Hey guys, follow the link below to check out an article I wrote this week for Channel 31’s Teen Talk Productions … handy hints for high schoolers year 9 and up.
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll
I see this quote pop up on the TV screen every time I go to the gym and it gets me thinking. There are a million things in this world that I can’t control, but one that I always can: my attitude. In management we always say that the one thing we are not equipped to change is attitude. If you bring the will, we can train the skill.
Human nature says that it is easier to cast blame than to take responsibility. It is easier to blame our past, our circumstance, our lack of resources or time, or even the people around us for our lack of happiness or success.
In this video about white privilege, we see how two people can come from the same tough background and end up with two very different lives years later, because of the way they chose to react.
Working in female-dominated retail environments for the past 8 years, I’ve definitely heard kids and husbands blamed for a thing or two. We can blame our other halves for why we don’t do the things we dream of, then 10+ years down the track hate them for it, even though they didn’t necessarily stop us. We can blame our kids for the fact that we have no money, or energy, or aren’t able to travel. We can blame our teachers for our bad marks, the fact that we can’t afford a gym membership for our lack of fitness. Our kids for our body. The list is endless.
We can say that we just don’t have time for ____*insert dream here*____. As one of my friends pointed out recently, “Who doesn’t have five minutes a day to spend pursuing their dream?” That was so profound to me because yes, maybe you don’t have six hours a day to devote to your goal, but it’s a lie to say that you don’t have five minutes.
Life is all about choices. Every day we make plenty of them, and those choices make us who we are. The choice between right or wrong, hard work or laziness, negativity or positivity, love or hate, the choice to pursue or just give up, to grow or stagnate.
Take exercise as an example. Although it has obvious physical elements, it is at its core a mental game. You don’t find the mentally weak at the Olympics. Well, at least not competing. Training to be a professional athlete is waking up every morning and choosing to exercise and eat and rest the way you need in order to reach your goal. Fitness is so difficult to build up and so quick and easy to lose. If we’re not moving forward we usually start moving backwards.
A lot of people seem to be discontent but not doing anything about it. One of my friends always says, “Don’t like your life? Change it.” While there are some things we can’t change, there are a lot that we can.
Pursuing a dream takes discipline—a word that’s not very popular these days. It has been replaced by the word convenience, a god with a widespread following in the Western world. If it’s not easy, why even bother?
However, consider this statement: nothing truly worthwhile in life comes instantly or without effort. Getting a degree, having a satisfying career, maintaining a vibrant marriage, building healthy friendships, raising kind and considerate children, discovering a cure for a disease. These things are hard; they require time, commitment, focus and perseverance. But who could say that they have no value?
So like I’ve been saying this whole time, it comes down to a choice. Do you want to accomplish something easy, or valuable?
Sources (accessed 5 September 2017):
Below are some common things I’ve come across in people’s writing that can really slow it down. We’ve probably all made these mistakes and this is not an article to judge, merely a tool to help people communicate more effectively through the written word. It is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope that it is in some way helpful.
Using filler words means you’re writing without really saying anything. We need to say more in less words. One of my university professors said that each word needs to fight for a place on the page. Can it defend its spot? If not, you should axe it. To practice keeping it short and sharp, do some sentence condensing exercises. You could either Google some or find a crazy-long sentence in your own work and try to halve the word limit without losing any of the meaning (you can change the actual words and sentence construction as much as you like).
- Vague writing
One of the first questions I ask the students that I tutor is: Do you ever use words in your essays that you don’t know the meaning of? If the answer is yes, you need to break that habit right now. Using fancy-sounding words or big sentences just to sound smart actually has the opposite effect. A good writer is clear and concise—don’t make the reader work hard for no reason. Don’t be mysterious in lieu of an actual plot. Don’t be vague to compensate for the fact that you don’t know your content well enough. Suspense has to be building towards something and your writing has to say something.
- Incomplete sentences
Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate. Without these two things you have a phrase, or a fragment.
For example: “The horse jumped over the fence,” is a sentence while, “Then jumped over the fence,” is a fragment.
The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about; the predicate tells something about the subject. The best question to ask yourself if you’re unsure if it is a sentence is: can it stand alone?
- Slipping between tenses and perspectives
If you start off with “she said” and end up with “I say” you have committed both a tense change and perspective change. If you are going to change either during your writing, make sure that it is for a reason, and to have an effect on the story. Consistency is key and you can’t just cut back and forth from one to the other at random. If it doesn’t have a point, pick a tense and perspective and stick with them. As with a lot of writing mistakes, the remedy for this is attentive proof reading (spellcheck is not advanced enough to pick that up).
- Incorrect spelling
This one is pretty simple. We have dictionaries, autocorrect and spellcheck. Spelling things correctly should be easy to get right. The best way to spell correctly in the first place is to read like a librarian (I assume they read a ton). Beware of homophones (words that sound similar/the same but have different meanings and/or spellings). Common ones are: right and wright, lead/led, seam/seem and my personal favourite … there/their/they’re.
- Confusing similar words
People commonly misspell words that are similar, or use the wrong word when two words (like ‘then’ and ‘than’) seem similar. If you know either the meaning of the word or type of word they are, it is easy to logically figure out which one to use where. For example, ‘then’ is measuring time while ‘than’ is comparing size. Other common pairs of words to mix up are ‘brought’ and ‘bought’, as well as ‘its’ and ‘it’s’.
Over-explaining is a big trap to fall into when writing. We think we need to flesh a paragraph out so we repeat ourselves, not to any purpose, but because we’ve got nothing else to say. Repetition can be used very effectively but if it is not intentional it can easily make your writing appear clumsy, or like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
- Grammar mistakes
Grammar mistakes are everywhere—nowhere funnier than a business’s billboard where the mistake changes the meaning of the words. You’ve probably all had a teacher tell you that grammar can save lives and then use the example of the two following similar sentences, differing only by one comma.
Let’s eat, Grandma!
Let’s eat Grandma! (the cannibal version)
A few very common grammar mistakes:
-Comma splices (a comma is not strong enough to link two different ideas without a ‘joining’ word—you should instead use a semi-colon or just split it into two sentences with a full stop)
-Unnecessary commas and apostrophes (i.e. a plural does not need an apostrophe)
-Punctuation on the outside of quotation marks
-Using quotation marks to add emphasis
- Telling rather than showing
How many times has your teacher emphasised, “Show, don’t tell!”? It is so stressed by teachers because it is rife throughout writing. Why keep readers out of the action with second hand accounts of stories? You are writing so that you can place them smack bang in the middle of the scene. Showing is the best way to make readers feel engaged and want to keep reading. They don’t like being kept at arm’s length.
- Active vs. passive
Explained simply, active voice is when the subject of a sentence performs the action, as opposed to passive voice when the action happens to the subject. Take these two similar sentences.
Passive: The car was driven by Sally yesterday and a fence was crashed into.
Active: Yesterday Sally drove her car and crashed into a fence.
Which one flows faster and is more exciting? While there are times when passive writing is appropriate, active is generally more exciting, involving and fast-paced. Are you keen for your writing to be all of these things?
- Abstract vs. Concrete
Abstract language confuses the reader while concrete language paints a vivid mental picture. Take the words ‘love’ and ‘table’. I help my students define abstract versus concrete by asking things like, “Can you sit on it? Can you pick it up? Can you throw it at your classmate?” If the answer is no, then you are most likely using abstract language. Consider these two sentences.
In many cases the authorities that be consider it highly advantageous to know the outcomes of predicted studies, therefore it is recommended with high probability that we study the content with vigour.
Yesterday as I walked across my living room floor I tripped over the pink rag rug and got carpet burn on my knee, ripping a hole in my light blue jeans.
Which one is easier to visualise?
That’s it from me today. There are many things that can improve your writing but I hope these 11 keys helped. Keep practising and I’m sure you will see improvement!
References (sourced 30 August 2017)
Image (sourced 3 September 2017): https://www.writing.com/
[This is a story I wrote for a literature class during my final year at university where we were commissioned to write fan fiction blending two texts we’d studied. I picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Alice in Wonderland where Holly Golightly goes to Wonderland.]
30 September 2014
It was nothing at all like Tiffany’s. I shuffled forward a few feet on my hands and knees, waiting for the world to clear. Clunk went my head. Oh, golly gee damn! Not again. I grabbed the painted leg of a wooden table.
“A butt! A butt!” exclaimed an excited voice.
Where? I stuck my head out from underneath the white table cloth and saw four people sitting up to tea.
“A head! A head!” squawked an odd-looking hare in a vest and bow-tie.
“Oh, Holly, it’s you,” said Fred, adjusting his hat. He definitely looked more at home in this world now.
“Holly? Holly, Molly, golly, folly, dolly . . .” said the hare, staring into the sky.
“Freddie!” I said and launched myself at him ecstatically. I knocked the hat askew with the tag saying 10/6 on it.
“There’s no Freddie here,” said a young girl indignantly who had stayed quiet all the while. “And who are you?” I knew I hadn’t liked the look of her.
I straightened my shoulders. “My name is Holly Golightly, travelling. Sister of Fred the Hatter and general favourite. The question is who are you?”
“Oh, I’m Alice. I’m just a harmless little girl.” She looked about herself nervously.
Sure you are, I thought. I turned to the March Hare who was jabbering away and said, “Don’t you remember me? I visited Freddie—the Hatter—here some time ago. When he had just arrived.”
“. . . Polly, trolley, lolly . . .”
“Oh, March Hare, do shut up!” snapped a little mouse with very large ears who barely reached the hare’s shoulder. He glanced my way somewhat darkly—“Hi, Holly”—and continued. “I want to finish my story!”
“No one cares about your story,” said Hatter Freddie with a careless wave of his hand. “Holly, deary, it’s lovely to see you, to be sure, but you are late.”
“What time is it, brother?” I inquired politely, wiggling my nose slightly.
“Six o’clock!” proclaimed the March Hare, as he looked up from poking the Dormouse, who was drifting off to sleep again.
“Then six o’clock is the time I told you.” I winced inwardly. “And so here I am.”
“Just so!” cried Freddie with a large-toothed grin, always pliable. His head was ever so large, in keeping with his teeth, but every now and again I looked at him and got to wondering how his head didn’t fall right off. But you see, that was the magic talking again.
“But it’s always six o’clock—” This so-called Alice began to protest.
“Be a dear and make yourself useful,” I talked over her. “Fix me a cup of tea, will you?” The others turned to look at her, so she had no opportunity to refuse, which was my intention. The Dormouse, wakening suddenly, invited me to please take a seat, so I did. Although I took care to sit on the other side of my brother.
Patting my gloved hand, he said, “How’s that world of yours?”
“Just fine, but not the same without you.” Glancing in Alice’s direction, I added, “And a cigarette, please.”
“A cigarette! Why, I’m just a little girl.”
Say that one more time. “Never mind then.”
Fred’s smile faded. “Now, you haven’t a new hatter, have you? A new Fred?”
I thought of my friend. My other Fred. Our late night conversations. The patched up injuries in the bath. Then I looked at Fred’s rosy-cheeked face. Gently crossing the fingers of my hand under the table I said, “Never.” And in a way it was true. Fred. Sally. Sid. Doc. Rusty. They were all the same. They were all ‘darling’. They were all Fred. A sip, a sniff, a puff, and I could escape to my true heart.
Wonderland. Utopia. Neverland. Different people called it different things. I’d come here today because of a particularly bad case of the mean reds. It was a Sunday afternoon and Tiffany’s was closed.
I focussed back in to the conversation, where Alice was trying (and failing) to guess a riddle the others had posed.
“I give it up,” said Alice. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Fred replied.
“Nor I,” agreed the March Hare and laughed deliriously to himself.
“I don’t like things that don’t make sense!” said Alice. “Nothing here does. I think you might do something better with your time than wasting it.” Ignorant girl. Time was a he. Everyone knew that.
“Such a long time since I’ve seen Time,” I said dreamily, because I knew it would irritate Alice. “I wonder what he’s up to?”
“This is all very infuriating,” said Alice, seeming proud to have used such a big word. Bravo.
“You,” I pinned her to her chair with a stare, “are very infuriating. Nonsense. Time standing still. These are just the facts of life. Sometimes he gets tired. A raven is like a writing desk is like a staircase is like a tea cup full of imagination and a hard kick up the backside. From Life.”
She gazed at me in terror, no doubt wondering if I really meant Life, or someone else altogether. I kept her guessing. The mean reds were making me mean today. Would Freddie be disappointed in me?
“Back to my story,” declared the Dormouse, and the others turned their attention away from me.
I touched the table cloth. This wasn’t on the table when I was here last time. The myriad stains reminded me of just how darn long I’d been away. A girl has to earn a living, after all. And magic wasn’t cheap. The trees had grown considerably, in both height and breadth, for of course a year in Wonderland is like a moment for the rest of us. More tea cups were dirty this time. And of course, the girl was a new addition. By the looks of it, she had only just arrived. Only someone who didn’t understand talked like that.
But the flowers, the way the breeze felt against my cheek, my dear brother’s hat. These were all the same, and so deliciously familiar. Such a comfort. Like running my hand along a freshly wiped glass counter at Tiffany’s and gazing at the diamonds through the reflection of my pearls. The shop was almost too dark to see sometimes with my glasses. They really ought to turn the lights up. The other four were all talking amiably at the table now. Freddie and the March Hare were busy entertaining Alice, and not really listening to the story of the Dormouse, who was nodding off to sleep again. I felt a pang as Freddie chuckled at something Alice said. Looking at her odd shaped blue dress and white apron, she seemed so strange to me. And that neck! I’d never seen one quite like it, on a human. Like someone had stretched it out with their hands. And maybe someone had.
I watched a green and red leaf as it fluttered down from a tree above, landing softly on my saucer, the stem touching the tablecloth, which was blurring at the edges. The others continued talking until a substantial piece of sky crashed down on to the middle of the table, breaking most of the china. Curiouser and curiouser, or so says the local slang. A tree fell to the ground with a mighty thud and my right hand disappeared. In a few moments everything was shaking.
Oh, dear. It appeared to be crumbling. The magic must be wearing off. “So soon?” I whispered. “Goodbye, my heart.”
“Holly, you’re leaving?” My brother’s distressed voice grew fainter and fainter. “It’s not long enough! Time said he would give us more.” Freddie began to cry, sobbing uproariously as the world continued to crumble. “Come back! He said you could stay longer this time. He promised . . .”
I heard the Dormouse’s low voice through Alice’s screams as he woke up again. “I say, is the world really falling down about our ears, or am I mad?”
The March Hare shrugged, taking a sip from his empty tea cup. “We’re all mad here.”
Image: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/tenniel/alice/7.1.html, accessed 27 August 2017.
- Diary of a Teenage Girl series
Author: Melody Carlson
This is one that can really be read any time during high school because it follows the main character Caitlin O’Connor through the struggles and triumphs of her teenage years. The diary format sucks you in immediately and keeps your attention, like when your best friend comes up to you bursting with a story and their first words are, “You will not believe what just happened…!” This series is about finding true faith in God for yourself, and not just going through the motions of church or being a ‘good girl’. Carlson uses a diary to be quite frank with the reader and I found that it helped give me some perspective as it covers most of the common issues that teens either go through, or witness in their friends’/classmates’ lives (including family conflict, crushes/dating, teen pregnancy, friendship changes, puberty, faith, mental health and eating disorders). I often came away from reading this feeling convicted to address certain areas in my life and really connected with Caitlin because of how relatable she is.
- Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
This one had to make it into one of my book lists sometime. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now. I’ll never forget telling one of my guy friends that Jane Austen was my favourite author and his reply was, “Oh cool. She wrote the Twilight series, right?” He was being totally serious, bless him. Pride and Prejudice I have read five times and counting. This book is the bomb. Love, betrayal, friendship, family relationships, drama, humour—it’s got it all. Elizabeth Bennet is such a quirky, strong, kind character who doesn’t let 19th century etiquette rules stop her from standing up for herself and speaking her mind. The best thing about Jane Austen’s writing is that someone can be getting totally insulted but not even realise because the person has phrased it sounding like a compliment. A lot of people write off Jane Austen as just a lady who used a pseudonym to write a bunch of sappy romance novels, but what stands out most to me is her witty social commentary, peeling back the layers of Regency England.
- The Hawk and the Jewel
Author: Lori Wick
This one we bought for a dollar at our school’s fair before it sat on the coffee table unopened for months—until my sister picked it up and then we didn’t hear from her for two days straight, and then she told us we all had to read it. It may not quite a classic but if you like historical novels (can you tell that I do?) with fascinating family, social and cultural dynamics, then this will interest you. The Hawk and the Jewel is the first in a four book series but in my opinion is by far the best. It depicts the story of a girl who thinks she is an Arabian princess until she travels to England to discover a family she never knew she had.
- Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
This book really tugs at the heart strings. It is an amazing fictional work of something that could have happened during World War II, and likely did happen, hundreds of times in a hundred different scenarios—fill in the details yourself. Ten year old Annemarie is best friends with Ellen, a Danish Jew, in Copenhagen in 1943. She is given the opportunity to save Ellen’s life, but it may cost her own. This is a beautiful story of friendship and the strength of the human spirit in times of history’s greatest turmoil.
- The Hunger Games series
Author: Suzanne Collins
This one features a bit of violence, with some more hectic themes, but Katniss really comes alive as she struggles against a system in a futurist America that is stacked against her in every way. Most people have probably seen the movie but as someone who read the book afterwards, it is still worth it. Because the threat of the evil ‘Capitol’ restricts what Katniss can say without fear of being killed, the movie can’t give you all her inner monologue and struggle which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the novel. The series also highlights the dangers of where Western society is headed by being desensitised to violence.
- Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Another all-time favourite, among the March sisters everyone can find someone to relate to. It shows sisterly relationships and what it’s like to grow up in a house full of females. Little Women is a classic for a reason, showing the girls grow up, navigate love and relationships in a world that has the ripple effect of war stamped all over it. It deals with themes of class, wealth, gender expectations, dreams and male/female barriers of the time period.
- The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
Author: Ann Brashares
From Bethesda, to Mexico, to North Carolina, to Greece, following a pair of magic pants around the world is a really interesting experience. I liked this book because the girls all have such different ways of seeing the world and as you watch their various approaches, your mind is opened and you see the importance of spending time with people who are unlike you. This book is funny and relatable, and was a quick, easy read because it is written in a very conversational tone.
- Lion/A Long Way Home (the young readers edition)
Author: Saroo Brierley
Ever imagined what it would be like to survive alone on the streets of a dangerous city at the age of five? Enter the mind of little lost boy Saroo as he accidentally travels thousands of miles away from his home town and is unable to get back because he doesn’t even know what it is called. This tale of survival and resilience is so compelling that at several points you want to check the front cover again to make sure that it really is a true story. It gave me a snapshot of what some people’s lives are like simply because unlucky things happen to them, and that none of us should underestimate the value of home and family.
- Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
I read this novel with my Year 7 classmates (one of whom ruined the ending for me) and remembered it for its purity. It explores innocent friendship and the transforming power of imagination. Jesse’s world is changed when he meets Leslie, and they create a magical land together. Terabithia: a place where they are free to be themselves—isolated from bullies, home’s pressures and anything else they don’t want to think about. This novel for any young person who looks at the world and realises, in one way or another, that is not quite what it should be.
- Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
This novel is very different to the movie version, and definitely worth a read. Full of quotes that you feel like writing out and putting on your bedroom walls, the language is beautiful and shows a separated young couple’s longing for each other. It also shows how Ella responds to difficult circumstances and chooses to overcome with kindness.
Hope this list was helpful, now happy reading!
Images (all sourced 17 August 2017):
Does there always have to be a really good and logical reason for doing things? I mean, sure, buying a house or changing jobs, yes. But how about wearing socks with bananas on them, or putting chopsticks in your hair (although they could come in handy around dinner time)?
I hear a lot of criticism of girls who wear ‘too much’ makeup, particularly from guys. They look so fake. What are they trying to hide? I could write my name in their foundation. I just really like the natural look . . . like Jennifer Hawkins.
The other day my boyfriend asked me why I wear makeup even though I don’t need to. I replied with, “Well, why do you wear Happy Socks? You don’t need to wear them. Socks without bananas on them will keep your feet just as warm. Happy Socks aren’t more comfortable.”
But he uses Happy Socks as a way to express who he is.
I am a girly girl and will go for a ruffle or lace or sparkle any chance I get, even if it means only hand washable. I sometimes wear high heels and sequins that itch and a coat with shoulders tight enough to make it difficult to drive. I wear makeup not primarily to conceal or alter, but to express. The room for creativity in cosmetics is endless—it’s no wonder they call it makeup artistry.
Sometimes people say, “Gee, you get excited about little things, don’t you. How is a rainbow or a Kit Kat going to impact your life?” But I say why not get excited, if that’s what you like to do? It’s not hurting anyone; quite the opposite.
Do you know why expressing our individuality makes our souls come alive—why it feels so good to just be who we are? Because we were created in God’s image and our individuality celebrates and showcases his creativity.
Imagine for a moment that in the seven days of creating heaven and earth, God spoke into being only what was practical, only what was functional. No colours, no curves, no smell, no sound. Because what is the point of all these things really? A silent, grey world of straight lines and the inability to ever smell grass after the rain, or even hear rain. Sounds pretty soul crushing to me.
Thank the Lord—he spoke and galaxies rushed forth from his mouth. All kinds of trees were planted with all kinds of fruit. Birds chirped and rivers gurgled and the sun shone so Adam and Eve could actually see all of this. Animals of different size, pattern and colour were breathed into life, all of them making different sounds. Flowers that ate insects and fish with crazy teeth and headlamps haunting the deep ocean floor.
All of it a form of expression. Creation is made to reflect God and we know that a reflection in a mirror is just a shadow of the real thing. Take one look at creation and say WOW. How good must this God be! How beautiful, how creative, how infinite.
So celebrate the diversity that you see in the world, all the eye colours and hair textures and skin tones and fashion choices. We are like a big wooden chest and our individuality like a hoard of treasures that God gives us at the moment of conception that can be pulled out one by one to delight and amaze. Ourselves, people around us, even God.
Use your unique personality, strengths, way of viewing the world . . . to the glory of God. How to make the world a better place 101.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Images (all sourced 7 August 2017)
When someone begins the phrase “marriage is…” do you think they are more likely to end with “great” or “hard”? Does some version of, “Enjoy it now, because once that ring’s on the finger it’s all downhill from there” sound familiar?
Now you probably think I’m referring to non-Christians. Although I have heard this phrase many times from non-Christians, I am also speaking about Christians. Shouldn’t we sound different, especially when describing a relationship that models Christ and the church?
Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
It makes me truly grieved to hear only the bad things about something that God intended for so much good. It was God who thought it was not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18), so what did he create for him? A lifesaver beside him (ezer kenegdo), an equal loving companion, a desperately needed helper. Woman. How wonderful. And what a privilege to be able to reflect Christ’s devotion to his bride, and vice versa. But how are we talking about it to young people?
Same story with having kids.
What I don’t hear quoted often enough is that children are a reward from God and “like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:3-4). Not that you have to quote it verbatim, but quite frankly I’d rather hear that than someone ranting about how kids have ruined your body, used up all your money and sucked dry all the passion in your marriage.
To a young single person that is pretty depressing—and doesn’t sound much like those verses from Genesis and Psalms when God is talking about marriage and kids.
We’ve been given the impression sometimes that marriage is a hard slog requiring lots of gruelling hard work and sacrifice—that you have to fight, fight, fight to survive—that we’d be lucky to make it out of there alive. Then tacking on at the end “but it’s worth it though.”
Hmm . . . sounds like it.
Now a lot of this probably sounds really harsh, and there are some marriages that I’m sure have been worthy of the description “gruelling struggle” and I don’t mean to dismiss anyone’s pain, but how do you think it sounds to unmarried people at times? They’re scarred before they even begin.
It’s good to be open about the different aspects of relationships and various stages of life, and it is naïve for someone to get married and have kids thinking it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows, but what about the parts (hopefully bigger and more important) that are filled with sunshine? I honestly hope that there is more good than bad about two of the most important things in a lot of our lives.
All I’m saying is that the other day when someone described marriage and kids as great (without a big BUT right after) it genuinely shocked me. And I don’t think it should have.
https://www.muslimmarriageguide.com/, sourced 27 July 2017.
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/04/6_things_i_wish_i_knew_about_marriage_when_i_got_married_partner/, sourced 27 July 2017.
Do you remember that strange thing at school athletics day as a kid when you’d be about to line up for the sprint race and suddenly need to pee? Never mind the fact you’d already been to the bathroom twice in the last half hour. No, just me?
I remember being so nervous about the running races in Year 9 that I was genuinely hoping I would somehow break both legs before athletics day. There was a girl who had been bullying me a bit for the last few months and we were pretty much neck and neck in terms of fitness (9 periods of sport a week together left little ambiguity). I was pretty sure I had the edge on her but I knew that it would push me to my limit physically.
But the horror of coming second, or ‘first loser’, as some competitive people like to say, drove me on and I won every single running race in that athletics competition. The most memorable was the 400 metres, my least favourite event. Middle distance is horrible, in my opinion, because it pushes you to your limit for the longest period of time. There’s no slow and steady, and you can’t give it all in the first ten seconds. Shortly after the race my legs cramped up so badly that I was lying on the grass crying while my mother stretched out my hamstrings.
I often used to look forward to long distance more than sprinting, even though I found it less enjoyable, just because I found it less stressful. And last time I was with my boyfriend Jacques the last thing I wanted to do was sprint. Because I love it so much.
I am currently working on a novel. Writing stories makes me crazy happy and I love every amazing, difficult second of it, but I have to get my cousin to give me deadlines because otherwise I will ditch writing to do the washing, or clean the house, or reorganise my pantry. Why do I avoid the thing I know will make me come alive the most? The other things are mundane tasks, yes, but it is a lot harder to fail at them. And if I did, what’s the big deal? So, I’m not a domestic goddess after all (or am I really?).
But somehow if I fail at writing, or view myself as having failed, I feel that I have failed as a person. Every writer (who actually shows their work to others) knows that you have to develop a pretty thick skin, and I have gotten better at handling rejection over the years. However if someone were to give ‘destructive criticism’ (as opposed to the more commonly used constructive criticism) I would find it hard not to perceive it as a criticism of me as a person.
In some ways it’s easier to never try your hardest, because then your all, your absolute best, can never be rejected, or deemed ‘not good enough’.
We need to decide whether the risk is worth it. Would you rather succeed at rearranging your pantry or winning an Olympic gold medal for the 100 metre sprint? Fill in the blank with your passion, but don’t avoid using the gifts that God’s placed in you because, in some ways, it’s a slap in the face.
As a side note, of course Satan would want us to become distracted and do everything but the thing that is going to have the most impact. The thing that would make us really come alive.
Look into your own heart. What desires are in there so deep that you feel like to cut them out would to become someone else entirely? Maybe you already know.
Now ask God to help you pursue that, to his glory.
Image: https://en.fotolia.com/tag/%22sports%20race%22, sourced 21 June 2017
I took this photograph on my run this morning after seeing my third or fourth one, sadly right near a children’s playground. This ‘South Sudanese’ gang seems to be everywhere. In the parks, lighting up our news headlines, holding up our cars, breaking into and entering our homes. Most Sudanese people probably have associations with them. Right?
Without researching, would you say that the Apex gang are pretty big? Earlier today I would have answered huge, but after doing some research I found that most of my assumptions were wrong. Big shocker there.
Most news sources manage to agree that at its peak the Apex gang contained around 130 members. Melbourne is currently home to 6007 Sudanese people. Which means that the Apex gang make up just 1.85% of the total Sudanese population. With statistics that low, it is ignorant to assume that ‘any African out there’ could be a member of Apex. You also might be interested to know that of the 2000 teenagers committing crimes in Victoria between October 2015 to September 2016, 1700 of them were born in Australia. So why aren’t we running scared from them?
One of the worst parts for me is that if I’m walking on a street at night and I see a group of young men walking towards me, sometimes I feel a twinge of fear if they are African looking. Because the thought that goes through my mind is, “Well, what if they are part of that violent minority?” Just my luck.
It is assumptions like these that can lead us to discriminate against perfectly innocent Sudanese people in the community, particularly young males. Where do we get our facts from? Do we even have any actual statistics? I know that before this week I haven’t even read one single article about the Apex gang and the way they’re ‘terrorising Melbourne’. All of my information was word of mouth, probably by people who themselves have already felt the cold fingers of anxiety creep over their shoulders and shiver down their back.
I’ve always known that the minority ruin it for the majority, but what I didn’t know until I actually read some articles is that the Apex gang contains several nationalities, including Australian, which the media largely ignores.
Other information that has reached me by word of mouth is the tough situations that Sudanese friends of mine have encountered just because of their ethnicity. If you think basic racial slurs in the schoolyard are all they’ve got to worry about, you’d be wrong. From being told to ‘get out of here’ while attempting to enter a workplace to start a shift, to being run away from when you needed help after locking your keys in your car, to assault in broad daylight on the way out of the school gates.
Several schools across the western suburbs of Melbourne have banned any ‘African looking’ people from gathering in groups of more than three because it ‘intimidates’ the other students. This is the kind of racial profiling that leads people to become even more prejudiced, and African young people to feel increasingly ostracised.
The Sunday Morning Herald referred to the Apex gang as a ‘lightning rod’ for racial violence (Michael Koziol) and The Saturday Paper claim that, “When not covered responsibly, hot topics such as race and immigration encourage discrimination against groups of people that are already marginalised” (Santilla Chingaipe).
Can you imagine what it’s like living in Melbourne as a South Sudanese young person with the shadow of the Apex gang looming over your shoulder? Sudanese all across our city are experiencing fear, suspicion and sometimes even outright rejection or hatred because of their ethnicity or fears that they may be violent, based on the actions of strangers, not their own. That shouldn’t sit alright with us.
Just to be clear, I am in no way downplaying the pain that victims of the Apex gang have suffered, merely trying to shed some light on the pain of another group of innocent victims.
Probably most of us when asked if we harbour racial prejudice would say no, but what does fearing a whole people group just because of a 1.8% gang say about us?
So when you come across people from any kind of ethnicity different to you, if their behaviour is normal and peaceful, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re just a great person like you, trying to navigate life’s struggles and hoping that the world can see them for who they really are, not just the colour of their skin.
Sources (all found 15 June 2017):
642 Things to Write About
Fiction Prompt from ‘642 Things To Write About’ by : Your city one hundred years from now
It is the year 2117. A very old woman named Mrs Lil Van Wyngaard walks the streets of Melbourne. I specify walks not because she is homeless, because she is not, but because walking these days is a rare event. Most people hover (if they are really poor they use a hovercraft instead of having the jets surgically implanted into their feet). Lil has always been old fashioned. She tells the kids on her block that she used to be suspicious of ebooks, but they tell her that they have no idea what an ebook is. Does she mean insta-info pads?
A lot of the time they look at her funny and she suspects that they think she has completely lost her marbles (of course marbles are a relic of the past too).
The kids, not meaning to be rude, ask Mrs Van Wyngaard if when she expires (the term ‘death’ is no longer used so as to avoid offending the people mourning or those who are close to their ‘expiry date’) she will be stuffed and put in a museum, like Phar Lap? They somehow know who he is. Go figure. Although horses are extinct now. Too much pollution, and they got phased out, just like cars. Teenagers laugh at their parents when they use the word driving to describe hovering, or ‘hovving’ as the cool kids say. “Mum,” they say, “that is so last century.” Literally.
The museums are getting too overcrowded all over the world so the earth government have made an executive decision to start deleting parts of history, like throwing out old files in an office. The obsolete bits of history—the boring, inconvenient and unusable parts, of course—are distributed to the poor to take strain off the social security system. The paperback history is divided up and used by them as stuffing for their coats in the winter. Feathers are also extinct, because of all the birds being eaten. Lil’s next door neighbour Peter claims that they were worth every delicious mouthful, but his grandson tells him that that’s politically incorrect and insensitive to those birds that have expired. Peter replies, “Stuff and nonsense!”
Lil is unfortunately a widow and expects to expire soon after a nice, long life. Asking for anything more than 123 years just seems greedy, she thinks.
On sunny days she walks along the neglected grey footpath, marvelling at the city around her. She keeps her tinted UV protector bubble activated at all times. Old fashioned she may be, but her pale skin and the sun weren’t the best of friends before the remainder of the ozone layer did its disappearing act, like a bored guest at a party… so she is not taking any chances now.
The skyline of Melbourne from a distance is much the same, but like a small crop of wheat that has grown upwards, being fenced in by suburban grass on all sides. Up close though, everything has changed.
There are no waiting lines to get in anywhere, because people pre-book for everything, by law. Cigarette smoke and smog has taken a back seat, because the sun (thanks to the non-existent ozone layer) is more than capable of powering everything—and cigarettes have of course been outlawed. Perhaps most noticeable of all is that there is no sense of chaos anymore. Cars have long since gone, and everyone punches in their destination to a little keypad at the start of their journey so that collisions are all but eliminated (except when the computers melt down of course, but that’s too shocking to tell you). There are no horns blaring, and the music is in everyone’s own ears, so they’re not forced to listen to anything they don’t like, ever.
But Mrs Van Wyngaard keeps walking because four blocks east of her house, and five blocks south there is a park. One of the few parks left in the city (it’s extra special because the trees are made of recycled wood and green pained linen, rather than plastic). There is talk going round that somewhere far, far outside the city there is a park with real live trees, protected by a bubble containing a high oxygen concentrate. Dreamers discuss it with naïve hope but the realists dismiss it as urban legend, like mobile phones with actual buttons on them.
This park is buzzing. Everyone is walking or sitting or running. Lil shuffles past the ‘no hovering’ sign that is scrawled over with the graffiti ‘hovving rulz’. The hand writing is barely legible because iPads replaced handwriting in schools about two generations ago.
Lil finds her regular table and sits down, breathes a sigh of relief. Her friends at the table greet her. Some are absent today—maybe they have expired. But for right now Lil is alive; she is happy.
Smiling, she picks up the paint brush and dips into the oils, pulls a picture from her mind of an old farmhouse on a hill beside a river. The word ‘Hillegersberg’ is written on the white gate and there is a beautiful river garden hiding all her childhood friends.
She continues to paint.
Image: Alamar AV Communications, ‘Urban Melbourne’, <https://urban.melbourne/forum/melbournes-trams>, sourced 31 May 2017.