Saturday, February 28, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure

The two most read blog posts I've ever written were about the death of my close friend in high school and the day I found out I couldn't go back to Honduras because I had to have surgery. Both of those events were sad ones, so it's interesting that they are the most popular. I am not sure what makes people so interested in sad subjects, but they sure seem to be the cool kids of this blog.
Right now I'm pretty happy with the majority of my life. There is no major drama happening, which makes me very happy. However, when nothing dramatic is happening for me to blog about, I tend to get very little feedback. This can get frustrating to me at times, and that frustration is something I want to work on getting rid of now that I have entered year two of this blogging experience.
     I hope that people are reading this for the right reason; because they enjoy my writing and gain something positive from it, but I have to realize that's not something I can control. I don't know what will happen this year, but my goal for the second of this blog is to stay true to myself, and if that means losing readers and getting no feedback, that's something I'll have to learn to deal with. What's really important to me is improving my writing while giving my honest perspective on whatever is happening in my life, good or bad.
That concludes the serious declaration of intentions portion of this post, now here comes the interactive part! Take a look at these headers and tell me which one you like the most. I know they're not great quality because I took pictures of my computer screen, but I promise the real things look much more clear. I hope to use one of them to improve the aesthetic of the blog, because things are going to get fancy in year two!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blog's First Birthday!

     When I was in middle school, I very clearly remember a teacher telling me "Writing isn't for everyone, maybe it's just not your thing." A lot of teachers said a lot of things to me in my thirteen years of school, but this one stands out to me because I think part of me knew immediately that it was untrue. Writing comes easy to me, unlike many other things. I can remember being taught how to start with an introduction, add
three body paragraphs, and then stick a conclusion on the end, but that is as much as anyone has ever taught me to write, and it is a structure I abandoned as soon as I could get away with it. I have always liked to write, but it took me a long time to be intentional about my writing.
     Today marks one year since I started this blog, and while I know that it's not right to brag, and that there are far more important things in life than maintaining a blog for a year, I can't help feeling a little bit of pride today.  I am proud because even though sometimes it's been awkward and I haven't always done everything right in the process of learning how to share my perspective, I have kept going, for an entire year. When my fantasy of providing exciting live updates from "mission trip 2.0" turned into me having to explain a very sudden and upsetting change in plans, I did not abandon the idea of blogging, but managed to keep going. It was awkward and messy (I used the word "very" at least 3 times in one paragraph when I was explaining what happened, and I talked about that incident for far to long), but I kept blogging. I learned the hard way not to brag about a new job, because sometimes new jobs end in awkward and confusing ways after only four days. I learned that when your dog dies, you should allow yourself some time for closure, and let your mind clear up enough to realize that creating a 55 second video of pictures of that dog is more uncomfortable and awkward than it is cute.
     True, there were a lot of embarrassing moments along the way that I hope we can all forget, but I also learned what it feels like when people connect with my writing. At some point, I noticed that instead of just saying that I was a good writer to be nice, people began to tell me about how they could relate to specific things I had written. I love when people share that with me, because it gives my writing a purpose, and allows this to be something more significant than just a way for me to practice writing. I try to keep this blog centered around my faith, but I will admit that has not always been easy. When you start something at a time when your faith is very strong, it can be tough to keep going when you lose some of that strength, but you, the readers of my writing, have encouraged me whether you know it or not, and for that I thank you.
     I still don't have the audience I would like to have, and I still haven't figured out how to make it bigger without asking people to click "share" which just sounds obnoxious and never works, but I have plenty of time to figure that out because I have discovered that I like having a blog and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. I have learned that knowing how to write doesn't equal knowing how to blog, and I'm going to work on that. I'm still figuring out the balance between self promotion and humility, between honesty and discretion, between many, many things. I don't really know what I'm doing, I just know that I'm having fun doing it. Thank you for being part of the journey. And in honor of one year of "The Mountains I Can't Climb" , because I just couldn't stop myself, here's one final thing...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Constructive, Not Destructive

      I'm only a few weeks into my fourth semester, but I can already sense that some of my classes this semester go beyond just memorizing facts from a book. Now, I am starting to be graded on participation in class discussions, which means I have to learn how to share my thoughts with people I don't know. This poses a particular challenge for me because although inwardly I am a person who thinks about things a lot and has lots of ideas, I am not good at outwardly discussing anything that might be met with confrontation.
Two of my classes in particular are very small, which makes it hard to go unnoticed, meaning that I can't get away with being quiet.  Thinking about how challenging it is to express my opinions effectively, especially since I don't handle confrontation well, I was reminded of something that was said to me in high school that I have never forgotten. It's something I've considered blogging about many times, but I haven't felt that it was the right time to share it until now.
Now I'd like to put a disclaimer here that I am not trying to start a debate by sharing this. It is simply a story about something that happened to me, how it made me feel, and what I learned from it.
      The first thing I want to say about this incident is that everyone involved was around sixteen or seventeen years old, and this was yearbook class. Not a government or history class where we were having a debate on current controversial issues, but a class where we were supposed to be designing a yearbook. The girls beside me were discussing an assignment we had to do for our English class, a persuasive paper. Even though I was not involved in the conversation at all, I could hear enough to know that the girl doing most of the talking was explaining that her paper was about pro-choice rights. I was pretty sure even at that age that I did not agree with most of what she was saying, but I had no intentions of interjecting into that conversation and expressing my opinions. I was just doing my assignment and halfway listening to her, keeping my comments to myself. Everything was fine, until the girl turned to me and said something that I haven't been able to forget to this day. I'm paraphrasing, but I still vividly remember the sting of the words she said "Women should be able to chose not to have a child if there's something wrong with it. Not all parents want to deal with the hassle of having a disabled child. Not everyone wants to deal with that like Jennie's parents have to. No offense Jennie!" No offense? Is that a universal disclaimer, a statement that we have come up with to justify anything we feel like saying?
     I should mention that I did go home and discuss the incident with my mom, who assured me that even though she didn't know about my disability before I was born, it didn't matter because she wanted me no matter what. I still consider that one of the most important and validating things anyone has ever said to me. The pain that this girl's comment caused me has faded, but the incident has always remained in the back of my mind as a hurtful moment that eventually turned into a life lesson.
    I have told you this story not to debate the issue that this girl was talking about, or to gain your sympathy, but to make a point about what it taught me.  I think it's very important to know what your worldview is, and  to be able explain why you think and feel the way you do about certain issues. It's an essential part of growing up. I also think it can be very dangerous when the way we express our opinions is destructive instead of constructive. It's easy to become so passionate in proving that our own ideas are right that we will do anything to prove that everyone else is wrong, but what does that accomplish? If people agree with you only because you have put them in a position where they have no other option, have you really accomplished your goal? As I continue to go through life trying to balance my dislike of controversy and my desire to be heard, I will keep that incident from years ago filed away in the back of my mind. I will remember what it felt like to have my worth questioned by someone who was just trying to validate her own beliefs, and I will strive to remember that on my quest to have my thoughts understood, it is more effective to be constructive than destructive.