “finish your mission” are about the only things that actually upset me. One rude comment about my mission will ruin my whole day. “He couldn’t even last on his mission” is probably the worst insult i’ve had thrown my way. I fought for 5 months through pneumonia, side pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, appetite issues and others. Yes, I couldn’t last. But nobody could. In January I almost went home. I made it until the end of March fighting each day. When someone makes fun of me for going home early, I compare it to someone working as hard as they can to get a degree, and someone saying it’s not a  real degree because it’s not from their school.

People seem to idolize the missionary and return missionary status. People often feel like they are perfect beings. They’ll only hire an RM, or someone going on a mission is a perfect child. That is so absolutely wrong. So many future missionaries, current missionaries and returned missionaries that I know are terrible people. Most are great, but that is not the case for all. It is not a one size fits all type matter. Just because someone went on a mission doesn’t mean they’re perfect. People need to get over that fact. Your missionary isn’t perfect, nor is the RM your friend wants to set you up with. They’re still the same person they were before they left…just with better habits (hopefully).

I can’t wait until i’m 21. That’s when nobody will even have to worry about it. I’ll be normal and I can just tell people I served a mission and nobody will question it or think i’m lying. I’m sick of sticking out. I’m sick of still being sick. I’m sick of the judgmental Mormons who idolize the return missionary status. I’m sick of being told I won’t match up to that. I’m sick of not even being able to finish my mission.

It would do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a world of good if the first question they asked a guy in their 20’s “Where did you serve?”. Your mission doesn’t make you a good person. Judge a person based on their character, not on where they spent 2 years of their life.


Most of my close friends know of the humor that is my love life….or lack there of. After talking with some people about my streaks of bad dates, I decided to write down the better….or should I say worse encounters. It seems that time after time that I find myself in situations that I don’t even believe myself, yet alone would I expect someone else to understand it. So, feel free to believe what you want, but these encounters are all real mishaps with real girls…


Temple Square.

I was a freshman in college. I knew a cute girl who would be in Provo for a few days. We had talked about going on a date one day, so I decided to take her on a date while she was in town. I even requested that afternoon of work off to make this a good date and to make sure everything went as planned. I decide to take her to Temple Square to see the lights (she had told me of always wanting to go on a date there) and book us reservations at The Rooftop (the fancy restaurant overlooking the temple). Then, I had planned for us to go to a secret spot of mine overlooking the valley, complete with blankets and hot chocolate (she had also told me of wanting to do this. Very basic Mormon girl….I know.).

Well the day of, I have trouble reaching her. She was hesitant about it and to her credit, I wasn’t telling her anything about our date because I wanted to surprise her. Well, she finally tells me she can’t go on short notice and she has to be back early and that she’s just gonna stay in that night. Some lame excuse she could have gotten out of. Well, I’m rattled and decide to go hangout with our mutual friends. I call my friend and she tells me to come over because a big group are over. Well, I open the door and who do I see sitting on the couch in-between 5 other guys? This girl. The audacity of some people. Long story short, it’s awkward. We talk for a minute before she leaves. She feels bad. I’m still mad. She goes home. I go hit on her hot friends for awhile. The end.



I think this was the 2nd day I was in Provo. School hadn’t started yet. I go to a pool party with some friends. While at the pool party, I slice my head open playing pool basketball. 10 staples and a concussion later, i’m good to go out for the night. We go to a party at BYU and I run into a friend from Colorado. We had also talked about going on a date in school. She was extremely flirty with me and sounded like she almost wanted to date. So I talk to her that night and she feels bad for me and takes care of me all night and is by my side. What more could I want? It was going perfect. She then agrees that we should go on a date the next night. So I walk her back to her dorm. While on our way, she gets a call from a guy she met earlier before the party. We wait a minute or two for him. Turns out it was the same overly competitive, meat head of a BYU linebacker that gave me the 10 staples in the head. Great. Very awkwardly I say hi to him and then he leaves and the night is over.

I go home, text her to confirm for tomorrow. Nothing. Wake up. Still no text back. Lunch time. Still no text back. Afternoon rolls around so I send out another text (cringe). Nothing. An hour later. Give her a call. Nothing. I finally decide her phone must have been lost or something (anything but the fact that she is obviously avoiding me like the plague.). I go out with some guy friends to a block party. On our way walking to the party, I spot her holding hands with the meat head walking right at us. I look at my friends and quickly tell them that’s the girl. We walk directly towards them. She eventually looks at me 20 feet away. She looks like she saw a ghost. She immediately points to the clouds trying to distract the meat head to avoid a confrontation. Well, he looks quickly then looks back to see me walking. He gives me the “Oh hey bro!” and I just respond with a “well isn’t this cute!”. They keep walking. She has her face in his arm. A few seconds later, my friend yells out the always classy “BITCHHH” at her. The end.



A girl I had a thing with in high school decided to write me a letter while I was in college. Essentially the letter talked about how she still liked me and wanted me back and was going to wait for me on my mission. Everything I didn’t want to hear. It had been 2 years already and I was way over it. Well, I don’t know what to do with the love note. I decide to put it in a secret pocket in my backpack so nobody will ever find it.

Fast forward a few months. I’ve been in China for a couple weeks. We were on a weekend trip to Suzhou. My stomach is still adjusting to Chinese food. We were walking around the town after getting massages. My sister and I are walking through a busy stretch of downtown where a large crowd of police officers were standing. I decide to fart as I walk by the police officers so we can notice their reaction. Well. Something more than a fart came out. I immediately rush to the nearest bathroom I can find. FINALLY. Safety. Wrong. There is no toilet paper. Chinese customs are BYOTP. I had totally forgot because I was still new to China. Well I look for a paper towl by the sink. Fresh out. I run into the women’s bathroom. Fresh out. A lady gives me a startling look, as any Chinese woman would when seeing a 6’3 white kid in a ladies room. So I run back into my stall. I frantically search through my back pack. It’s either between using my passport or my brand new sock. Then I realize I forgot to search my secret pocket. I pull open the pocket and find the 4 page love letter. I pause for a second thinking about what layer of hell i’d go to for using this love letter to wipe myself up. Screw it. I use every possible inch to clean myself up, and then rinse my underwear out in the sink and get back to the rest of the group. The end.



3 weeks before my mission I take a 2 week road trip. After about a week of couch surfing, I end up in Provo for a few days. I decide to take this very cute girl on a date. She is by far one of the more attractive girls i’ve been on a date with. I decide to make this very romantic. I decide to buy her some treats and a nice card to leave on her porch for the morning of. That night I stay up with my friends late into the morning. I wake up and the weather is poor, making me have to audible on my original plans for the date. So I finally decide to take her ice skating and get everything set up. I decide I’ll take a quick nap before running to her place and dropping the goods on her porch. Well, after a week of couch surfing, i’m exhausted and end up passing out for a few hours. I wake up to my friends beating on me and dragging me into their car to get Chinese food. Being in the awkward “just woke up and what year is it” phase I forget about dropping the card off and what time it is exactly. While eating, I realize that i’m screwed and i’m going to be 30 minutes or so late. My perfectly planned date was slipping away. I get the hint that she is upset I was running late (rightfully so). I finally rush back to my couch and get dressed and go pick her up. During some awkward ice skating, an even more awkward conversation arises. Somehow her former boyfriend type guy gets brought up. He was on a mission and I wasn’t exactly sure how serious they were. Well she goes on for several minutes to tell me how much she likes him and how she’s confident that they’ll get married when he gets back. I almost immediately zone out of the conversation and just start thinking, “I’m paying for another man’s wife right now. And i’m definitely not getting a kiss tonight. Great.”. So I wrap it up and decide to take her home. I think I pulled the excuse that I had a friend in town who was getting married. I guess she bought it. I immediately dropped her off back home and raced to meet up with my friends at a wannabe coffee shop and talk for a few more hours…and joke about girls who wait for missionaries. Long story short, my perfect date was ruined by no sleep, Chinese food and a girl being practically engaged.



It’s my 19th birthday coming up. A big group of my girl friends decide we should all hang out. It’s going to be on a friday night and we can all go to a party or do something. I don’t exactly remember what the plans are. Well, my birthday rolls around. My roommates are all out of town and I spend the day working. I finally get off work around 8:00 or so. I call one of the girls to see where they were at. She doesn’t answer. I decide to check twitter for minute. I immediately see them posting pictures with these “Provo All-stars” (mid 20 something douchebags that hit on freshman girls and normally sell security systems or pest controll) at their company party. No way. These girls had completely ditched me for the biggest tools in the toolshed? I was pissed. I text one of them and she tells me that they weren’t feeling good and were tired so they were going to stay in. I just respond with the picture she had retweeted a minute ago. I then deleted her number and haven’t talked to any of them since. Their loss. I even think a few are married and already divorced now.

I call one of my friends in Rexburg and she tells me that she’s bummed for me and wishes I was in Rexburg so we could have a party. Well after a half hour of sitting alone in my apartment I decide its worth it. I don’t have to work or go to school until Tuesday. I drive to Rexburg and get there around 1:00 AM, to a birthday cake waiting for me and a night with one of my favorite girls. So I guess this one still ended on a happy note.



Well there you have some of my worst encounters of dating or lack there of. There’s more that come to my mind but for the sake of my own pride and not wanting to look like a total loser, i’ll keep those off the internet. But I guess to ease the curious minds, one was a blind date with a girl who was married and had a kid, one was with a girl who thought I was the son of the British Prime Minister, a date where the location of the date was closed and I got a flat tire, and another is about a girl who convinced me she was 18 when she was much, much younger.

So whenever you get stood up or feel sad you’re single, just think back to this list. It could always be much, much worse.


Life is a constant game of choices and chance.

My biggest fear is regret. Regret is probably my least favorite thing. That’s why this whole situation has been so unpleasant.

I’m not going to say it’s been rough. I’m not going to say I like it either. Adjusting to normal life was easy after a few weeks. Not having a set schedule has been relaxing. Not having to shave everyday has probably been the nicest thing about being home. Knowing that I would be in our weekly set lessons with so and so at this time has been the worst. Knowing I should calling people on Saturday night to invite them to church rather than calling my friends asking what we’re going to do that night, has been weird.

I’ve slowly accepted this is life now. I’ve accepted the fact that this isn’t a “go home for a few weeks, get healthy and go back” situation. I’m not healthier. The pain may be less constant, but it has no become sharper when it is prevalent. After medical bills in the 5 figure range (thank goodness for missionary insurance) they still haven’t been able to diagnose me. This is life, undiagnosed.

I’ve decided to attend school in the fall. I’m headed to UVU for at least another semester. After I’ll probably transfer to BYUI or BYU. There’s still a lot at play and nothing is completely final yet, but I feel as if this is the right thing to do.

I’m scared I’ll regret this. I’ve regretted almost everything I’ve ever done. I have a massive fear of commitment. In the store I stare at 2 products for 10 minutes deciding what will be better and being genuinely scared of ending up with something less good. Pathetic, eh? I always feel as if the grass is greener on the other side.

The only thing I never regretted was my mission. I never had regret for being there. There were times I thought normal life would be fun, but I never regretted it.

I regret coming home even though it wasn’t even in my control whatsoever. I regret going to UVU. Sometimes I regret moving to China rather than going to school. Sometimes I regret going to my high school rather than the other one in town. I still love all of those choices but still wonder what it would be like if I didn’t make them and did something else? Would it be better? Would someone else’s life be better?

That’s what’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. If I don’t ever return to Phoenix, who’s lives will I not get to change? Who was waiting for me there? Who did I miss? What else could I have done? What could I have learned? Now combine all of those questions with my fear of regret and how Phoenix was the only thing I never regretted. What I was so comfortable with and sure about has now created something that will cause me the most regret of my life.

I guess this is just something I have to work out. Maybe this is one of the reasons I had to come home. If coming home will help me make choices and be confident in them, then I can’t be too upset. I know there’s more reasons as to why I’m home. I’m just trying to figure out what they are.

I did notice after my last post, that several people were actually touched by it. I received probably 15 or so messages from people telling them that it helped them in some way or another. I’m happy that I can be of some support to any of you. I’m really awkward in situations like that when people tell me thanks and stuff, so if I seemed awkward or just rude, know that I didn’t mean to be. I just don’t really know what to say or how to say it. But you’re welcome.



the apm

September 6th, 2013 1:15PM

“You are hereby assigned to labor in the Arizona Phoenix Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

March 10th, 2014 10:05PM

“Elder Scharf, here’s the plan. We’re going to have you go home this Thursday, the 13th, to go home, recover and get to 100% for the first time in awhile.”

March 13th, 2014 7:20PM

“Elder Scharf, I know you don’t want to hear these words, but as your Stake President, I hereby release you as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Now…now go ahead and remove your name tags, Derek.”

Funny how 3 sentences can have such a drastic change. Those are the words that changed everything. The words are burned into my mind and are constantly on repeat. Where I was, what I was wearing, everything from those moments is engraved.

I’ve decided to put into words my experience and what I’ve been going through for the last 6 months or so. I hope this can clarify some things, or at least be a good read for someone out there.

The day I opened my mission call is something i’ll always remember. It had been a busy day for my family. Only my Dad and I were present for the opening. Of course siblings and close friends were on FaceTime watching. But after opening my call, I immediately headed to Moscow with my friends Chase and Ty to visit some friends at UofI. I specifically remember laying in a hammock that night in the middle of my friend Demi’s house reflecting on my call letter. It was the first time all day I had to process it. Phoenix. Who would have thought? I was so excited to go to such a perfect place. However, I had a weird impression that kept popping into my mind that night. It was “this will be short-lived”. What that really means, I wasn’t sure of. I brushed it off and fell asleep.

Fast forward to the day I land in Phoenix. I’m sick. I had been hit with a Gnarly cold. The first few weeks in Phoenix I can’t seem to shake the cold. Few more weeks and I have full on Bronchial Pneumonia. The phrase from the night of my mission call pops into my head during one mornings study. I get scared. I finally agree to see a doctor and get some medicine. After some heavy medicine, I become healthy once again.

December 3rd. I’m biking down the road on the way to a dinner with one of my favorite families in the ward. I have a side pain that feels like something I get if I go for a run. I don’t give too much thought to it. The pain lingers on my left side for the night, the next day, the rest of the week and then into the week after that. Continually growing in pain the whole time. Christmas comes. I spend the day on the couch in pain. The next day I finally call to make a visit with the doctors.

Fortunately, my ward had several doctors. One of them was Dr. Inman. I go over to his house to get checked out. He suspects its a quick fix and just needs to flush the colon. 3 days later, the pain is still getting worse. Arrangements for a blood test and Ultrasound are made. Both come back negative.

After confusion, we opt for a CT scan which will clearly show us the problem. There’s no question i’ll be able to be treated after this test. Two weeks later, i’m laying on the bed of the CT scan. A memory pops into my head. It’s of my Stake President setting me apart as a full-time missionary. The sentence “all of your internal organs will be healthy and strong and not cause you troubles” from the blessing plays in my mind. I relax, knowing that this test will also return negative. 3 days later I get a text “CT scan negative.”.

I meet with my mission president. We talk for about 45 minutes. Maybe this is all some form of anxiety or stress build up. Feeling unstressed and anxiety free, I hesitate but agree to go meet with counselors at LDS Family Services, hoping they can maybe figure something out.

February 6th I meet with the counselors. They have me fill out a survey each appointment. The survey asks questions relating to how I feel as an individual and how my moods are. Low scores are good, high scores are bad. I start with the counselor having the lowest score of anyone he is working with. The next several weeks I continue to meet with my counselor. Each week my numbers digress. March 10th, my numbers are extremely high. It’s obvious that whatever I have has officially left me in a state of stress, depression, and overall physical fatigue. They’re unable to stop the problem, but agree to continue to meet with me as I like.

The whole time throughout the appointments with the doctors, I try to endure. I try my best to keep pushing on. The pain sometimes leaves me thinking I just got stabbed. The pain is often so bad I have to lay down. Several hours a week are taken from my missionary obligations. I feel stressed that I can’t get healthy. I have anxiety that I will have to go home. This mission will be short lived. I get scared. I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless. All I want is to be healthy, and to help and serve the people of Phoenix, Arizona. Each day is a constant battle to push on. I can’t sleep, and I can’t concentrate. I continue to endure.

The whole time I am understanding, though. I know that while going though this pain it is continuing to make me grow and to learn from this situation. I find more enjoyment in the work. I try to stay busy to not focus on my bad health. Eventually, I feel as if I can’t continue to press on anymore. I dread the day that i’ll wake up and be unable to get out of bed or continue. My tank is running on fumes.

After a conversation with my mission president, he asked me what he wanted me to do. I told him that as much as I hate even thinking about going home, it might be what’s best. He looks at me and says he might agree with that, but that we can still try some more things. We both agree. 4 days later I get the phone call that I am returning home.

The next days are days of unbelief. I don’t know what to think. I have to say goodbye to everyone. The people I met were so close to me. They were genuine friends. Almost family. The drive to the airport was one of the worst drives. I was leaving what I had worked 20 years for, behind. Uncompleted in my opinion. I feel as if I had failed. I let everyone down. The people of Arizona, the missionaries, my family and my friends. I get to the airport and board the plane. The whole time, people are coming up to me congratulating me on completing my mission. I fake a smile and say thanks, feeling like a liar. I didn’t complete my mission. I failed. I walk down the arrivals ramp in Spokane and see my parents. I start crying. My mom starts crying. We all start crying. Awesome. My dad immediately asks me “are you healthy enough to go skiing tomorrow?”. I’m officially home.

I go to the church to meet with the Stake President and my parents. I see my Stake President standing by his office door, and immediately flash back to when I first met with him in July to start my mission papers. So much has changed since then. I’m a completely different kid. We meet and he tells me to not worry at this point about returning and stressing myself out about that. Focus on getting better. That’s the most important thing at this point. He tells me I did not fail. It’s hard for me to believe, seeing as i’m prematurely sitting in his office in Spokane, and not teaching a lesson in Surprise, Arizona. Again we all cry. I keep my head up and walk out the doors, unsure of what is in store for me. Unsure of when I can return. Unsure of what I can be sure about. The only thing to be sure about is that indeed, my mission was “short lived”

So there we have the story of how i’m home. Every day since i’ve been home I think to myself, “could I have pushed on for another day? Another week? Month?”. The answer is no. I want to tell myself yes, but I couldn’t. I have to constantly remind myself that I never asked to go home. I never wanted to go home. I was sent home. It was out of my hands. People might not know that, or understand that. Unfortunately, thats life. I hate for people to have a bad opinion of me, that’s just not who I am. I often don’t care what others think, I just don’t want them to think i’m a failure.

Something I have learned to do since I’ve been home is to laugh about it. I always have been able to find the humor in various things. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life. It is something that will change my life forever. It is hard to look on the bright side of this, when it doesn’t seem to be that bright. As the days continue to pass, it continues to become easier. The time spent in Arizona is starting to feel like a dream. As I continue to adapt to normal life and accept my situation, something I love is leaving me behind. It’s a constant struggle. And to top it all off, i’m still in pain.

I know that there is a reason behind everything. There’s a reason we meet people. There’s a reason certain events take place in our lives. For every tear shed today, it will be replaced 10 fold later on. Our trials only make us something better. We continue to grow and to become better people. I don’t know what is in store for me, or why I was redirected like this. I am confident that I will be able to use my experiences through this to help others. Although I wish I could be back in Arizona, I accept the correction and look forward to whatever the outcome may be. I’ve learned that you never really know how strong you are or you aren’t until being strong is all you have left.

I am so grateful for all the people that in my corner supporting me though this. As much as I hate opening my personal life and personal problems up to others, it’s something I have to do. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many people that care for me and wish the best for me. Even if I want to hide or get away from everyone at time, I still love all of those in my life and am forever indebted to them for the words of encouragement, wisdom and love.



road twip

Twitter is currently the second largest platform of Social Media, and is rapidly dethroning FaceBook as the most popular site. Many things are special about twitter. Unlike Facebook, you have a 140 character count to get your message across. No more rants from your grandmother or some crazy political extremist. Also, you are able to follow Celebrities and other popular figures. You can interact with your childhood idol or just about anyone else you please. This is what draws people to Twitter. The feeling of being connected via 140 characters to anyone in the world.

Social Media also has the bad stipulation of people being afraid of real life interaction with strangers. Years before smart phones, people would be having conversations with others in public places. Now, everyone seems to be looking at their phone and avoiding contact with others. People are starting to lack the simple social skills everyone possessed years ago. Older generations look down upon Social Media and think its foolish and a waste of time. But can someone actually make real life friends via sites such as FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter?

Chances are, if you’re Mormon, have twitter and are between the ages of 13 – 25, you’ve probably heard of @TheMormonProbs. The account is directed towards pro-Mormon humor. An example of a “#MormonProblem” would be something like “Can’t hangout with my friends tomorrow because it’s Sunday”. Nothing antagonistic towards the Mormon church. Just funny little problems Mormons encounter in their daily life.

Well, @TheMormonProbs was created by Derek Scharf in December of 2011. About 2 years and 7,600 tweets later, it has a following of 31,400 people. Thats enough people to be the 2nd largest city in Vermont. Now, if everyone that ever followed the account never unfollowed it, its estimated it would be at 50,000 followers. Now, on average, a #MormonProblem tweet gets an average of 100 retweets. And the average follower has 260 followers. That means, that on average, 26,000 people not following @TheMormonProbs will see each tweet. It adds up.

SPOILER ALERT: I am Derek Scharf, the creator of @TheMormonProbs. And here’s where everything comes together into a Social Experiment I secretly conducted.

I love to travel. I love road trips. I love seeing friends. So, this week I went on a road trip. I went from Hayden Lake, Idaho (90 miles from the Canadian Border) to Rexburg, Idaho to Logan, Utah to Ogden, Utah to Salt Lake City, Utah to Provo, Utah and back. The catch was, I had no idea where I was going to sleep or what I would do while there. Sure I had an idea of who to see and where to sleep, but I relied off the help of Social Media, mainly @TheMormonProbs, to find shelter, food and friends.

My first stop was Rexburg, Idaho, home of BYU-Idaho. 7 hours into my trip I arrived and met up with Sydney Brereton and Brittney Zundle. About exactly a year ago, I met Sydney on Twitter thanks to MormonProbs. One of her friends had followed me for months and we started talking, and she then introduced me to Sydney over Twitter. A simple birthday shout out to her, and the rest is history. Brittney is her bestfriend and roommate. So, I picked them up and headed to dinner.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were looked at oddly. Confused, we went and ordered our food. We started eating, forgot about the weird looks and then tweeted a picture. Turns out the weird looks were because several girls inside recognized me from Twitter. We got several tweets as such following the picture: Image

Turns out, i’m Mormon Famous.

After dinner we went back to their apartment. People were coming and going and the girls thought it would be fun to introduce me as @TheMormonProbs and not Derek. Several knew of me and one even wanted to just touch me. The best was Sydney’s friend @TylerHill55 who offered to let me sleep on his couch rather than in my car. Image

The next day, I was off to Utah. Google maps suggested I take the scenic route through Logan, the home of Utah State University. Lucky for me, I have Twitter friends @FerrisRBall and @DavidDenverBall who live there. Fun Fact about Ryan and David is that they’re Fradentical Twins (they look almost identical but aren’t actually identical). I met them for the first time on twitter last year when I was in Rexburg. I tweeted off MormonProbs about being in Rexburg. Turns out they were too and invited me to hangout with them, but I never did.

I stopped off at their apartment for about an hour. Turns out, Ryan is going to China next semester. I was able to answer lots of his questions and suggest where he should go. Changzhou is the place. After, I tagged along to the USU campus to do a couple things. One of those things, was to meet up with Braden Thompson. Braden is the creator of “Project #365 Aware“. Basically, it’s where you blitz the world around you with random kindness. You meet one person new a day and learn something interesting about them. Amazing project. Look into it. Make someone’s day better and make a new friend or two. Anyways, after loading up my car with cases of ReBull, compliments of David, I was off.


My next stop was Ogden. Ogden is home to Nick Eccles, Ethan Christensen, Sydney Christensen, Ellee Hall and Zach Calton. I first met these cool kids on Twitter late one night when randomly looking through people tweeting into me. I decided to tweet at one of them, and then they all started tweeting at me and we had a giant conversation going about Denny’s and women. Ethan and Nick met me at McDonalds and fed me some McChickens and then took me to the girl’s soccer game. After the game, we all went to a lame bonfire, ditched and played some GTA until late that night. These kids are some of the funniest kids ever and are extremely friendly. I most likely would have been in their friend group if I had lived in Ogden.

I left Ogden, said hi to some friends from China in SLC for a minute or two, and headed to Provo. I arrived in Provo around 2:AM. Lucky for me, my buddy Brian Quick is a night owl and had an empty couch for me to sleep on. I know Brian through my friend Bryaden Schoonmaker who I met through other people I knew from Twitter. Brayden is currently serving a mission in Riverside. Anyways, Brian introduced me to some cool people like Shannon Titensor and Sam Gurksnis. Two extremely friendly people with excellent taste in clothes and music.


The next day was the day of the BYU football game. My goal all week was to snag a ticket. So after seeing my old boss and my childhood friend Jessica Foster, who I ran into on campus, I met up with a stranger who someone referred me to on twitter, and got their student pass to the game.

At the football game I met up with Corey Tyndall and Jamie Robison. I know them through one of my best friends Amelia Knuth (who is now serving a mission in Idaho Fallz). I met Amelia on twitter after I followed her based on her good looks and then tweeted at her because of her humor. Amelia and I ended up having a freshman fling, but due to distance, we would only see each other when I would visit Rexburg or she would visit Provo. When she did visit Provo, she would invite her friends, and thats how I met Corey and Jamie. After the football game, we went back to their apartment, met their awesome roommates and watched 500 days of sunshine. I spent the night on another childhood friends couch who lived right next to my friend Brian. #SmallWorld

Saturday, I hung out with my old friends, and one of them who is getting married was in town so we all went out to eat. After a lowkey day of relaxing and not doing much, I had a date. I went on a date with the beautiful Andi Allred. I know Andi via EFY, but only kept in contact because of @TheMormonProbs. After some catching up and some Ice Skating, I had to meet up with my newly engaged friend to meet his fiance. He picked a winner.

Later that night, I met back up with Jamie and Corey, as well as our friend Brittney Bartlett. We went to a wanna be coffee shop and talked for almost 3 hours. We talked about Missionary Girlfriends, Amelia, Amelia’s Mom, making out, and about everything else. But just like anywhere else I went in Provo, if I was there long enough, someone would recognize me. Image

After being creeped out, and laughing harder than ever before, we called it a night. I said goodbye to the girls for 2 years. Hopefully, they’ll be able to keep MormonProbs in control for me while i’m gone.

The next day, I went to church with the friends I stayed with, got recognized by several girls, left and went to a church BBQ. Then I was on the road back to Rexburg. Stopped along the way to visit and Aunt and Uncle, then back to Rexburg for the night and to see Sydney, Brittany and Tyler. Thanks again to Tyler for letting me sleep on his couch.Image

The next morning I was off and headed for Home. That was the end of my road trip sponsored by the followers of twitter.

I learned that just because you don’t physically know someone, doesn’t mean that you can’t be their friend. It may be awkward for the first minute upon meeting them, but you’re still the same people you were on twitter. People need to stop hiding behind their devices and use their devices to help them make real life friendships. We have the power to become friends with more people than ever before. We need to use it to build real life, healthy relationships rather than it be the downfall of our social life.


It’s about time to go home. 3 days actually. I can’t believe that it’s actually been almost 5 months. Time feels weird. In some ways, it feels like it was a year. And in others, it feels like I was here for a day. I think a lot of that has to do with my routine. I did the same thing nearly everyday for about 5 months. Wake up, do lessons, lunch, shower, teach, dinner, teach, relax. That was my daily schedule most days. So i’m pretty used to my routine now. It’s going to be really weird adjusting back to normal life.

In the ILP training, they said that most of us wont experience culture shock until after we go home. For me, I think that will be the case. Now, i’m so accustomed to walking across the street and having a bus nearly miss me, and not even flinch. Or to be in a store and have someone ask for my picture. Also, not being able to understand most of whats going on. But when I go home, that will all change. I made a list of some things i’m going to have to get used to once I get back home. It goes as follows:

1. English. It’s going to be so weird when I hear EVERYONE speaking english. On the rare occasion I hear english somewhere, I freak out and can’t pay attention to anything else. I’m going to get a headache hearing english from every direction. 

2. Reading. I will finally be able to read. That means understanding things! I can find my way, and know what something is! Now I wont have to guess if a sign says “welcome!” or “no trespassing”.

3. Debit Card. I’ve used my debit card 4 times since being here. China is a cash first economy. In fact, 99% of places don’t take a card. I really like it though. It makes me keep my money longer.

4. Phone. I’ll finally have a phone again! Now, rather than wondering what time something is,  where someone is, or deciding on a point and time to meet up with someone, I can just call or text them now. It’s seriously such a hassle to get separated in a place you can’t ask for help when you don’t have a phone. I can’t wait to be able to send a quick text and get a response rather than wait a few hours or just guess. 

6. Internet. The internet here is bùhao (bad). It’s about the speed of circa 2003 internet. And its even slower when you have to use a proxy to access social media sites, or just about anything besides ESPN. That will be a nice change

7. Food. It’s not that I don’t like Chinese food, it’s just that I don’t like the cafeteria food or the oil. Everything here is cooked in so much peanut oil. When we clean off our lunch trays, rather than scrape them like you would in america, all of the food slides right off, leaving the try nice and clean. It really messes with your stomach. And there’s no salt or cheese. I had some slightly salted french fries the other day and that was the first real salt I’ve had in a long time, and it was too salty for me. 

8. Driving. I haven’t drove since February 15th, and only been in an actual car a handful of times. I’ll be a little rusty. Also, I think i’ve adopted chinese driving habits. They like to honk a lot here. They use it as a friendly reminder to say “hey, coming through, watch out.” when on the highway or anywhere else. It’s not all bad. Also, weaving in and out of traffic here is an art form. I’ll probably shoot more gaps now and have more close calls. And my Dad bought a new car while I was gone. So that will be fun to drive.

10. White People. In China, they are obsessed with white people. They can’t stop staring and want pictures. I was so confused by it at first, but now I do it. Whenever I see a fellow laowai (foreigner), I catch myself staring and no longer paying attention to what i’m doing. Also, I’ve started to notice that I find girls I would never have looked at 5 months ago, cute now. I would still never try to date them, but they’re cute. And any white girl I see in China is now beautiful to me. I’m excited to be home. Cute girls everywhere. And they speak my language.