I would be willing to bet that I am not the only LDS female who has ever wondered whether or not she should go on a mission. It is a difficult spot to be in, maybe less so now that the mission age has been changed, but when I was turning 21 it was a hard choice. On the one hand, I was halfway through my bachelors degree, I had several jobs, and Nick was less than a year away from coming home (not that I was waiting ahem...). On the other hand, I wanted to serve, I wanted the opportunity to travel, and I had always kind of thought I would go on a mission. If I could have gone when Nick left I would have, but as it was, I had a choice to make.
I prayed a lot and I started listening for guidance in talks and meetings. I applied the question of whether to go or not to almost everything I did. And the answer I kept getting was: whatever you want to do is fine.
That was hard for me. I fear making bad choices and to know the choice was mine was frightening. I weighed my options, I made pros and cons lists, and I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to serve but that I would rather not go on mission (for various reasons). In my prayers, I discussed this decision with my Father and asked him if it was an acceptable choice. In the two weeks following, quite a few things happened. In one of my college classes, I was assigned the task of three hours of service a week. In my singles ward, I was called to the Relief Society Presidency. And, I was given three extra people to visit teach.
Very quickly, I went from having a lot of free time to having a lot of my time filled with serving opportunities. As I continued to pray about my decision I had a very strong impression that all of the opportunities I had been given were my answer. I really felt that if I wanted to go on a mission that that would be fine but that I didn't NEED to go on a mission to be able to serve. With that reassurance under my belt I was able to serve in my ward and the schools nearby happily. I was also able and brave enough to find other serving opportunities in my community and elsewhere. I was able to go to Thailand, finish college, and marry Nick all of which came with very different but VALID opportunities to serve.
I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if I had gone on a mission instead (since I always felt like that was an acceptable choice). My guess is that I would have a different set of equally amazing memories. I still want to serve a mission someday, but for right now I am right where I should be.