Featured

Our Purpose and Goals

Hello! Welcome to Over the Invisible Wall. This blog was started because we wanted to create a place where we could share ideas and opinions within a community where respectful discussions and idea sharing can take place.

Why Did We Start The Blog?

In Summer 2017, I (Justine) realized that though I had strong opinions and beliefs, I did not have a viable means to share them with others and engage in discussion about various topics. This thought led me to envision a blog where I and others could have a safe place to voice our thoughts and be heard. In this little corner of the interweb, I wanted to have a place where people could engage in respectful discussions and idea sharing. My original concept was to have a group of girls as regular contributors on a platform to share their ideas. However, as we refined our vision and mission statement, we realized that our vision was bigger than that. We expanded our concept to include both guys and girls. I wanted to bring together talented people of different backgrounds in order for them to share their own unique perspectives. It has been an incredible ride so far and I’m very grateful to all of my wonderful friends who have contributed in some way to this project. We have only just begun and I can’t wait to see where this blog will go.

One last note, I don’t expect everyone to agree on everything but I do want people to be respectful in how they engage with others.

How We Got Our Name:

After we brought a group of writers together for the project, we moved on to brainstorming for a name for the blog. We had a number of different concepts but after a while, we reached a consensus on the name Over the Invisible Wall: An Adventure in Soliloquies. “Over the Invisible Wall” has an implication of breaking barriers that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place and cooperating in spite of them. Interestingly “The Invisible Wall” is the name of a novel by Harry Bernstein. It is about a romance between a Christian and a Jew in a WWI-era English town that had Jews and Gentiles separated by just one cobblestone street right down the middle of the town.

The name of our blog is both a precedent and a reference to our faith.

Topics we will be covering include individual perspectives on sociocultural issues, current events, personal essays, and commentary on popular culture.

Our Mission Statement:

“We are writers and thinkers who aim to glorify God and create an atmosphere of respectful discussion and connection between people of different values and opinions. We welcome you to our blog and invite you to join in our mission to bridge the gap, learn from each other, and understand the issues that divide us.”

Advertisements

Discovering I’m HSP

For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself to be somewhat of an ambivert.


When I first took the Myers Briggs back in middle school, I came out as an INFJ. A few years later, when I took it in high school, I came out as an ENFJ, and have consistently come out as an ENFJ ever since. However, I have always possessed traits of both an introvert and an extrovert. I am energized by being in a large crowd, yet need to retreat to solitude soon thereafter. I enjoy both outings with friends and nights alone with a good book. I process my thoughts and feelings internally, and later express them externally. About half of my friends think I’m an extrovert, and the other half think I’m an introvert. However, recently, I’ve discovered a term that might be the answer to my dilemma: Highly Sensitive Person (Or, HSP).


According to various articles that I have read thus far on this topic, a highly sensitive person is a person who feels things more intensely, and is more sensitive to external stimuli (lights, loud noises, smells, etc.). They are also highly intuitive and can be either introverts or extroverts. According to an article in Psychology Today*, 30% of HSPs are extroverts. HSPs who are extroverts, as it turns out, display many of the same traits as introverts, and may need time alone after being around a lot of people for an extended period of time. HSPs are also more likely to have been highly imaginative as children, and tend to avoid extremely graphic or violent movies and TV shows. All of these traits, if I really take the time to think about it, describe me to a T.


After I discovered this term, sort of by accident as I was researching introvert/extrovert/ambivert stuff online, I began thinking back to various points in my life that suddenly made more sense. For years, I have been more affected by the loud noises and thumps of the bass at concerts than those around me, and when placed in a room with a lot of bright lights for an extended period of time, I start to get a mild headache.


Furthermore, I am extremely intuitive and can often pick up on subtleties in people’s expressions and emotions that others might miss. I soak up every ounce of my environment until eventually, I need time to retreat, and process it all. I’m not necessarily more ‘sensitive’ or outwardly emotional than the average person, but I take in life a lot more intensely, which can cause me to display traits slightly different than the average person. Movies, music, and books, for instance, affect me a lot. Way more than most people that I know. I can literally remember a particular scene in a book years later, and just hearing a line in a song that relates to me on a personal level can stir up more emotions than I know what to do with. I experience life fully, in the good, the bad, and the ugly. On one hand, it can be a positive—enriching my writing and my ability to connect with the reader on an emotional level. On the other hand, it can be a little overwhelming, especially when I am faced with a new situation that I don’t know how to handle. Being HSP means that you live life in a full range of emotions—whether or not you chose to vocalize them to those around you.


So, what does all of this mean exactly? How does being HSP make me different than any other human being that walks the face of this planet? The truth is, it doesn’t. Being HSP is simply one way of existing in this world as a human being, and part of the unique way that God created me, when He formed me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). Being a Highly Sensitive Person is no different than being an introvert, or someone who likes cleaning. It is no different than getting a certain number on the Enneagram test or a certain combination of letters on the Myers Briggs. It is simply one strand of my being; a small portion of my existence in my sphere of influence and in the world at large. Though sensitivity is often devalued in the modern world, I am learning to see it as something valuable, and something that connects us to those around us. Without sensitivity, we wouldn’t be able to flourish in community with other human beings, or create the art that is so much a part of the world we live in today. Without sensitivity, we wouldn’t be able to relate to another’s emotions, or understand how another person is feeling. Thus, I am learning to not only accept that I may be HSP, but appreciate it, and appreciate the way that God has created me for His purpose in my life. We are each created artfully, with unique DNA and personality patterns that color the spaces of who we are. We are each like a snowflake, different and the same, each adding something beautiful to the story of our life and the story of humanity at large.


We are each fearfully and wonderfully made.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” – Psalm 139:14-15 (NIV).


*https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sense-and-sensitivity/201408/how-cope-highly-sensitive-extrovert

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201711/24-signs-highly-sensitive-person

https://introvertdear.com/highly-sensitive-person-elaine-aron-quiz/

An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat

I wrote this piece in two stages. In the first stage, I felt fairly grounded in my position and in the second, I grappled with it more heavily. Throughout this piece I struggle with my own thoughts and perspective on this issue.

The other day, Firefox suggested an article called Are we wrong to assume fish can’t feel pain? Curious, I clicked on it. It was a fantastic article explaining and presenting evidence that fish are smarter, more socially adept, and overall more complicated creatures than we usually assume. Seriously, go read it if you haven’t. It’s long but it’s easy to read and digest while also packed with fascinating information.

It also brought up a question of ethics. Is it ethical to eat fish, given that they obviously feel pain? Do we need to rethink fishing methods?

This leads to other areas of similar thought, namely, is it ethical to eat meat at all?

I want to ask, is this even an ethical issue?

To some extent, yes, it is something to grapple with, a question of whether we should or should not eat animals. There are people on both sides for various reasons.

I can understand bringing ethics and humane treatment into how we obtain meat. The animal shouldn’t needlessly suffer. That, in fact, is often a reason people stop eating meat.

But I don’t think eating meat is itself wrong.

I’m finding that as I work through my reasoning for this that I’m questioning my motives for this belief. Do I think it’s okay to eat meat because I always have? Do I think it’s okay to eat meat because it tastes good? If that is why I think it’s okay, should I change my mind? Is taste and habit a real defense?

I have biases on this issue, and I’m well aware of them. I’ve gone hunting. My family has raised rabbits and ducks for food. In the case of the ducks, we ate the eggs and later the ducks. I helped my dad slaughter the ducks and I’ve helped him skin a deer. He processed rabbits, deer, and fish in our kitchen.

There are ways to avoid eating all animal products, but it is expensive and time consuming. If this became less of a barrier, it might change more people’s minds. Vegans have to put in a lot of extra effort to keep their food entirely plant-based.

Vegetarians, on the other hand, simply don’t eat meat, but may enjoy eggs, dairy, and other animal products which vegans don’t. Not all of them will, but it is possible.

There are ways to be vegan or vegetarian and get enough vitamins and minerals. That sometimes includes taking supplements to keep from having deficiency. Those supplements also increase the cost of the diet. In most cases, though, all the vitamins and minerals necessary can be obtained entirely from plants. That could change for people with allergies or other dietary restrictions.

I freely admit that eating meat or animal products isn’t required to live, at least in the developed world. If it was, this would not be a question of ethics, it would be of survival.

It is not a moral issue among other animals when one animal eats another, from our human perspective. Presumably the animals don’t discuss the ethics of what they eat and how they obtain their food. If they were capable of such discussions, they are still in a state of struggling to survive such that they wouldn’t have the conversation. Additionally, many animals are carnivores by necessity.

Humans are omnivores. Other animals, like some turtles, are omnivores. Gorillas eat insects and plants. Even dogs will enjoy apples, carrots, and other plants, though they are primarily carnivores.

This ethical discussion of eating meat only applies to areas of the world where the standard of living is high enough to suffer little consequence by cutting out meat.

If an animal is being put through massive suffering and poor living conditions to bring it to the table, I would feel that unethical. If, however, it was a free range chicken with plenty of space and good food and was killed quickly, I would have fewer reservations about consuming meat.

Ethics and morality are highly contextual. If you have ever explored the multitude of variations of the trolley problem, for example, you will know this. In the problem, either one person or five will die because of an oncoming train or trolley. In some iterations, you can push someone into the path of the train, in others you pull a lever to change the path. Depending on what is required to sacrifice one to save five can change a person’s answer.

It is the same with the ethics of eating meat. I’m thinking through everything and it’s complicated. It might be a simple thing for some people, but I went into this piece to defend eating meat. Now, I am open to changing my mind and my diet. In fact, that may be how this concludes.

To do more research for this piece, I watched this video from a vegan speaker. He brings up a lot of points and questions that I am grappling with. He used to eat meat and he grappled with it as well. This is very much a discussion with myself to explore what I think and why.

I don’t think I was wrong about what I said already, that if it were a question of survival, it would be different. If it were about maintaining an ecosystem, it would be different. If the animals were not bred specifically to be food and then slaughtered, it would be different. If there wasn’t needless suffering in the meat and dairy industry, it would be different.

There is a difference between the meat industry and hunting. In the latter, the animal was wild and you know how and when it was killed.

In Illinois, there is a problem with overpopulation of deer because humans killed off a lot of wolves in the area. There aren’t any predators for the deer anymore. Deer die because of cars, hunting, and hunger.

Why would it be gross to eat a deer but not a cow? If you eat beef, why not venison? Why the animals we do eat and why is it reprehensible to eat others? Why does eating veal (the flesh of a calf) and eating beef feel different? Why do I feel more disgusted by the former?

As far as survival is concerned, I view meat as acceptable. I’m not against animal products as a whole, either. But should I change my mind about eating meat? Since it isn’t necessary for me, should I stop?

I feel very stuck on this issue. I’m struggling to find valid reasons to excuse it.

The animals are not euthanized, they are slaughtered. Would that make a difference? If they were able to live good, full lives and did not feel pain when they died, would that be better?

I don’t want to give up meat, if I’m being honest. But I also don’t know that I can comfortably continue eating it without considering the animal that had to die. It’s unfortunate that something has to die for us to live, since none of us are plants or photosynthesize. The least we can do is give it the best life possible. I don’t feel that that is happening in most cases based on the information I have.

Due to my research and this complicated and rambling discussion with myself, I’m going to reduce and mostly eliminate meat from my diet at least until there is change. There is potentially a solution in lab grown meat, and if it becomes affordable I would be open to trying it. I have problems with the treatment of animals in the meat industry, so I will not support that for the sake of my taste preferences.

Doing More Than You Think You Can Do: How I Overcame Impostor Syndrome

According to Oxford Dictionaries, impostor syndrome is defined as “The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”

 

As I entered the room, I couldn’t shake the notion of feeling like a fraud, like I didn’t belong there with everyone else and that I’d be found out and be made to leave. The unsettling feeling didn’t leave that night or during the classes that followed.

 

So, I kept going to class and doing the work, still feeling anxious. I sat on the outskirts of the room and kept mostly to myself, saying little and interacting minimally with my classmates. I felt insecure because of my age and lack of experience due to the fact that I was with people who had as many years of work experience as I had been alive. The program was a course that focused on teaching a combination of business and financial principles and providing resources for entrepreneurs sponsored by a local community college and the Rotary International, amongst others. When I started the process of applying to be part of the program, I honestly didn’t think I would be accepted but lo and behold, I made it through two rounds of interviews and was chosen to be a member of the inaugural cohort.

 

The little nagging voice didn’t go away in those initial weeks. Then, I talked to my friend who was in a similar situation where he was the youngest one in his work program. I asked him if it was weird for him but he said no, he just worked hard and people accepted him with a bit of teasing. As simple as that statement was, it was very reassuring to hear and really helped me to put the situation in perspective. So, I kept pressing on and in the weeks that followed I got to know my classmates better and I got more comfortable with the workload. I was also comforted by the realization that they were also struggling with the class assignments. By the end of the course, I no longer felt like an impostor. I learnt so much from the course and the experience and I am proud of myself for doing so. I’m both happy and relieved it’s over but I think I’m going to miss attending the classes every week. The course was great because it really helped me to think through all the nitty gritty details necessary to have a good foundation and me up for success. We had a fantastic teacher who had many years of experience working with large corporations and startups. He told lots of antidotes and relevant real life examples alongside the course material which helped us to see the application of the more complex and abstract concepts. I also had fantastic classmates and there was really great group synergy; lots of mutual support and idea sharing. It was an intense whirlwind and the homework load was quite heavy but I really enjoyed myself, learnt a lot, and met some really cool people who I became friends with.

 

If you are ever in a situation where you feel like you don’t belong or are not qualified, know that you were chosen for the role and placed in the situation for a reason. You are qualified or have shown that you have the ability and willingness to learn the necessary skills, you belong and most importantly, you can do this. God puts you in places for a reason. He wants you to grow, he wants you to have an impact and he also wants to be the salt and light.

 

You got this!

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 NIV

The Narratives that Shape Us

Before I begin, I would like to start off by thanking Alyssa for asking me to contribute to her blog, Over The Invisible Wall. We met a couple of months back through an entry that she posted to her personal website, and have talked about various topics since.

We do not have the same views on everything, but we did find a lot of common ground through our discussions and through choosing to hear what the other person had to say.

Since then, she has asked me to write about one of the subjects that we talked about in a guest post, and I have done my best consolidate my emails into one (hopefully) coherent blog post. Thank you again Alyssa for giving me the chance to write a guest post for your awesome blog!

* * * *

Our narratives are shaped by the lives of those who have gone before us.

Every experience and every piece of information that we take in has a direct impact on how we see ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. We are shaped by stories, and the narratives that we are given by our families, communities, and society at large—for better or for worse. And these stories play directly into how we see each and every person that we come in contact with, every single day.

For instance, if I told you that I’m a twenty-year-old Christian blogger, writer, youth leader, and college student, you’d probably already have some assumptions about me—filling in the blanks for things that I haven’t yet told you.

She probably likes Hillsong, you might assume (in which case, you’d be right).

She was probably a bookworm in high school (this is also true).

She’s probably reads C.S. Lewis (this one is definitely true).

However, if I told you other facts about myself, you might be surprised.

You might be surprised to find that I oppose the death penalty on moral and ethical grounds and cast my first vote to an independent candidate in the 2016 election. You might be surprised to find that I’m a big advocate of gender equality in the home, church, and workplace—and do not subscribe to patriarchy or strict gender roles. You might find it super surprising that I enjoy psychology—and have taken every personality test from the Myers Briggs to the Enneagram (type 2 ENFJ y’all!).

These facts may not coincide with the picture that you have already carefully constructed in your head. Whether you intended to or not, you’ve already prescribed a narrative for me for based on just a few simple facts—without even knowing me at all.

And we do this all the time, right? Name off any number of occupations or descriptors and we can immediately create a picture of that person in our minds: Teacher. Doctor. Librarian. Photographer. Dentist. Lawyer. Fashion Designer.

All of these people are subject to stereotypes and potentially false narratives. All because we’re conditioned from a young age to think of people in an extremely simplified and one-dimensional way. And in some cases, this can be more than problematic. It can be detrimental.

 

Specifically, to those who are LGBTQ in our churches, our schools, and our society.

Growing up in a mostly Christian context, I’ve heard basically every stereotype about gay people that you can think of. They’re promiscuous. They hate God. They live wild “lifestyles.” You name it, I’ve heard it. Multiple times.

However, the older I got, and the more I started trying to construct my own narrative of the world, the more I started to hear other things about gay people as well. You can’t help who you love. It’s not something you can change. It’s not a choice. And slowly I began to question my previous assumptions and the narratives that I’d heard about gay people for so long.

“What if they’re wrong?” I wondered. “What if it’s really not a choice?”

After all, wouldn’t someone who was actually gay know more about this than me—or the countless other voices around me who were speaking so authoritatively on this subject? And if it wasn’t a choice, then where did that leave me, as a Bible-believing Christian?

After all, if it wasn’t a choice, than it had major ramifications for both my assumptions and the lives of real, living, breathing people made in God’s image. It meant that there could even be Christians out there who were gay—Christians who grew up going to church and youth group, just like me. And if there were gay Christians out there, then where on earth did that leave them?

 

Eventually, after a lot of questioning and shifting back and forth between viewpoints, I finally got up the nerve to ask these kinds of questions, and not so much to my surprise, I was right. People didn’t choose to be gay and there were gay Christians out there. But, the picture also wasn’t as bleak as I once thought.

Over the course of my research, my reading, and my questions, I discovered some pretty interesting things—both about God, and about the lives of various, real people.

One, that all of those passages in the Bible that people always use to condemn people who are gay don’t speak about sexual orientation. Nowhere. Not once in the Bible does it ever speak of someone who has a gay orientation. Every verse that describes ‘being gay’ as a sin refers only to lust and sexual acts outside of a Biblically defined marriage ( sleeping around and lust is also considered a sin in Christianity for those of us who are straight).

Second, I learned that there were are a lot more gay Christians out there than one might think—and many of them, though facing struggles at various points in their lives, are genuinely happy. They’re pursuing celibacy and pouring into loving and healthy friendships. They’re in a mixed orientation marriage with the one person of the opposite sex that they’re attracted to. They’re teaching at colleges, leading churches, involved in mission work, and speaking for those who can’t speak. They’re redefining what ‘gay people’ look like to the Christian world and the broader world. And most of them simply want to be understood.

 

Through reading these articles, and listening to these voices, and hearing the stories of real people, I’ve grown to see how vital it is that those of us who are Christian get this right. There’s a very real chance that we already know someone who’s gay—whether it be a co-worker, a friend, a student, or the guy who sits next to us in church. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to add pain to someone who has likely already endured far too many sleepless nights thinking about this. I want to be a light and speak life into the lives of other people and the only way I can do that is by listening—both to those who share my convictions and to those who don’t.

As humans we will someday be remembered for how we chose to live our lives. I don’t know about you, but I want to be known for my love. In 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV), it says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

 

Regardless of who you are or what you believe, I want to challenge you to love boldly. To listen to the stories around you and try to understand people right where they are. We do not have to add to the division that already permeates this world so forcefully. We can choose to listen, rather than shout. We can choose love over hate.

We can choose to create the culture that we want to live in.

 

We can choose to be a voice that impacts a generation.

 

We can choose to be a light—and make this world just a little bit better and more compassionate than it was before.

 

Courtney Whitaker is a writer, a reader, and a lover of all things cats, warm tea, and Hallmark. She is currently a youth leader at her church and pursuing a double major at Liberty University in Education and Theology. In the future, she would like to teach and write books geared towards teens and young adults. You can find more of her writing on 1timothy412girl.com, where she posts weekly about all things faith and life.

Aurora Leigh and “My Last Duchess”: Women’s Rights

Women and men alike in the nineteenth century wanted women to have the same economic and political freedoms as men. Women authors during the Victorian era started to gain positive recognition for their works. For example, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was seriously considered for the poet laureate (“Overview, R. Browning, and E. B. Browning”). Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1856) and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (1842) brilliantly showcase the Victorian attitudes toward women as well as the Brownings’ desire for those attitudes to change.

For clarity, when referred to without their first names Browning refers to Robert Browning and Barrett Browning refers to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Additionally, it is worth noting that the sources I had available for the majority of the drafting of this piece did not include the entirety of Aurora Leigh. I have only read what was included in The Norton anthology of English Literature, version 9. This article is adapted from an essay I wrote for a Liberty University English class.

 

During that same period, the Langham Place Circle became the first organized women’s suffrage movement in the UK during the 1850s. According to Esquire, “[In 1940 a]t the World Anti-slavery Convention in London, several male abolitionists stand with women against hypocrisy of segregationist rules barring female participation.” In the late 19th century women were able to secure increased independence and recognition by the state, especially pertaining to parental rights in the event of divorce.

Florence Nightingale is well remembered for her volunteer nursing efforts in the Crimean War. Her work lead to the rise of nurses in the medical field and legitimized the efforts of other women attempting to do medical work.

Elizabeth Gaskell was a “British novelist and social historian. Mrs Gaskell’s novels portray the lives of a cross-section of Victorian society” (Biography Online, Famous Victorians).

Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett, and Annie Besant were activists during this time period. Pankhurst and Fawcett were suffragettes, though they took drastically different approaches to secure freedom: Pankhurt chose to be militant while Fawcett chose non-violence. Besant campaigned for the working poor and defied the Victorian expectations of a passive wife with her radicalism and separation from her husband (Biography Online, Annie Besant).

Christina Rossetti and Emily Brontë were notable female poets of the Victorian era. Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights is a literary classic.

 

Robert Browning artfully wove word usage and poetic elements in “My Last Duchess” to emphasize the duke’s monstrous nature, practically forcing the reader’s sympathy to rest with the previous duchess. “My Last Duchess” is based on part of the life of Alfonso II, the Italian Duke of Ferrara, and the duke in the poem is living in the sixteenth century (note from the Anthology, p. 2124). It records an imagined one-sided conversation between the duke and an agent for the count, the father of the woman the duke wishes to marry now. The poem consists of iambic pentameter and rhymed couplets, creating structure despite the duke’s impression of attempting to speak casually. Most of the poem’s rhymed couplets are open, or lacking punctuation, pushing the stress to the middle of the next line where the sentences end. In this way, Browning used enjambment to emphasize the terrible things the duke is telling the agent who will be presenting the duke’s marriage request to the count by whom he is employed (Wright, 2015). As Watson (1973) notes, the man with the duke does not speak once, creating the impression that he is not shocked by what he is being told, that is, that the duke is both acting naturally and his behavior was normal for the time period. Browning created a believable sixteenth century duke and included elements that enhanced the duke’s believability.

The duke in “My Last Duchess” is realistic in the ways he refers to and speaks of the late duchess as well as how he treated his wife. The opening lines of “My Last Duchess” read, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if she were alive. I call / That piece a wonder, now.” To today’s reader, it will seem that the duke is speaking of the painting, but that is actually not the case. As Crowder (2012) explained in his short article, the duke is referring to the subject of the portrait as the portrait itself, a common practice in the sixteenth century that later came to be seen as rude. Reading the poem in this light, it is clear that the duke likes his late duchess better now that she is dead. The duke viewed his wife as something he owned; he desired to control her, and chose to kill her when he found he could not (lines 45-47). Now that she is dead, the duke has power over who sees the “earnest glance” and smiles that the duchess was too flippant with (lines 5-15, 20-34). It is possible that Browning chose a time period when women were treated worse than they were in his own to make the reader think of how the duke should have treated the duchess and responded to her actions.

 

Barrett Browning’s epic poem Aurora Leigh communicates Barrett Browning’s attitudes concerning women’s rights through the narrator Aurora. In book two of Aurora Leigh, Aurora rejects Romney’s marriage proposal because he does not respect her poetic aspirations, even though he thinks she would be a wonderful wife (lines 90-96, 110-115, 345-349). Aurora accusingly claims that Romney has long been married to his “social theory” when Romney questions her rejection (book 2, lines 408-410). Barrett Browning is telling the reader that women are not just on earth to be men’s wives, but to live their lives also, and women can choose not to marry a man who will not support them in their aspirations. Barrett Browning, a woman herself, made arguments for women’s rights in Aurora Leigh and helped change the misconception that women cannot write poetry as well as or even better than their male contemporaries.

Barrett Browning employed symbolism regarding her characters, in particular Aurora and Romney, to convey their character qualities to the reader and make a statement about women’s rights. As Stone (2011) mentions, Aurora is frequently associated with air or wind throughout the epic, however, Romney is compared with earth until “purified by fire.” This may be symbolic of the freedom inherent in the high view of women Aurora holds versus the more traditional, binding view of women Romney adheres to for the majority of Aurora Leigh. Later in the epic, though not in the specific selections included in the Anthology, Romney proposes again, and this second time, Aurora accepts. After Romney’s view of Aurora’s poetry changes, and his view of her, somewhat as well, Aurora is willing to marry him. Aurora is unwilling to marry Romney until he adopts a higher view of women and their equal ability to be authors or poets. In the same way, Barrett Browning wanted women to be viewed as men’s equals in society and in the field of literature.

 

Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Browning’s “My Last Duchess” fit into the Victorian period ideologically. The Victorian period, delineated by Queen Victoria’s reign, is defined by change and technological advancement. Bristow (2004) mentions in his essay that “[s]eldom, however, has ‘Victorian’ delivered theoretical concepts either for or about the eclecticism of the poetry it is supposed to characterize.” Bristow (2004) also mentions that the Victorian period, and Victorian poetry, was far more Modern than previously recognized. The poets of the age were concerned with women’s rights, equality despite race, universal suffrage, and other similar goals that carried into the Modern period as well. The age was also one of increasing technology and a growing fascination with and dependence on that technology. Barrett Browning and Browning were both concerned with those things, in particular women’s rights, of which Aurora Leigh and “My Last Duchess” are examples. According to Gbogi (2014), Barrett Browning, despite being commonly compared to her male contemporaries and being viewed as the first subversive woman poet, was no such thing, but rather was part of a feminist literary tradition. Also, as Stone (2011) mentions regarding Barrett Browning’s rejection of Medievalism, “she resembled numerous other women writers.” Browning and Barrett Browning, whether consciously or not, wrote Victorian poems, that, while unique, had elements and messages similar to other Victorian writers’ poems.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning embedded their views on women’s rights into “My Last Duchess” and Aurora Leigh. Though Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh is far longer and contains much more material than Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” both make important points concerning women and how they are viewed. “My Last Duchess” shows a power-hungry sixteenth century duke sorely mistreating his wife to the point of murdering her for showing some individuality and independence. Aurora Leigh chronicles the life of a women poet who emigrated from Italy to Great Britain who first rejects and later accepts a marriage proposal, the answer dependent upon the man’s attitude toward her and her poetry. Regardless of one’s perspective of Victorian era feminism and gender politics, the Brownings were part of the movement and its ideology affected their works.

 

References

Aronson, A., & Watson, E. “Great Moments in the History of Gender Equality.” Esquire. Retrieved from https://www.esquire.com/uk/culture/news/a9675/gender-equality-history-moments/

Biography Online. “Annie Besant.” https://www.biographyonline.net/women/annie-besant.html

Biography Online. “Famous Victorians.” https://www.biographyonline.net/people/famous/victorians.html

Bristow, Joseph. 2004. “Whether ‘Victorian’ poetry: A genre and its period.” Victorian Poetry, 42(1); 81-109.

Crowder, Ashby Bland. 2012. The piece in “My last duchess.” Notes and Queries, 59(3), 390-391.

Gbogi, Michael Tosin. 2014. Refiguring the subversive in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.” Neohelicon, 42(2), 503-516.

Greenblatt, S., Christ, C. T., David, A., Lewalski, B. K., Lipking, L.,Logan, G. M.,…Stillinger, J. (2013). The Norton anthology of English literature, 9.

“Overview, R. Browning, and E. B Browning.” Liberty University, English 216 presentation.

Stone, Marjorie. 2011. Elizabeth Barret Browning. Victorian, 49(3), 357-376, 434-435.

Watson, J. R. 1973. Robert Browning: “My last duchess.” Critical Survey, 6(1/2), 69-75.

Wright, Alyssa. 2015. The duke’s true character in “My last duchess.” Liberty University, ENGL 102.

 

How to Develop Entrepreneurship

We all want to succeed.

This desire for success drives us to focus on completing the right courses or choosing the most successful major, grasping for some way to secure the future. But in the end, those things don’t make much of a difference. Instead of trying to do just the right things that will lead to success, invest in skills and mindsets.

And the top skill you can invest in is entrepreneurship.

The thought of entrepreneurship sounds intimidating. Maybe you’ve never built a business of your own. How can you possibly pursue entrepreneurship? Relax. You don’t have to be Elon Musk to be an entrepreneur.

It’s not all about owning a business. It’s not about making money. It’s not even about influencing the free market with your ideas. I’m talking about entrepreneurship in the deeper sense of the word.

Entrepreneurship is a mindset. Building businesses and putting big ideas into action are physical manifestations of the mindset of an entrepreneur, but the principle goes much deeper.

So, when I say entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to help you succeed, I’m referring to the mindset of entrepreneurship, which reaches far deeper than the act of building a business.

Here are the top mindsets any entrepreneur needs to develop:

 

 

  • Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to break the mold.

 

“But this is how we’ve done it for years” is not a statement you’ll hear out of entrepreneurs. The top businesses thrive because their founders don’t care about what convention dictates.

Entrepreneurs recognize that “what society dictates” is a distraction so they focus on the goals ahead of them and don’t let others’ opinions get in the way of those goals.

 

 

  • Entrepreneurs see the big picture.

 

The best businesses have been built by people that took a step back from an issue and solved it from the inside out.

Facing the challenges of a business and facing the challenges of life are very similar. Many people tend to fixate on one viewpoint.  In contrast, entrepreneurs don’t get stuck looking at their problems from a single angle. They thrive on seeing things from bigger perspectives!

 

 

  • Entrepreneurs don’t settle; they create solutions to problems.

 

While others put a band-aid on an existing problem, entrepreneurs find a new way to fix it.

You can have these characteristics whether you have built a business or not. In fact, entrepreneurial employees are some of the most valuable assets to a company. And entrepreneurial parents — well, they’re a force to be reckoned with!

So what if you don’t have a small business of your own? So what if you haven’t invented the next big tech advancement? You still have the ability to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit within yourself. You’re much more qualified than you think!

Here are small ways that you can cultivate entrepreneurship in yourself (no matter where you are in your career).

 

 

  • Build projects around your big ideas.

 

Want to be a public speaker? Start a podcast and test your skills. Learning a new skill? Document it with videos or blog posts.

Or, go all out like Alec Steele. He dropped out of high school to pursue blacksmithing. He sells smithing courses online now and gets millions of views on his daily Youtube videos.

 

  1. Engage your critical thinking muscles.

Take the time to grapple with big ideas. Make thinking outside the box a norm.

Read about people who have done cool stuff. Listen to Ted Talks.

Ask for book recommendations and write reviews about them. Talk to people. Learn to ask questions and to extract quality ideas from each conversation you enter.

In short, never skip an opportunity to think big!

 

  1. Maximize on soft skills while you’re young.

In today’s world, it’s not only the hard/technical skills that set you apart. It’s the intangible skills like dealing well with stress, time management, writing well, or speaking concisely.

These are things that can be built now, even if you’re a nanny or a fast food worker. Keep your focus on the skills that will transfer no matter where you go.

Whether you’re planning to start a business later on in life or not, the mindset of entrepreneurship will be invaluable to your career. Entrepreneurs have always been the innovators of this world. Develop entrepreneurship in yourself, and you’ll innovate the world around you whether you own a multimillion dollar franchise or not!

Image credit: https://bit.ly/2OEj70E

Lolita Allgyer is a Marketing Associate at Praxis. She is passionate about self-education, and about empowering other young people to carve their own paths in life. Her life philosophy is to live each moment to the fullest. If you can’t find her, she’s most likely outside on some new adventure. She blogs at lolitaallgyer.com.

Impactful Heroines

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved two things: Broadway and books. Why? Because I loved delving into a world and dissecting the different characters to figure out their actions and what makes them tick so I could better understand them. I love stories (true or fictional!) and the ability they have to connect and resonant with different people. As I look back, I realize I’ve always looked up to and connected with strong female characters. These characters were the outliers, girls who were different and dared to think and dream differently than everyone else. What drew me to these different characters was that I saw parts of myself in them. I felt like I could relate to their situations and their thought processes. As I analyzed each character, I learnt from them and what I learnt helped me grow as a person. Below, I have chosen a few of the characters that have had a long lasting impact on me and how old I was when I grew up with them.

Image result for laura ingalls wilder images
Laura Ingalls Wilder – 8-11
I’m pretty sure Laura was the first female protagonist that I looked up to. She was bold, brave, spunky and wanted to play by her own rules. I admired how loyal she was and how she was more than willing to speak her mind. I think the best part of her character was how she was imperfect. I felt like that made her even more relatable as a character. I like how she constantly pushed the boundaries of convention and how she strove to improve and keep challenging herself.

For one Christmas, I got a huge stack of books about the real Laura which I promptly devored. I even got to see the Little House On The Prairie musical when it came to town. A friend of my mom’s made me a bonnet and I thought it was the coolest thing. I still have it.

Image result for katniss everdeen
Katniss Everdeen – 11-13
At the end of my Little House on the Prairie obsession, I discovered the Hunger Games and was fascinated by Katniss. Actually, I read the first book when I was nine but wasn’t impressed. For some reason, it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. The second time around, I was drawn to her strength and tenacity. She was willing to go the distance to protect the people that she cared about. Like me, she didn’t let a lot of people into her inner circle but the ones she allowed in she fiercely loved and protected. She was resilient and refused to let anything or anyone change her. I loved how she didn’t care what anyone thought about her. She had her own set of morals and rules and she refused to compromise no matter how difficult the situation was.

Katniss was the one who initially got me to like the color green. It’s still my favorite color. I also tried archery because of her. My mom, a friend, his mom, and I saw the first movie together and I absolutely loved it… I said every line with each character for the entire film.

Image result for nina rosario in the heights
Nina Rosario – 14-17
Nina Rosario is a character from a musical called “In The Heights.” She’s a Latina woman and the first in her family to attend college. To this day, her song “Breathe” still resonates strongly with me because I see so much of myself in her. She and I are so alike. We’re both daughters of parents who immigrated to the states. We both are hard on ourselves and have a huge fear of failure because we don’t want to let our family, friends, and ourselves down. She also struggles with the questions that I do about trying to find our identities and trying to find our place in the world as well as trying to figure out how we fit into our two cultures. Just listening to what she sings throughout the show brings tears to my eyes because I feel like she says what I feel… she understands. Here’s part of another song from the show… Nina’s lyrics are the same things I struggle with. I’m trying to learn more about my culture, I’m trying to learn Chinese, and I still don’t know where I’m supposed to be. At the end of the musical, she’s able to get some answers and choose a path for herself. I’m not quite there yet but I know that I will and everything will be okay.

 

In this post, I chose to focus on the characters that had made a major impact on me. Here are a few characters that deserve honorable mention: Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451, Petra Arkadian from Ender’s Game, Francie Nolan from Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Tris Prior from Divergent, Johanna Mason and Clove from the Hunger Games, Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson and Campbell Davis from Bring It On:The Musical.

Currently, I don’t have a character that I’m growing up with/ learning from but I can’t wait to find her. Each of these girls left such an impression on me and are a reminder of the importance of human connection and the power of a story.

The End