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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.”

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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

Depression and Anxiety: My Story

I don’t often talk about my depression or anxiety. In a lot of cases where I think to talk about struggling with them, my anxiety kicks in to dissuade me. Today we’re going to talk about it anyway. It’s better that way. It’s just hard to convince myself that that’s true sometimes.

Several months ago, I wrote two paragraphs about how my depression paired with procrastination:

I struggle with depression. As much as I wish it didn’t, it affects my ability to finish articles for the blog. A disclaimer: I don’t deal with depression all the time, some days are better than others, and overall things seem to be improving.

Justine and I have talked about feeling swamped with the obligations we have offline and online. She has so many responsibilities, that sometimes my reason for not working on the blog when I have time feels like a cop-out, an excuse, and not a valid one. I could have been writing, but instead I was on Facebook, or Quora, or chatting with my friends on Discord, or anything else. I even open the Google doc I write my articles in. The tab sits, idle. I want to write, I need to write, but I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I can force myself to write anyway. Other times I while away the hours on the internet, thinking how I’m not even enjoying myself but not liking any of my other pastimes any better in the present.

Some of that is still accurate. Sometimes. I still have days where I want to do nothing, I don’t feel like I can do anything, and I only get out of bed because I have to turn off my alarm. Generally, things have improved from when I wrote those two paragraphs. I started my personal blog in July and that’s forced me to focus. I worry every day about if I have content prepared, if I’ll keep up my daily posting, if I’ll miss a day, etc. Every. Day.

As far as depression goes, I had a lot of dark nights of feeling hopeless and worthless. I pushed through it, and while I felt really horrid for a long time after, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hadn’t had strict deadlines for the last two years of high school, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to graduate than it did. As it was, no matter how unmotivated I was, no matter how much I didn’t feel like I could do anything that day, I had to force myself to get out of bed and do it anyway. Most of that force was fear of bad grades and of not finishing things on time and “what if I don’t graduate because I didn’t do this?” But I also spent a lot of time not doing homework when I should have been.

More recently, as I gained more control over my own life and my direction, I’ve dealt with depression less frequently. Things seemed especially bright around the time I started dating my boyfriend, last December. I had just gotten accepted into Praxis, so I knew what a year of my life was going to look like and I was so excited. Things were looking up. I noticed one month that I could feel the effects of depression but I was in an okay mood, none of the usual bad thoughts were there, which was unusual. This happened just about every month, and I think it may be partially connected to my period. This was quite the revelation.

I had one day that was so bad, depression and anxiety mixed together so well that I had to call off work. I was a mess, crying and irritable, and unmotivated and stressed out for no reason I didn’t think I could handle it. There were other days that were that bad where I still had to go in because to call off would get me fired. Those days were the hardest. Being on the verge of a mental breakdown while putting on a brave face and helping customers is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. I don’t get a lot done when that happens, because I keep going to the bathroom about to cry, on top of all the other directions they pull me.

A lot of various interpersonal interactions make me uncomfortable and anxious. It’s normal to be nervous about public speaking and interviews, after all, they tend to be important. For me, those nerves can extend to other situations that aren’t strictly either. I can recall being asked to read a few Bible verses at youth group one night. To everyone. Unexpectedly. Over the speakers. I was shaking and hoped no one could tell how terrified I was. When I speak up and participate in group conversations, if I’m not familiar with everyone and comfortable with them, I get wild butterflies in my stomach. There’s been very few exceptions to this. Sometimes I have something I want to say but can’t. I have to convince myself to do it. If I finally do get to the point of forcing myself to speak, I feel shaky and nervous. It’s horrible, and it’s hard to convince myself that everything will be okay. So I tend to watch other people interact at group events rather than participate.

In really large group activities, I’ll latch on to a person or a few people I’m comfortable with and stick with them. If I lose them, it freaks me out and I feel lost and confused and strikingly out of place. I’ll frantically search for them or find a place to stand away from the crowd. Recently, my boyfriend and I went to a homeschool carnival my friends invited me to. I was a bit on-edge because of how many people were there, even though they were scattered over a large area. When I lost track of two of my friends, realizing they’d wandered off while I was absorbed in conversation with my boyfriend, I mentally freaked out. I scanned the crowd, trying desperately to find them. We found them and stood with them before going to wait for the carriage ride. Under the pavillion it was loud and my heart was beating fast and while I knew logically it was okay, I felt really unsafe. After the carriage ride, I felt really uncomfortable and out of place and very much not okay. So I said I was ready to leave. My boyfriend asked if I was sure, and I said yeah, so we said goodbye to my friends and left. I nearly burst into tears as we walked to my car and he asked if I was okay. And I said yes so I wouldn’t cry right then. I cried later, feeling horrible. I had wanted so badly to enjoy my time at the event with my friends and I couldn’t because I was so stressed out the whole time. I like to spend time with people, I really do, but I do much better with smaller groups of people that I know well.

Things can be really hard sometimes, but it’s not all bad. Since I started working at Walmart, I’ve gotten better at talking to strangers and feel more comfortable conversing with people I don’t know well. I also feel more in control of my life and that I’m moving toward my goals in a concrete way. That has helped me have more hope for the future, which erases a lot of the bad thoughts aspect that was so prominent in my depression. I know less about anxiety, because I realized more recently that I was even dealing with it and how it was affecting me. It seemed to be getting worse, but now that I know it’s there, I can take steps to better cope and combat it.

I may not have overcome my mental health problems yet, but I’ve made progress, especially in the last year. I may never be totally free of depression or anxiety, but I have hope for the future and know that it can and will get better. It will take time and effort, but I will get there.

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

If you were to put a bunch of makeup in front of me, I would have literally no clue what to do with any of it. I’m a simple, no frills person and my getting ready routine consist of me brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting on some toner, getting dressed and fixing my hair.

Why don’t I wear makeup like the majority of teenage girls? Here are my four main reasons why:

 

 

  • My Time Is Valuable

 

I am of the mindset that I could use my time in a more constructive and productive way than taking time to apply makeup. I could read, study, sleep, work, spend time with my family, or sometimes watch my favorite studytubers or clips of broadway shows. Another positive of this routine is that I only need a short amount of time to get ready for the day or to go out. We all have 24 hours in a day and I want to make the most of my time.

 

 

  • Makeup Is Expensive

 

According to this article on Allure, women spend an average of $300,000 on facial beauty products in their lifetime. That is a very large amount of money and could be saved for a number of practical or non-practical purposes. For example, said money could be used for an emergency fund, college tuition, rent, or a down payment for a vehicle or house, travel, seeing concerts or shows, or buying books.

 

 

  • Self-Acceptance Is Important

 

I think it’s important to be confident and comfortable with who you are and how you look without making changes to your appearance, even temporary ones. It can be unnerving going out when my face isn’t clear but I think it’s important to be able to walk around and carry myself with confidence even if don’t particularly feel it at the moment.

 

Sometimes, I worry about what other people will think of how I look at a particular moment. However, I realize that a lot of the fear of perception is actually just me getting inside my own head and I don’t want to be ruled by fear of perceptions or merely perceived perceptions.

 

I also am a firm believer in looking past a person’s outward appearance and looking at who they are and their hearts. Some of the most beautiful people I have met are not the most outwardly beautiful but are beautiful because of who they are and how they carry themselves.

 

  1. It Just Isn’t Interesting

This is perhaps the most straightforward of my reasons. If you know me at all, you will know that I am very much no frills and no nonsense. I don’t understand the attraction of makeup nor do I understand why people consider it a necessity. Makeup is not something I find interesting or useful so I simply don’t invest any of my time or resources into it.

 

In conclusion, I have a various reasons why I don’t wear makeup. First, I want to use my time as efficiently as possible. I also want to be a good steward of my resources. Next, as a young person, I think it’s really important that you learn to value yourself exactly as you are. Lastly, I simply have no interest in the subject. Personally, I’d rather save my money or use it on experiences and other purchases that I think are more useful and beneficial.

 

Readers: Do you wear makeup? Explain why or why not in the comments below!

“The Second Act Industry,” a Response

Recently I came across an article published by the New York Times titled “The Snake Oil of the Second Act Industry” by Alissa Quart. She details how middle-aged people, especially those who are stressed by their lack of retirement funds, attempt to pivot their career lives to make more money before they retire. She details some problems with the industry surrounding this phenomenon, termed the “second act” and the problems with the industry. Overall, she argues that the middle-aged are being taken advantage of by the second act industry and the government needs to provide more social support. In this piece, I have responded to specific portions that I felt deserved a response. The full article can be read here.

 

“I call the businesses propelling that promise of reinvention the “second-act industry,” and it includes for-profit universities, certificate programs and coaches getting in on the new trend — all of them helping, for a fee, people who are trying to get back into or ahead in the work force.”

Some of these programs may in fact take advantage of the middle-aged people they purport to help, as this article asserts. However, some of the blame may be on the people using these services and their blind trust in the programs or degrees being offered. Some investigation into the service, the promised results, and the actual results could help people weigh the pros and cons of such as products and services. That does not mean it would be easy, but if more people become aware of how careers are changing and how hiring practices are changing, it would become easier to adapt to the current job world and discern between scams and legitimate companies.

 

“The industry appeals to anxious and sometimes underqualified middle-aged students who are enticed by a constellation of websites, special programs, self-help books and gurus.”

People are drawn in by the promise of more earning power. The methods purported may be questionable and the price may be too high, but people are willing to pay for it. I agree with the later assertions that something needs to be done to help the middle aged people who fall into this trap, but I do not agree with the proposed solution. As more people test strategies for the current job market and given a larger body of proof, it will help the aging members of the work force adapt more effectively.

 

“To survive as workers, we have to deny, on some level, the realities of our bodies — bodies that age and give birth. While more people are working later in life because of happy things like longer life expectancy, they are also doing so because of very sad things, like a lack of Social Security benefits or retirement plans.”

It is unfortunate that so many people have planned their retirement with Social Security in mind. This places a burden on taxpayers and fuels emotionally charged arguments for why it must be kept, such as, “it cannot be repealed because people rely on it.” When people have the capacity to plan for retirement by saving money, they may partially have themselves to blame for their newfound poverty. However, a lot of people either do not have extra income, have relied on faulty retirement savings methods, or did not save enough to account for inflation and the increased living costs that come with being older. This is a problem, and it will take time and effort to “fix it” and to take care of the elderly people who are currently relying on Social Security benefits.

 

“The real problem is that middle-aged people are unlikely to have pensions or savings because of inadequate federal social support in this country. Unfortunately, individual ambition… doesn’t always do the trick.Yet we continue to believe. Perhaps it’s because the roots of our faith in second acts are long.”   

Federal social support comes from the money taxpayers make. The more the government forcibly takes from those working now, the less they have available to use for themselves and their families. Instead of solving the problem, this could just move more of it to younger people. In fact, based on this article and what I already know about this problem, it seems like federal social support enacted in the past helped cause this problem, not that further social support programs will fix it. I talk about this more in a later paragraph.

 

“So instead of putting the blame on people caught in this bind, what if we had better anti-ageist work policies? What if companies were incentivized to hire older workers? And what if middle-aged people who are casting about for a second act had real societal support while they did so, like free after-school programs for their children or a monthly basic income guarantee, like the one now being piloted in Ontario?”

This is not a solution I would back. In fact, if such a program were presented to people in my community, I would vote against it and encourage others to do the same. These “free after-school programs” will cost money, and who will pay for them? Taxpayers. Who pays for Social Security? Taxpayers. Instead of people voluntarily helping others who need it, either financially or in some other way, the government forcibly takes money from everyone in order to help them. This government welfare is often not the best way to help the person in need, or it is ineffective. Additionally, having more of these tax-funded programs will require higher taxes, thus decreasing the benefit for those who it is supposed to be helping. If instead private institutions or groups of people came together and either raised money to help people in this situation or volunteered their time to help them, that would be more effective and would not require the government to steal money from everyone.

 

“We should look to create fixes for middle-aged workers that are not solely reliant on private inspirations or pricey new degrees. We need public solutions for midlife career atrophy and joblessness so that people don’t get into even deeper debt and blame themselves for their failures.”

These public solutions will require increased taxes, which hurt everyone. The “pricey new degrees” are not effective, yes, that is true. In the changing job market, tangible skills are more valuable than a degree, because so many people have degrees. The value of the degree has decreased but the price has increased. While yes, the middle aged people facing this problem might be prone to blame themselves, it is not a social or societal problem for the most part. The government has lied about Social Security, presenting it as a form of “insurance,” and misleading people as to how it functions, contributing to the problem. Back when FDR enacted the New Deal and instituted Social Security, it was intended to be temporary. Instead, people protested attempts to repeal it after the economy had recovered from the Great Depression (not even because of the New Deal, as Tom Woods details well in 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask). Now, it has been around long enough that people plan for Social Security to help supplement their retirement savings. Will it be hard for people when or if it is repealed? Yes, because they are dependent on this money that is taken from all the working people and handed to them. But it is not and should not be the government’s job to take care of people in this way. We should be caring for each other, not relying on the government to help people.